The sun is finally rising again in the world of aviation following an unprecedented spell of turbulence. Mass vaccination programmes and the easing of restrictions mean that people are once again travelling abroad, with pent-up demand reported in both business and leisure travel.
And, while virtual business platforms came into their own during the pandemic, a much-needed return to in-person meetings has resulted in a big increase in air-transit activity.
The pandemic has resulted in huge changes for the industry. Companies and stakeholders are now looking for innovative solutions to substantial challenges in many areas.
With a strong and growing ecosystem that covers virtually every area of the sector, Irish companies can now offer a compelling package of solutions for every challenge faced by global aviation companies.
Ireland has enjoyed a long and proud history in aviation, dating back to when pioneering aviators Alcock and Brown landed in Ireland after the world’s first transatlantic flight. We also introduced the concept of duty free shopping to the world at Shannon Airport in the 1940s.
Most significantly, Ireland’s Guinness Peat Aviation launched the concept of aircraft leasing in the 1970s — today Ireland commands around 60pc of the global leasing market, with more than 50 aircraft leasing companies having a presence in Ireland.
In more recent years, the concept of low-cost flying was pioneered by Ryanair in the 1990s, turning the airline into Europe’s largest by passenger numbers. We have also produced some of the most important people in global aviation today, including Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas Airways; Willie Walsh, Director General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA); and Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair.
Today, Ireland is home to a thriving ecosystem of 250 aviation and aerospace companies that spans all aspects of the sector, from maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) to simulation training.
These companies have proven their resilience and flexibility by producing solutions to some of the most serious and urgent issues faced by the global aviation industry today.
These include travel tech solutions, such as the world’s first widely adopted mobile health passport, VeriFLY from Daon; technical textiles, such as anti-microbial carpets from aircraft interior experts Botany Weaving; and training and development, such as simulator training for pilots and crews from Simtech Aviation.
In addition, Irish MRO operators such as Atlantic Aviation Group, Dublin Aerospace and Eirtech Aviation Services have made acquisitions of facilities in Ireland and the UK to increase their capacity for international business and take advantage of the impending sharp rebound in air travel.
Ireland’s strength and innovation in the aviation industry is demonstrated at next week’s Dubai Airshow, the only international airshow to take place this year. This world-class show is known for facilitating thousands of face-to-face meetings, commercial deals and new partnerships. For example, the 2019 Dubai Airshow achieved an order book worth a staggering $54.5bn (€47.5bn).
This year, Enterprise Ireland is launching the Irish Aviation House, a new collaborative concept bringing together the best of Ireland’s aviation and aerospace ecosystem under the one roof.
Our pavilion is designed to showcase the strength of Irish aviation stakeholders in every area of the industry, such as MRO, aircraft interiors, training and recruitment, technology, aerospace manufacturing, drones and, of course, aircraft leasing.
Our aim is to build stronger ties between Irish aviation and aerospace companies and global aircraft lessors headquartered in Ireland. We have an incredibly strong complementary offering, which along with our traditional strengths, makes up a truly compelling offer for aviation stakeholders.
Already, the Irish Aviation House is attracting a lot of attention from leading airlines and companies in the Middle East and worldwide.
This attention will be strengthened further by Enterprise Ireland’s hosting of a symposium event in conjunction with IATA, hosted by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar.
Attendees already confirmed include CEOs from some of the world’s biggest airlines, including Emirates, Fly Dubai, Egypt Air, Kenya Airways and Kuwait Airways. With such huge global interest, the sky really is the limit for these leading Irish aviation companies.
Alan O’Mahony is International Market Adviser for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at Enterprise Ireland