Software is critical to the majority of functionality in avionics and aerospace systems. The amount of safety-related software in avionics is growing rapidly (doubling in size around every four years), and the costs of software programmes in industry are increasingly unaffordable – safety-related code can cost upwards of USD 150 per line. At the same time, demands from avionics customers for increased scope and new functionality is increasing, and quality is non-negotiable: it is fixed by standards and safety requirements. The SECT-AIR project is addressing these cost and demand issues by focusing on automation in software engineering, with particular emphasis on model-based development. In this paper we provide an overview of the motivation behind the project, which started in 2016, and some of the key tasks it will carry out to help improve productivity, increase customer scope and maintain quality.