Tech Industry

Aerospace leaders moving into marketplaces

United Technologies, Honeywell and i2 Technologies announce the launch of, and start-up AviationX debuts a prototype of its forthcoming portal.

One of the world's more intricate businesses, the aerospace construction industry, may be coming together by means of the Web.

United Technologies, Honeywell and i2 Technologies today said they intend to launch, an electronic marketplace for aerospace products and services in a trade that encompasses about 25,000 buyers and sellers. Expected to debut in the second quarter, the exchange will join a growing number of sites eyeing the $500 billion industry.

Also today, start-up AviationX debuted a prototype version of its portal for suppliers and manufacturers at an aerospace convention in Singapore. The portal is based on technology built by Net services company Breakaway Solutions.

Though they've not been among the Net's high-profile backers, "heavy" industries are increasingly taking to the online medium. Business-to-business marketplaces also are sprouting up in such fields as chemicals, automobile manufacturing, construction and pharmaceuticals. General Motors, Ford, Dupont and Chevron are among the larger corporations that have recently announced plans to build or participate in electronic marketplaces, partnering with such companies as Ariba and Commerce One, which make software that lets users buy and sell everything from office equipment to maintenance supplies to services online.

Shares in firms providing the "plumbing" to build these new business-to-business markets have soared in recent months. That's due in part to analysts who expect the market for commercial transactions to grow to $5 trillion by 2002. plans to use supply chain application maker i2's TradeMatrix software to provide collaboration, sales management, parts planning and procurement services that will enable airlines, original equipment manufacturers and suppliers to conduct business on the Web.

Meanwhile, a public version of the AviationX marketplace should be available by the end of year. AviationX will offer message boards and user group forums to e-commerce applications with support services, company executives said. The company is targeting buyers such as airlines, cargo operators and maintenance facilities, as well as suppliers such as aircraft manufacturers, flight systems and components manufacturers, overhaul facilities and repair shops.

Another start-up,, recently launched an online procurement portal for suppliers of avionics technology, airframe parts, wheels and brakes, and other equipment. BFGoodrich Aerospace kicked off transactions on TradeAir.Com's Internet exchange last week, spending $200,000 on the site.

Meanwhile, General Electric last week launched a new exchange that will allow major airlines to buy and sell parts over the Internet. Unlike TradeAir and AviationX, GE is providing procurement services solely to its existing customers and partners.

GE's customers include Delta Airlines, Continental Airlines and Alitalia, Italy's main air carrier.