Aerospace has been a major focus in Mexican economic development, both as an industrial sector and in connection with commercial, private, and defense aviation growth. All these factors combine to make aerospace a key part of the Commercial Service priority sector strategy and a leading-prospect industry for Mexico.
The following table provides the most recent statistics for the aerospace industry in Mexico. Please note that these figures include aviation products and services, as well as military-related purchases, but they do not include airport construction products and services.
Mexico Aerospace Industry Market Size
(Figures in USD Billions)
Imports from the U.S.
Source: Mexican Aerospace Industry Federation, A.C. (FEMIA)
The aerospace industry is relatively young in Mexico, but its roots are deep. In the State of Baja California, for example, one firm has been in the market for more than 60 years, and aerospace is one of the country’s leading business sectors. Mexico’s aerospace industry supports economic growth, attracts foreign investment, and creates jobs. Based on the most recent available official figures from the Mexican Aerospace Industry Federation (FEMIA), the industry experienced 15 percent average annual export growth from 2010-2020, was responsible for the creation of more than 60,000 jobs and accounted for up to USD 5.5 billion in accumulated direct foreign investment (2020-2021). Moreover, global demand for new aircraft and maintenance services —and growing air passenger flows worldwide— support a positive perspective for the industry for 2023 and beyond.
Like much of the Mexican economy, in 2020-2021, the aerospace industry was severely affected by the pandemic. According to FEMIA, Mexican production declined between 25 and 45 percent in 2020. The sector was hit hard by the worldwide decline in passenger air traffic, estimated by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to total 48 percent. Despite this, Mexico has fared better than most countries in its recovery, and Mexico’s aerospace industry is the seventh-largest export market for the United States.
Aerospace Supply Chains and Production
According to FEMIA estimates, Mexico’s aerospace sector grew from 100 manufacturing firms and organizations in 2004 to 368 by mid-2022. Today these firms primarily include manufacturers, maintenance-repair-overhaul facilities (MROs), technical schools, research centers, universities, and related service providers. In general terms, 79 percent of all firms are manufacturers, 11 percent focus on design and engineering, and 10 percent are in MRO services. FEMIA estimated that in 2019 foreign direct investment by country of origin was 48 percent from the United States and 36 percent from Canada. For the first quarter of 2022, 75 million dollars were invested in Mexico in aerospace equipment manufacturing.
Various developments contributed to this impressive growth, from the 2004 arrival of the Canadian aerospace firm Bombardier to various government programs including business incentives, workforce training programs, and new universities. However, the sector’s growth goes back to the late 1960s when the Government of Mexico’s (GOM) Maquiladora export program triggered expanding industrialization, employment, and regional development. The Maquiladora program allowed duty-free imports for assembly of products to be exported. Aerospace firms moved to new industrial parks in northern border cities to maximize ‘maquila’ cost savings and efficiency. These parks evolved into diversified aerospace clusters. Companies with a long-term presence include Collins Aerospace (1969, formerly Rockwell Collins and now part of Raytheon Technologies Corp), Safran Group (1991), Labinal (1996, now part of Safran), and Beechcraft (2007, a division of Textron).
The sector is divided into original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) producing aircrafts supported by Tier 1 manufacturers making principal aircraft systems; Tier 2 companies making sub-assemblies; and Tier 3 and Tier 4 suppliers providing parts and raw materials. In contrast to the United States, the Mexican aerospace industry focuses on aerospace parts and assemblies integrated into final systems. In the space arena, the Mexican Space Agency (Agencia Espacial Mexicana or AEM) has led projects with academia and with technological firms to produce mini nanosatellites, small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and other projects with NASA and some commercial space providers.
The Mexican aerospace industry has five main hubs, located in the states of Baja California (Tijuana-Mexicali), Sonora, Chihuahua, Querétaro, and Nuevo León. Baja California is the largest, with more than 100 aerospace firms supporting more than 30,000 direct jobs. At the same time, other Mexican states are moving forward to obtain a market niche in this industry, such as the Bajío Aerospace Cluster (León, Guanajuato) and the Aerospace Cluster in Sinaloa (Mazatlán). The industry currently has a presence in 20 of 32 Mexican states.
Mexico has improved its aerospace manufacturing capabilities, from producing components, small parts, and harnesses, to manufacturing airframes, flight surfaces, small drones, and flight control and avionic assemblies. Multinational companies also have a significant role in Mexico’s aerospace industry. GE and Rolls Royce produce new turbine systems in Mexico. Fokker Aerostructures manufactures wings for jets, and Safran Group —with 17 facilities in the country and five in the State of Querétaro, being the number one employer in the aviation industry—manufactures landing systems, engine parts, jet engine components, and jet housings.
Some local firms have obtained global certifications that allow them to diversify their manufacturing processes to production of small UAVs and light aircraft projects. For instance, Aernnova produces airframes and flight structures. Light aircraft prototypes have also been developed, such as the sport model manufactured by the Mexican firm Horizontec/CENTA, and light attack planes for military training and aerobatics, made by the local company Oaxaca Aerospace. In the long term, the GOM and domestic industry hope to produce medium and large commercial aircraft.
Regulatory Harmonization and Sector Development
Regulatory harmonization has advanced in recent years. The 2012 Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) has achieved mutual recognition of aerospace standards between the United States and Mexico, such as the National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program (NADCAP) and the AS9100 aerospace quality management system, as well as certifications from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its Mexican counterpart, the Federal Agency of Civil Aviation (Agencia Federal de Aviación Civil or AFAC). In 2019 AFAC replaced the agency previously known as the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil or DGAC). These developments have facilitated the growth of manufacturing operations in the North American region. In addition, Mexico’s accession to the Wassenaar Arrangement (2012) provides regulations to effectively control the exportation of sensitive dual-use aerospace products and materials.
In 2012, the Mexican Secretariat of Economy (Secretaría de Economía or SE) introduced the Aerospace Industry National Strategic Program 2012-2020, called Pro-Aéreo. It dubbed its 2017 updated plan Pro-Aero 2.0. The program sought to elevate Mexico to the top ten global aerospace suppliers by 2020 by attracting more small and medium-sized firms. The program still appears on GOM websites, though a program restructuring has not recently occurred. These developments notwithstanding, the current GOM and SE have not implemented new or better incentives for industrial development at the federal level but have instead chosen to focus resources on other social programs. Mexican states are trying to attract new aerospace companies to their industrial parks, and some continue offering location support.
Mexico’s rapid aviation recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic further boosted the aerospace industry. Several factors have driven Mexican commercial aviation and related demand for MRO: the expansion of low-cost carriers such as Volaris and Viva Aerobus, the 2016 approval of the Delta-Aeromexico partnership, increased use of Mexico as a regional hub, and the 2015 conclusion of the U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Air Transport Agreement. The agreement eliminated restrictions on routes between the two countries, allowing passenger airlines and all-cargo carriers to serve any combination of city pairs in the United States and Mexico. In addition, it permits cargo carriers to begin or end routes outside the two countries. Another profound change in the aviation industry has been the growth of low-cost airlines vis-a-vis traditional airlines.
However, the Mexican aviation industry faces challenges beyond those introduced by the pandemic. On May 25, 2021, the FAA downgraded its rating of Mexico’s aviation regulator from Category 1 to Category 2, after an evaluation of AFAC between October 2020 and April 2021. FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment evaluated AFAC’s oversight of air carriers based on International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards and does not necessarily reflect safety issues with carriers themselves. The immediate impact of this decision is two-fold. No new routes or aircraft changes will be allowed. Second, U.S. airlines will not be able to codeshare to sell tickets on Mexican carriers, but Mexican carriers can sell tickets for service on U.S. carriers to the United States. Mexican airlines and the Mexican Chamber of Aerial Transportation (CANAERO) have offered to support AFAC to recover Category 1 as soon as possible. Mexico last received a Category 2 rating in July 2010, but recovered to Category 1 by December 2010. AFAC continues to work on addressing the deficiencies found in the evaluation to regain Category 1 with FAA’s technical assistance, and an evaluation results report is expected in late 2023.
Adding to Mexican aviation growth uncertainties, the López Obrador administration cancelled construction of the Mexico City New International Airport (NAIM). The President instead ordered the expansion of the Toluca International Airport, the current Benito Juárez Mexico City International Airport (AICM), and creation of an international airport named Felipe Angeles (AIFA) at the Santa Lucia Military Air Base in the State of Mexico. Further information on the current administration’s new plans for an airport system for the Valley of Mexico is available in the Transportation Infrastructure section of this guide.
Mexico has a network of 77 airports, of which 45 are international commercial airports. Additionally, Mexico is the home of an additional 1,506 airfields, including military bases and small private airports. Most international commercial airports are operated by private sector companies with long-term concession agreements, while others are managed directly by the federal government through Aeropuertos y Servicios Auxiliares (ASA), described below. The exceptions are AICM —operated separately, it will soon fall under the jurisdiction of the Mexican Navy (SEMAR)— and AIFA, operated by the state-owned enterprise Olmeca-Maya-Mexica. According to the Secretariat of Infrastructure, Communications, and Transportation (Secretaría de Infraestructura, Comunicaciones y Transportes or SICT), the top five airports by passenger volume in the first half of 2023 were Mexico City (19.6 million), Cancún (13.9 million), Guadalajara (7.1 million), Tijuana (5.3), Monterrey (4.9 million), and Los Cabos (3.2 million). Some of the larger groups operating the international commercial airports include:
- Grupo Aeroportuario del Centro Norte (OMA) manages 13 airports in northern and central Mexico that handled 15.7 million passengers in 2021. In 2022, passenger traffic at these same airports grew by 47.7 percent, totaling 23.2 million passengers. One of the OMA’s main works in progress is the expansion of the Monterrey airport which will increase its capacity by 50 percent, representing an investment of USD 411 billion. Low-cost carriers will have a completely new area and it will be connected to Terminal C. It is planned that the three terminals will be fully connected. In the next five years, OMA will be investing around USD 705 billion to support its airport network.
- Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacífico (GAP) manages 12 Pacific coast airports, and two more in Kingston and Montego Bay (Jamaica), which handled 15.9 million passengers in the first half of 2023.
GAP has plans for: a second runway, a second terminal, and additional aprons and border gates at the Guadalajara Airport; a new Terminal processor building at the Tijuana Airport; and terminal expansion at the Los Cabos Airport. Its planned investments represent USD 752 billion.
- Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste (ASUR) manages nine airports in the Gulf of Mexico and southern Mexico, one international airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and six in Colombia. In Mexico, it served 39.5 million passengers in 2022, and has provided service to 25.7 million passengers so far in 2023. ASUR is considering expansion and maintenance projects for all its airports, including runways, taxiways, and aprons. In Cancun it continues to expand its Terminal 4, parallel taxiways, and runways, as well as new access roads. Oaxaca and Villahermosa airports also plan terminal expansions. In the period 2022-2023, ASUR is ending its five-year investment plan and will start a new investment period in 2024 for the following five years.
- Aeropuertos y Servicios Auxiliares (ASA) is a government agency that operates 19 airports, co-operates five additional airports (Toluca, Queretaro, Cuernavaca, Palenque, and Tuxtla Gutierrez), and supplies fuel to 62 airports. ASA’s network includes Puebla, Puerto Escondido, Chetumal, and Campeche. ASA airports handled 3.5 million passengers in 2022.
- Benito Juárez International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México or AICM) is one of the largest airports in the world. AICM logged 36 million passengers in 2021, which increased to 46.2 million in 2022, still under pre-pandemic levels. AICM operates under a concession structured as a majority state participation company with the name of Grupo Aeroportuario de la Ciudad de México, S.A. de C.V. (GACM). However, in June 2023, it was announced that control of AICM would be transferred to the Mexican Navy (SEMAR) under a new airport group called Casiopea. This group will also include the airports in Ciudad del Carmen, Ciudad Obregon, Colima, Guaymas, Loreto, and Matamoros. The Transportation Infrastructure section of this guide describes the López Obrador administration’s plans for the AICM, Toluca, and Felipe Angeles Santa Lucía international airports.
The Space Program
The Mexican space program also provides opportunities for aerospace suppliers. The Mexican Space Agency (Agencia Espacial Mexicana or AEM) manages the program. The AEM, in its current form, was established in 2010 with specific, modest goals. Its efforts to expand the country’s satellite network for communications, space science development, environmental modeling, and surveillance have generated opportunities for U.S.-produced space systems and suppliers. AEM has several cooperation agreements with NASA on space education, with international space agencies, and more recently with some private entities. It has managed a nanosatellite program with local educational institutions and academia to motivate new programs among space professionals. In 2017, the AEM, SE, and ProMexico (a government agency abolished in 2019) published the Orbit Plan 2.0 (Plan de Orbita 2.0), a strategic space sector development program outlining niche opportunities and recommendations on specific space projects. In addition, in the 2020-2024 National Program of Activities, AEM announced the planned development of Space Development Regional Centers with the support of the Mexican Ministry of Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional or SEDENA), spurring national space science development. One of these Centers was inaugurated in 2020 in the State of Mexico. However, federal funding for this program was canceled so resources could be diverted to the infrastructure priorities of the current administration.
Leading sub-sectors for aerospace in Mexico include opportunities to supply manufacturing and assembly plants to support the development of the broader aviation ecosystem, and in the defense sector.
Despite the rapid growth of Mexico’s aerospace industry —or perhaps because of it— the mix of local Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers is still lacking. Large OEMs are unable to find specialized, fully certified local suppliers with advanced capabilities and with sufficient logistics abilities. This fact, combined with evolving government regulations supporting supply chain growth, creates sales opportunities across Tier 2 and 3 suppliers.
In terms of supply chains, FEMIA estimates that Boeing has 26 Mexican suppliers, Airbus has 36, and Embraer 13. Large aerospace OEMs continue looking to expand their supply chain in Mexico to support their global business and establish middle and long-term production programs. Other aerospace firms need partners to reach growth, project size, and investment targets.
Recently, aerospace research centers have been created to support R&D, not only for new turbines, motors, and components, but also to drive technological solutions for other complex systems, software, and engineering applications in manufacturing processes. In early 2018, the Center of Aeronautical Technologies of Querétaro (Centro Nacional de Tecnologías Aeronauticas or CENTA) was inaugurated with the support from the National Council of Science and Technology (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología or CONACYT). It provides services for the aerospace industry and supports new projects led by small and medium firms. CENTA, together with the Industrial Development and Engineering Center (Centro de Ingeniería y Desarrollo Industrial or CIDESI) also located in the State of Querétaro, provide technological support to industrial development. In mid-2017, the Spanish company Indra opened a new Center of Technological Development in Querétaro to increase offerings for transportation, infrastructure, energy, and other industrial sectors. Since mid-2019, aerospace firms in Tijuana have enjoyed a new innovation and design center supported by the Mexican Confederation of Industrial Chambers (Confederación de Cámaras Industriales or CONCAMIN) and the Mexico-France Chamber of Commerce. Other states have also created aerospace research centers such as at the Autonomous National University of Nuevo Leon (UANL/CIIA), and the Institute of Aerospace and Advance Manufacturing (SIAAM) in Sonora. Sinaloa has plans to have an aerospace market laboratory located in Mazatlán.
These opportunities go together with the growth of the aviation sector, which is seeing demand for flight and maintenance training, parts and maintenance services, airport needs, and a variety of aircraft, including both fixed-wing and rotary. However, FEMIA estimates that the aerospace industry will only finally recover to pre-pandemic levels in 2024 and is still facing global challenges, including a short supply of raw materials (titanium), supply chain issues, digital transition, and the need to consistently grow and develop.
The U.S. Commercial Service Mexico is ready to assist you in exploring market opportunities, particularly in the following sub-sectors:
- Thermoforming and hydroforming
- Surface treatments
- Nitro-carburized materials and nitrocarburizing
- Composites (carbon fiber)
- Metal treatments and metal raw materials
- Aerospace molding
- Special tooling
- Sand casting
- Specialized aerospace services
Aviation Sector Opportunities
The growth of Mexican aviation may generate additional opportunities in and around airports:
- MRO services and maintenance programs
- Airport construction (see the Transportation Infrastructure section of this guide)
- Aircraft specialized paint
- Aircraft supply and provisioning services
- Sanitary services, special filters, air control devices
- Small aircraft, executive aircraft, and helicopter sales, parts, and services
Defense Sector Opportunities
Another area of potential business opportunity is in defense aerospace. SEDENA, which includes both the Army and the Air Force, and the Secretariat of the Navy (Secretaría de la Marina or SEMAR) received 2022 budgets of approximately USD .2 billion and USD 1.9 billion, respectively. We foresee supply opportunities for special vehicles, manufacturing equipment, cannon prototypes, two-seater airplanes, experimental training airplanes, air-to-surface missiles, and launchers for military aircraft. In addition, we have identified military spending needs that include the following:
- Aerial surveillance systems
- C-295 airplanes and options for military transport
- Special operations helicopters
- Tactical operations equipment
- Cargo and personnel transport systems
- Vessel communication systems (ships and oceanic patrols)
- Systems and equipment for maritime surveillance
Mexican Secretariat of Infrastructure, Communications and Transportation (SICT)
Mexican Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA)
Mexican Secretariat of the Navy (SEMAR)
Mexican Federation of the Aerospace Industry (FEMIA)
Mexican Space Agency (AEM)
Mexico Now (magazine)
To explore these market niches and develop essential contacts, we recommend that U.S. companies (1) organize site visits to Mexican aerospace hubs and meetings with companies directly involved with the industry, and (2) attend one or more of the upcoming commercial events in the sector. Some notable events include:
Mexico Aerospace Nearshoring Summit, September 7-8, 2023, Expo Chihuahua Convention Center. Chihuahua City, Chihuahua
Mexico Supply Chain Nearshoring Summit 2024, March 14, El Paso Convention Center. El Paso, TX (Industries: Aerospace, Automotive, Electronics, Medical, and Appliances)
Aerospace Meetings Queretaro, February 21-22, 2024, Queretaro Convention Center. Santiago de Queretaro, Queretaro
For more information on the aerospace sector in Mexico, please contact:
U.S. Commercial Service —Guadalajara
Tel: +52 33-3615-1140, Ext. 103