History of the Silesian Aviation Cluster
The history of cooperation between the Silesian companies in the aviation sector dates back to the 80s of last century. The leader of the Silesian Aviation Cluster - Federacja Firm Lotniczych (the Federation of Aviation Companies) - was created naturally as a result of real and effective cooperation between 15 private companies set up in the Bielsko-Biała region as a result of political transformation.
The first one, Zakład Remontów i Produkcji Sprzętu Lotniczego (the Aircraft Repair and Production Plant) owned by inż. Edward Margański, was established in October 1986 on the premises and in the facilities of Górska Szkoła Szybowcowa “Żar” (“Żar” Mountain Gliding School). Less than a year later, inż. Andrzej Papiorek set up Wytwórnia Konstrukcji Kompozytowych (the Composite Structure Manufacturing Plant) and within the period of less than six years, 13 similar companies were established. Their creation was determined by the success stories of both the first two companies as well as the liquidation of Zakłady Szybowcowe w Bielsku (Glider Plant in Bielsko) - a company employing many excellent aviation specialists who could not imagine their professional life anywhere else than in the aviation sector.
Since the very beginning, the cooperation between the companies has consisted in the following:
- exchange of technical and market-related information (customers, partners, material and equipment suppliers)
- mutual cooperative relationships
- cooperation in material procurement (in particular at the initial stage, where the activity would be extremely difficult without the mutual assistance)
- support in critical situations (e.g. staff exchange or even financial support).
The commitment of the founders and owners of the companies is evidenced by the fact that since the establishment of the first of them (1986) none of the companies has gone bankrupt or fundamentally changed its business profile. Therefore, formalization of these relationships was quite natural and as a result, in 2006, the association named Federacja Firm Lotniczych Bielsko (the Bielsko Federation of Aviation Companies) was established.
In cooperation with other aviation businesses, a few of our companies also became members of Dolina Lotnicza (the Aviation Valley) association based in Rzeszów.
With the possibility of intensifying cooperation with scientific centres in Silesia, in particular with Akademia Techniczno-Humanistyczna w Bielsku-Białej (the University of Bielsko-Biała), in 2006 the members of the Federation signed with the aforementioned centres an agreement on the establishment of the Silesian Aviation Cluster. As a part of the adaptation of the association's activities to the current situation, in 2008 the association's statutes were modified in such a way that it could function as a unit coordinating the activities of the Cluster.
A significant event in the association's activity was the fact of Avio Polska from Bielsko-Biała joining its structures. Not long afterwards, the members of the Federation became Instytut Lotnictwa (the Institute of Aviation) and Wojskowe Zakłady Lotnicze Nr 4 S.A. (Military Aviation Works No. 4, limited liability company) from Warsaw and WSK PZL Kalisz from Kalisz. This way the association of small companies (employing from 3 to 40 staff) transformed into a trade association with a significantly greater manufacturing potential and territorial coverage.
The change was also reflected in the generation change at the position of the President of the association - Mr. Krzysztof Krystowski replaced Mr. Edward Margański from Zakłady Lotnicze (the Military Aviation Works).
Achievements of the Bielsko Federation of Aviation Companies:
- manufacture of several hundred of gliders and airplanes - ready-made or in a far advanced cooperation;
- development and implementation of several types of airplanes and gliders (Swift, Fox, Diana, 3Xtrim, Mirage, Orka, Bielik);
- renovation of several hundred of gliders;
- aviation services, including training for over 200 airplane and helicopter pilots;
- design and implementation at Avio Polska of low pressure turbine blades for one of the world's most advanced GEnx-2B engines. The product was awarded in the “Polski Produkt Przyszłości” (“Polish Product of the Future”) and “eCO2innovation” (“eCO2innowacja”) competitions (the Minister of Economy Award).
As a part of its activities the Bielsko Federation of Aviation Companies also joined Związek Pracodawców Firm Lotniczych (the Association of Employers of Aviation Companies) and cooperates with Polska Konfederacja Pracodawców Prywatnych (“LEWIATAN” Polish Confederation of Private Employers).