What did you miss if you weren't at the 2023 Global Aerospace Summit at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.?
Where do we start?
How about with the exhibits and the people: Next-generation spacesuits. Electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. The first-ever public display of Archer’s Midnight aircraft in the U.S. Record-breaking attendance for our premier convening in its second decade.
But the conversations and knowledge sharing dominated the day, with important discussions on the FAA Reauthorization, regulatory issues in an evolving industry, workforce challenges and the many opportunities ahead.
Day Two of the Summit will focus on space. Speakers include Artemis Mission Manager Mike Sarafin; Peggy A. Whitson, Ph.D., Astronaut, Director of Human Space Flight, Axiom Space; and Sen. Ted Cruz, who will deliver a lunchtime speech focused on the FAA Reauthorization, leadership in a global economy and streamlining regulation. Walk-in registrations are welcome.
Global Aerospace in Virginia
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin delivered the opening keynote, telling attendees as he stepped to the microphone that if they came to Washington, D.C., by plane for the event, they landed in Virginia – a state that’s home to a significant and growing aerospace economy.
“There is so much more to do, and we have momentum collectively on our side,” he said. “Aerospace must be one of the fastest growing and most innovative sectors in the U.S. economy."
“I am so confident that the future of air travel, the future of the aerospace industry, the future of our exploration in space, the future of material science, the future of artificial intelligence, [and] the future of the capabilities that are represented in this room and across university campuses and in R&D labs and manufacturing facilities all across our nation.”
He concluded his remarks with a request of attendees.
“I want to challenge you in the work that you are going to do over the course of this conference. Chart aggressive paths, challenge yourself to do more than you think. Collaborate, be best in class. And most important, most importantly, let's bring the future.”
Chairman and CEO of RTX
Gregory J. Hayes, Chairman and CEO of RTX, joined Chamber President and CEO Suzanne P. Clark for a wide-ranging conversation on business, government, challenges and the future.
Hayes noted that the workforce is a broad industry challenge.
“I don't worry about attracting talent so much at RTX,” he said. “What I do worry about is those 14,000 suppliers I have and their inability to hire, train, and retain the talented workforce that you need for the aerospace ecosystem.”
Customer-Focused Future at Lufthansa
Carsten Spohr, the Chairman & CEO of Lufthansa Group, participated in a discussion about the company’s vision for growth with Lori Aratani, Transportation Reporter at The Washington Post. Spohr made news as soon as he spoke, announcing an increase in major operations into the U.S., with 16% more seats and routes from their European hubs coming next year.
“The North Atlantic is the backbone of global aviation in many ways,” he said. “The U.S. has set the standards of aviation, and Europe is a partner of the U.S. in doing that.”
He said aviation’s supply chain is stressed. But the appetite for premium travel is robust. Other industries, he said – luxury fashion, jewelry – have led the way in premium goods and services.
Stakeholders also expect a focus on sustainability, and the company is investing in the future.
Managing the Global Supply Chain
Tom Gentile, President & CEO, Spirit AeroSystems, led a conversation on how to manage and mitigate risks across the aviation and aerospace supply chain. Several themes emerged, including the global pandemic, workforce shortages and investments.
Kai Arndt, CEO Aerostructures, Montana Aerospace, suggested that it’s important to listen to everyone to find solutions. Temel Kotil, CEO of Turkish Aerospace Industries, echoed that sentiment: “There is no Turkish word for supply chain,” he said. “The word is partner.”
On workforce challenges, Arndt said to focus on training and retaining – “best in industry retention.”
“Stress is temporary,” Kotil said. “The airline/aerospace industry will never go backwards. Investments keep pushing forward for the rebound.”
A Supersonic Airline: Faster, More Affordable
Blake Scholl, Founder & CEO of Boom Supersonic, talked about Overture, the world’s fastest airliner. Overture’s order book, including orders and pre-orders from American Airlines, United Airlines, and Japan Airlines, stands at 130 aircraft.
“Overture is supersonic airline,” he said.
He said the customer base starts with the passengers – 87% of air travelers would switch airlines to get a faster flight. From an airline perspective, every airline will need to have a faster option.
“A future where more people can go more places more often” on faster, more affordable flights, he said.
Scholl said Overture uses 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and he sees supersonic travel as a bridge to SAF in the industry.
“I believe in a future where more people can go more places more often, where we can get around the planet the way we get around the city today.”
Bottlenecks in Regulatory Framework
Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury spoke with Phil LeBeau, CNBC’s Auto and Airline Industry Reporter, about the state of the industry. He reflected on last year’s supply chain challenges but mostly looked to the potential ahead.
"We have adapted our ambitions to what the supply chain can deliver," he said. He spoke at length about Airbus’ work with hydrogen as a way to reduce carbon emissions.
"We strongly believe that we will be ready by 2035 with the hydrogen plane. The technology will be ready, and there are different solutions. It will be ready. And the bottlenecks are no longer in the technology of the plane, but it is in the regulatory framework to use hydrogen, to store, to distribute, and certify the planes."
He said aviation is a growth sector.
“I believe depending on the different scenarios, we are looking for the economies around the world to still be in a situation where demand will be significantly higher than supply. So we are not too sensitive to the day-to-day changes in the economies."
EVTOL: Fast, Efficient Urban Transportation
Justin Towles, President, Crown Consulting, Inc., led a panel discussion about the future – and benefits – of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft – technology that would enable fast and efficient urban transportation.
“The moment right now that we are living in is defined by things becoming real,” said Brian Yutko, Chief Executive Officer, Wisk Aero, whose yellow self-flying all-electric air taxi is a popular exhibit at the Summit. “You’re starting to see a couple of very serious attempts to make these ideas real.
“Fundamentally, I believe once we build autonomous electric aircraft, in our case, those are going to be used in a lot of spaces. … Can they be certified? Yes, with a lot of effort.”
When the industry gets to scale, there will be system wide barriers to rollout and adoption.
“Every municipality is interpreting the rules differently,” said Kyle Clark, Founder & CEO of BETA Technologies. “We need regulators and municipalities, and others to step up and harmonize.”
Yutko said, “Do you think that the United States should lead on autonomy or not? I think the answer to that question is an emphatic yes. Ask yourself if you don’t think that somewhere in the world there won’t be autonomous aircraft.”
Towles asked about the FAA Reauthorization bill that has passed the House and whether exisiting proposals are enough.
“We need more capability in the non-traditional areas of the FAA,” Clark said.
On FAA Reauthorization
Rep. Garret Graves, chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, discussed the FAA Reauthorization. The House has passed a bill to renew funding and improve operations for the Federal Aviation Administration for the next five years. The measure passed the Transportation Committee with unanimous support. The Senate has not acted.
“I think it is important we move forward and move this into law,” Graves said. “We’re going to be faced with the FAA essentially expiring in two weeks.”
He emphasized the need for the Senate to act to ensure continuity for the FAA and for the flying community.
“We’ve got to have some continuity within the agency,” he said. “We can’t have a Swiss cheese model of safety.”
- Discussed the importance of NEPA reform signed by Biden to ensure it is possible to build.
- Praised U.S. leadership on emissions. “For every one ton the U.S. has reduced in the last 15 years, China has increased by four… the U.S. has led the world in reducing emissions.”
- Emphasized the need for continued partnerships. “In developing the FAA bill that passed the House, it was a product of engagement with innovators like you and members of Congress with an interest in the aviation community. I encourage you, please continue to engage.”
Air Cargo and Global Supply Chain
Michael Steen, Chief Executive Officer of Atlas Air Worldwide, discussed the air cargo industry’s role in the global supply chain – including reflecting on lessons from the pandemic.
“Covid was so disruptive and pandemic-related requirements differed around the world, so we had to learn how to be nimble and flexible to operate,” he said.
He also talked about the globalization of trade: "No going back or going away from that. We need to support that to ensure supply chains are moving smoothly so that cargo can move smoothly.”
Steen discussed challenges, as well. He said there are 650 total freight planes – 120 of those are older than 30 years. There will soon be a significant amount of retirements, and we will see a faster decline in supply than we will in demand.