Farnborough Air Show

Industry heads to address environment, ethics

 - July 16, 2010, 1:40 AM

Although last December’s world environmental meeting in Copenhagen ended with more of whimper than a bang, the head of the U.S. Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) predicts that aviation’s environmental impact will be a hot topic here when the CEOs of American and European manufacturers hold their annual dialog.

Marion Blakey, president and CEO of AIA, said that since the sessions in Denmark, there have been a series of meetings and working groups gathered under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). “We hope to agree on the emissions reductions that we’re committed to hitting and the technological and operational paths to get there,” she said.

“This is something that we worked very hard on and there is a pretty aggressive target–we’re talking about reductions in the range of one and a half percent a year in terms of carbon emissions over the next 10 years,” she explained. After 2020, the goal is becoming carbon neutral.

While she conceded that reaching that target will be very hard to do, Blakey said the industry is making great strides in propulsion technology, light airframes and advances in fuel technology, which will contribute very substantially to a much smaller footprint for aviation. She added that will be important “as we go into the next meeting next year in Mexico City.”

“We’ve been very active and I think there is a general consensus that we’re going to have to make solid commitments that will be recognized by the broader environmental community,” Blakey said.

In the weeks running up this year’s the Farnborough airshow, the former FAA Administrator described the overall climate in the U.S. aerospace industry as one of cautious optimism.

“Certainly, we, as a manufacturing sector, have found that our overall sales and prospects have held up very well during the recession that has buffeted most of the rest of both the manufacturing and services [sectors],” Blakey told AIN. Overall sales for last year came to $215 billion, of which $95 billion was exports that made the aerospace industry the leading contributor to the positive side of the U.S. balance of trade. “And I think it’s fair to say that in the category of cautiously optimistic, we see the trends continuing to be favorable for aerospace,” she added.

Referring to what some are terming a moderate recovery for the airline industry in 2010, Blakey noted that ICAO is estimating 3-percent growth in passenger traffic this year. “We’re not suggesting a rocket-like uptick,” she said, “but it does show greater health for the airline industry. And that is obviously important from the standpoint of our overall prospects on the commercial side and; it also is a good indicator of an economic climate that is favorable.”

At the same time, she said, business aircraft have had a “pretty good” increase in aircraft use in the first quarter of the year, as well holding as a successful show at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in Geneva in early May. “We see those things as being encouraging though it may take a bit longer for the bizjet market to recover.”

On the defense side of the equation, she acknowledged that the U.S. Department of Defense has made “significant shifts and cuts in specific programs,” but the overall budget has stayed in a positive range and the defense manufacturing sector has remained healthy during what has been a very tough recession for everybody else.

Blakey also said there will be a meeting here on the Global Principles on Business Ethics pact signed by Europe’s AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association and the AIA last October, which focused on zero tolerance of corruption, management of consultants, management of conflicts of interest and respect for confidential information.

“We are doing a follow-up meeting here for manufacturers from both sides of the Atlantic, working on the advancement of how we can promote and make fully effective the kind of principles that we think are very important for us as worldwide industrial leaders to be committed to,” said Blakey. She explained that it covers items like the use of advisors, how they should be hired and trained in foreign countries, anti-bribery laws, how you comply in full in both the letter and spirit of those laws, avoiding incentives that give an improper advantage to one bidder or another in competitions, and how proprietary information is protected.