France - Country Commercial Guide
Civil Aircraft and Aviation (AIR)

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2019-10-13


Total Local Production 52,15 54,92 59,51 56,74
Total Exports 44,29 46,68 50,59 48,23
Total Imports 27,77 23,62 20,78 19,00
Imports from the US 7,67 5,23 3,58 2,50
Total Market Size 35,63 31,86 29,70 27,51
Exchange Rate 1 Euro USD 1.1072 USD1.1301 USD 1.1817 USD 1.1100

(total market size = (total local production + imports) - exports)
Figures in USD billions. Sources:  GIFAS, USDoC, French Customs.  Note: French Customs figures are quoted in CIF (HS 8802 + 8803), USDoc figures are quoted in FAS.  * indicates unofficial estimates based on various industry sources. Year to year figures subject to currency fluctuations.

Reported revenue for the French civil aerospace industry in 2018 grew to €50.36 billion (GIFAS – USD 59.51 billion), out of total non-consolidated aerospace and defense aerospace revenues of €65.4 billion.  This is a 1.2% increase over 2017. The aerospace and defense aerospace industry exported approximately 85% of its consolidated turnover, and the civil sector represents 77% of revenues. Orders overall in 2018 were considerably down (-17%), to €58.2 billion, with the civil aerospace sector taking the brunt of the decrease.  This is the first dip in several years in what has been sustained annual growth in orders.  Manufacturers are concentrating on fulfilling already full order books and on maintaining strong production levels, in a context of ever more passenger traffic.

Five aircraft manufacturers account for most of the French market: Airbus (large commercial aircraft), Airbus Helicopters (formerly Eurocopter, light-to-heavy helicopters), Dassault Aviation (high-end business jets), ATR (passenger and cargo turboprop aircraft for regional transport, an Airbus JV with Italian firm Leonardo), and Daher (SOCATA light aircraft and business turboprops). With the exception of Daher and Dassault, these manufacturers are owned fully or partially by the same parent company, Airbus Group. Created in 2000 and called EADS until 2014, this consortium dominates the civil aviation market in France.

Selling to these aircraft manufacturers entails undergoing a vendor/product qualification and assessment process. The Safran Group finalized the purchase of the Zodiac Group in 2018; both firms are among Europe’s major equipment suppliers. Other major players include Thales, Liebherr Aerospace, Daher Group, Latécoère, Stelia Aerospace, AFI E&M, Sabena Technics, etc.

AS9100 certification would be considered the minimum requirement for doing business in the aerospace supply chain in France.

Because of the breadth and depth of the aerospace industry in France, U.S. manufacturers often decide to use the services of a distributor or agent to reach out to the many potential customers. It is generally considered difficult to break into the business (with some exceptions based on product type) without local representation that can interface with the various layers of engineers, purchasers and supply chain quality managers. It is normal business practice in France for manufacturers’ representatives to work on retainer only or a mixed retainer/commission fee; rarely will an agent accept a commission-only contract to develop new business.  U.S. firms must be prepared to invest significantly in their business development process over extended periods before generating any orders.

France’s aerospace industry manufacturers derive over three-quarters of their revenues from civilian sector programs, the majority of which are destined for export. This large export market is due to the sustained interest in Dassault Falcon Jet, Airbus Helicopters and Airbus commercial aircraft, all of which have products that have successfully captured global market share. However, Airbus continues to decrease its number of suppliers overall, preferring to work directly with a handful of major tier 1 partners and referring all other potential suppliers to its supply chain at the appropriate level.

France has long been the United States’ largest customer in the aerospace market, as well as the single largest supplier to the U.S. aerospace market, with about a quarter of aerospace imports originating from France.

Because of the proximity of Airbus, Dassault, Airbus Helicopters and other aircraft manufacturers, France has a long-established and sophisticated aircraft supplier network. The French government encourages prime contractors to support local SMEs to maintain jobs and technical know-how in France. However, aerospace is a truly globalized industry and while major assembly lines are maintained in France, parts and components come from companies who have offices internationally.               

Leading Sub-Sectors
The ramp-up in civil aircraft production affects nearly every segment of the industry. World-wide demand for the next 20 years is estimated at 32,600 new aircrafts.  The increase in demand for not only more airplanes, but for more fuel-efficient aircraft, promises a strong and innovative industry for years to come. Airbus hit a new delivery record in 2018 for aircraft, at 800, and booked 747 net orders. 7,577 aircrafts are on back order for Airbus, representing a bright future for the local and international supply chain. This contrasts with the business aircraft and heavy helicopter segments, which continue to experience a slow market.

These rates drive employment and job creation, making aerospace one of the most dynamic sectors of the French economy.  They also drive investment, including the introduction of new technologies in robotization, new methods of collaborative work and digital sharing platforms.
53% of the latest Airbus A350 weight is in composites, while the firm is continually looking to increase this percentage, as more potential exists for integrating composite materials into aircrafts. Combined with the important level of American supplier penetration on French platforms, increasing demand for lighter, fuel efficient aircraft, and Airbus’ stated goal to increase spending across the Atlantic, experts expect the subsector of aerospace composites to continually grow stronger. 
There are strong ongoing opportunities for U.S. suppliers of parts, components and assemblies of civil aircraft. Airbus spends billions of dollars every year in the U.S. on its supply base. The best prospects for American firms in this market continue to be those associated with the manufacturing of new aircraft or engine models, or in very technical products such as composites. It is important to keep in mind that beyond French-made aircraft, French equipment suppliers are also working globally, on Bombardier, Embraer, Suhkhoi, Avic, Agusta Bell aircraft, etc., as well as all the major U.S. aircraft manufacturers. However, entering the French market requires patience, investment, innovative products and competitive pricing.
Web Resources
Paris Air Show – June 17-23, 2019 (next one on June 2021)
Aeromart Toulouse – December 2-3, 2020
Supply Chain Business to Business Meetings
French Aerospace Industries Association
U.S. Embassy - U.S. Commercial Service Commercial Specialist: ; Tel: +33 (0)1 43 12 70 79