Maine’s Aviation Sector is Ready for Takeoff


Portland, Maine – The Aerospace & Defense industry is the US’s second largest gross export industry.  In 2016, the US exported $146 billion to countries all over the world, supporting 2.4 million US jobs and generating a $90.3 billion positive trade balance.  Civil aerospace products (airplanes and parts) alone accounted for $123.7 billion of these exports, which would make it the third largest US export.

China topped the list of export destinations for US A&D aircrafts and aircraft parts with $14.7 billion in products shipped to the Middle Kingdom.  While A&D exports are leaving the US, FDI is entering.  Since 2013, the growth of FDI into the US A&D industry has outpaced all other industries.

Maine is a key player in the US A&D industry, both in manufacturing and in training services.  Maine’s aerospace industry began to develop in the early 1940s when the US Government constructed an extensive network of airports specifically for pilot training because of the state’s proximity to Europe and the diversity of geography provided excellent training for Air Force recruits.  These airports are now operated by local airport authorities and continue to provide first-rate infrastructure for aviation training both of pilots and for maintenance & repair operations (MRO).

Excellence in service training has lead Maine to develop a cluster in aviation manufacturing.  Major manufacturers, such as Pratt & Whitney, C&L Aviation Group, Lufthansa Technik, etc., choose to locate in Maine in part because there is no sales tax or use tax on aircraft and aircraft parts purchases.  In 2009, the Manufacturers Association of Maine started the Maine Aerospace Alliance to further develop the aerospace cluster and currently has over 80 member companies.  Companies large and small continue to invest in their Maine operations to keep up with growing global demand.

From 2006 to 2016, Maine’s aerospace exports grew by 700%.  That growth is not slowing.  In 2016 alone the foreign export of aircraft and aircraft parts increased 30%.  That same year, 11% of Maine’s total foreign exports were in aircraft and engine parts to companies such as Montreal-based Bombardier, Brazil’s Embraer, and Japanese Mitsubishi.  Maine’s top four aerospace export destinations are Germany, Canada, Japan and the UK.

Maine presents significant aerospace sourcing opportunities for the Chinese A&D industry, training of pilots and MRO service technicians, and as a destination of aerospace FDI.  A growing manufacturing sector provides more options in aircraft and aircraft parts, as well as investment into facility expansion projects.  Maine’s pilot training schools, such as Maine Instrument Flight, are ready and able to expand their program size, and with additional investment become CAAC 141 certified to train pilots for China’s commercial aviation industry.  Excellent training combined with language and cultural immersion in Maine would help satisfy China’s growing need for trained commercial pilots.

However you look at it, aerospace is one of the strongest industries in the US, and Maine is a major contributor.  Maine’s aerospace and aviation industry is only one of several investment opportunities.