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Mr Tony Tyler, Director-General and CEO of IATA, giving his opening speech at the SAALS 2016.


Over 300 key aviation stakeholders gathered in Singapore for the biennial Singapore Airshow Aviation Leadership Summit (SAALS) on 15 February 2016. The fifth edition of SAALS welcomed representatives from international aviation bodies such as International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and International Air Transport Association (IATA); civil aviation authorities from around the globe, including Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Countering Extremism) and Mr Michael Huerta, Administrator, US Federal Aviation Administration; as well as major industry players, such as Mr James Hogan, CEO of Etihad Airways, and Mr Christoph Mueller, CEO of Malaysia Airlines. 

“Just look around the room at the depth of industry knowledge that is gathered here – and with a geographic range that covers pretty much all continents except Antartica.” noted Mr Tony Tyler, Director General and CEO of (IATA). 

A Great Day of Expert Discussions
A signature feature of the SAALS is how it catalyses critical conversations and address significant developments that will shape the future landscape and ensure the sustainability of aviation. High on the agenda for discussion were hot-button issues the who’s who of global aviation were keen to address. Three key topics at this year’s conference generated very robust discussions. 

The first topic discussed the changing landscape of global air hub. The panel acknowledged the benefits that came from the ensuing connectivity and economic contributions. However, it also discussed the challenges of maintaining fast-paced development while ensuring efficient air operations. If not managed well, they argued, this would result in extended airport infrastructure timelines and potential airport capacity shortfalls in the future. A collaboration between all aviation stakeholders including governments is key to ensure infrastructure keeps pace with growth and demand.

A second expert panel discussed the evolving threat of drones, also known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS). While it was widely agreed that drones present a huge potential in a myriad of applications, from agriculture to firefighting, they do come with their own set of safety, security and privacy risks, including that to civilian aircraft safety. Singapore’s Minister for Transport and Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, noted: “The proliferation of unmanned aircraft has introduced yet another layer of complexity in airspace management. We need to find the right balance in how we regulate them, in order not to stymie [the potential economic benefit].”

At the upcoming 39th International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly in September, the ICAO will seek agreement from Member States on a global market-based measure – or, a mandatory global scheme to limit aviation emissions – to be implemented from 2020. The third panel of the day concurred that an agreement is crucial to avoid a patchwork of national and regional schemes, which will lead to increased compliance costs by industry and a complicated legislative environment. “It (a lack of a global agreement) would be very dangerous and is likely to lead to outcomes where the environmental effect could be negative,” said International Airlines Group (IAG) chief Mr Willie Walsh. 

Challenges Breed Opportunity
It was another great day of expert discussions. Through the many conversations that took place through the day, the aviation community agrees that the significant growth of our sector in the years ahead poses many challenges. However, challenges breed opportunity. 

“Aviation is an opportunity, for each of our economies and as an enabler and catalyst for global growth. There is much work to be done to ensure that aviation can indeed achieve its potential as an enabler for growth,” said Mr Tharman Shanmuguratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies.

“Exploiting these opportunities to our advantage will certainly require great vision and courage, on behalf of each and every one of us, but these are also qualities I consistently encounter at the highest levels of international aviation,” added Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, President of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Clearly, the importance of aviation to the global economy will not diminish any time soon.