Global Aerospace Summit: Leaders debate challenges facing aviation sector
The aviation industry's leaders are debating the challenges facing the sector at this week's inaugural Global Aerospace Summit, being held in Abu Dhabi.
Etihad, Emirates, FlyDubai and Qatar Airways management, along with other global airlines, airport operators, supply chain and maintenance providers, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are at the St Regis resort on Saadiyat Island for two days of industry thought-leadership discussions and debates.
Opening the Summit, H.E. Sultan Saeed Al Mansoori, Minister of Economy for the United Arab Emirates, said the Summit provided “an opportunity to demonstrate the country’s progress and ambition in the aerospace, aviation and space sectors.”
He underlined the government’s support for a culture of partnerships spanning the public and private sectors, and added: “As the UAE moves from an economy that has a solid base through natural resource revenues to one that will be sustained in the long-term through a diversified, knowledge-based approach, it is vital that we provide a platform for thought leadership.”
Tony Tyler, Director General and CEO of IATA, then delivered a state of the industry address, predicting a tough year ahead for the industry globally, saying: “2012 continues to be a challenging year for airlines. The risk of a worsening Eurozone crisis has been replaced by an equally toxic risk — rising oil prices.
"Already the damage is being felt with a downgrade in industry profits to $3.0 billion.
“Aviation’s importance as a catalyst for growth is well-understood in the Middle East and particularly in the Gulf region, where airports rise from the desert ahead of the demand curve, not behind it.
“Governments work in partnership with industry through forward-looking policies that value aviation as a generator of wealth and jobs.
“So when I am asked what the future of aviation will look like, I am tempted to respond that I hope it bears more than a passing resemblance to what is occurring today in the UAE,” Tyler said.
However, he warned that “a bright future is not guaranteed” and called for a shared agenda between industry and government on the issues of safety, security, infrastructure and environment.
A panel session on “Meeting the Aviation Industry’s current and future challenges” featured Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, Homaid Al Shemmari, Executive Director, Mubadala Aerospace, alongside James Albaugh, the CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Marwan Lahoud, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, EADS, Giuseppe Orsi, CEO of Finmeccanica and David Hess, President of Pratt & Whitney.
Asked to look ahead to where they would be in 2020, Akbar Al Baker said he expected Qatar Airways to be twice the size it is today, and serving two and a half times the number of passengers.
Marwan Lahoud noted that he expected the proportion of EADS staff based in western Europe to have reduced from 97pc down to 80pc, with 40pc of revenues coming from outside commercial aviation.
James Albaugh noted that he expected the biggest change would be among airlines, where consolidation will continue, resulting in a total of around a dozen very large airlines that can drive efficiency and competition among airframers.
He said he welcomed competition, adding that “Airbus made Boeing better.”
Akbar al Baker said don't underestimate China, adding that he would buy from the country if the deal was right and they could deliver. “I have never been sympathetic to suppliers who have delayed deliveries to me," he joked, taking a dig at the airframers present on the platform with him.
Other sessions looked at aircraft capacity, technology and sustainable fuels. Tomorrow will look at evolving global demand, commercial space flight and space tourism, plus there will be a career's and students' day.
Wednesday and Thursday are devoted to site visits for delegates, including ADAC, ADAT and Yahsat, Abu Dhabi's newest satellite communications company.
Arabian Aerospace is bringing you news as it happens from the summit, via Twitter (@ArabianAeroNews and hash tag #GlobalAerospaceSummit). Longer news reports will appear in the next edition of Arabian Aerospace magazine.