Here's one UK company enjoying the benefits.
The market for large commercial jets is booming. That is good news for companies in the aerospace and defence sector, which are otherwise beset by Western government defence cuts.
In the atmosphere of general economic gloom, at first sight it's perhaps surprising that airlines should be queuing up to buy large jets. Air travel is strongly correlated with economic growth. But a moment's thought yields the familiar answer.
It is, of course, the dynamic and confident economies of Asia and the Middle East driving demand. While we in the West are paying the price of a decade's overspending, these countries are consuming more and investing more. That means they are travelling more, too.
China is at the forefront with its four largest domestic airlines, which are protected from foreign competition, expected to buy more than 4,000 jets over the next 20 years. But other Asian economies are seeing markets driven by the emergence of low-cost carriers such as Indonesia's Lion Air, which plans to buy 230 Boeing 737s.
The duopoly of Airbus and Boeing (NYSE: BA.US) are the primary beneficiaries. At the end of last year they had a combined order book of over 8,000 aircraft, representing eight years of production at current rates. Orders grew by 2,200 in 2011, twice the rate of production.
A third of the order book is in Asia, and another 25% in the Middle East. Orders from North American and European airlines are motivated by the greater efficiency of newer aircraft such as Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, which use 25% to 40% less fuel than older models.
Even allowing for cancellations it's a very healthy position for the industry, and both the major builders are ramping up production. But there's a limit to how fast and far they can take that, so the visibility of future production is high.
In contrast, the regional/business jet market is more subdued, with the biggest manufacturers Canadian Bombardier and Brazilian Embraer both increasing deliveries in 2011 but seeing their order books reduced. The market structure is different, and China, Russia and Japan are in advance stages of developing their own jets.
But what is good news for Airbus and Boeing is also good news for UK companies further down the supply chain. Rolls Royce (LSE: RR) has already reported record profits.
On Monday, it was the turn of FTSE 250 firm Senior (LSE: SNR) to announce record results and to give out positive signals, with a 22% dividend increase.
The company makes a wide range of high-tech components for original equipment manufacturers. Its aerospace division produces air ducts and other pressure-carrying systems used on commercial and military aircraft.
The division contributed 60% to 2011 sales, within which large commercial aircraft were another 60%. Boeing is a significant customer, and the entry into service of the Dreamliner will boost sales further, on top of the 26% increase in this market in 2011. Defence made up another 30% of the division's sales, increasing by 10% despite defence cuts, with the company supplying parts for the Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopter and Lockheed Martin air transporter.
Last year, Senior acquired the small Lancashire-based aerospace component company Weston, which brings it a manufacturing capability in Asia and exposure to Airbus as a customer. More than 70% of Weston's output is used on Airbus aircraft.
Senior's other division, 'Flexonics', makes flexible automotive components, mainly for diesel engines, for both heavy truck and off-road markets, and passenger vehicles. It also serves industrial applications; as a result, the multiple markets served by the company diversify its exposure to any one sector.
Overall, Senior saw adjusted profit before tax up 19% in the year, on revenues up 13%. This was the second consecutive year of record operating margins.
Adjusted earnings per share were up 21% and mirrored in the dividend increase. For once, the adjusted figures actually painted a more modest picture, as they excluded a large impairment charge taken in 2010.
The company generates cash, too. £83m of operating profit produced £96m of cash, which easily covered £54m of interest, tax, dividends and capital expenditure. Consequently, £69m expenditure on acquisitions required only a £29m increase in net debt to £93m.
That makes for a net gearing ratio of 34%. The company is well with the covenants on its fixed-rate debt funding, and has headroom for further bolt-on acquisitions.
At 196p, the shares are trading on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 13.5, and yielding 1.9%. But the forward P/E drops to 12.2 and, given the visibility of Senior's earnings from its commercial aerospace business, some weight can be put on that.
And, though the yield looks a little sparse, it's covered 3.8 times -- so there is plenty of scope for the dividend to grow.
The shares have soared from just 24p in 2009, but with the company's potential to benefit from the boom in large commercial aviation, they still have much further to go.
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