Just back from the first Global Aerospace Summit, hosted by Mubadala in Abu Dhabi, where I chaired as debate on "Regulatory barriers to creating global airlines". As you would expect from anything Abu Dhabi puts together, there was little expense spared in putting together the programme.
Held in the sumptuous St Regis Hotel over two days, it attracted (did they have any choice given the importance of Abu Dhabi and the UAE as a customer?) a host of top speakers, including Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Jim Albaugh, Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi, Marwan Lahoud of EADS and P&W boss David Hess, as well as representatives of many of the local airlines, including Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways' Akbar Al Baker, who gave a characteristically robust contribution.
I tweeted from the first day of the event and here's my story I have just filed on Al Baker:
Airframers battling to stick to delivery schedules because of increasing lack of capacity in the supply chain should not expect much sympathy from one of their most important customers, Qatar Airways' chief executive Akbar Al Baker.
The outspoken airline boss has told aircraft manufacturers they "should not give us promises they cannot keep" when they are aware their suppliers may not be able to meet orders.
Al Baker was responding at the opening session of the Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi on 16 April to Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Jim Albaugh, who warned that the supply chain was under increasing pressure from the demands of a number of civil and military programmes. "Supplier numbers are finite and there is not so much redundancy as their might be," said the Boeing boss.
The inability of some second and third tier suppliers to cope with demands from original equipment manufacturers has been one of the big challenges for the aerospace industry in recent years, as OEMs have outsourced more complex engineering projects. Part of the reason is that suppliers who had their fingers burned by the sudden collapse in demand after 11 September 2001 have been reluctant to invest sufficiently in training and equipment to keep pace with aircraft production.
Al Baker also launched an attack on Europe's Emissions Trading System, which he called "a cover for the [EU's] mismanagement of finances". It followed a keynote speech in which International Air Transport Association director general Tony Tyler warned that "prospects of a trade war over ETS are growing stronger" and called for the matter to be settled by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. "Global agreement through ICAO is the solution," he said. Al Baker also criticised airports for "raising charges at a time when the industry is struggling".
Addressing the future shape of the airline industry, Albaugh added that he expected "large scale consolidation by 2020", while Al Baker predicted that his airline would be "twice the size" by that year.
An unusual solution to the problem of airport capacity was offered by Finmeccanica chief executive Giuseppe Orsi. The former AgustaWestland boss said the Italian group was looking at the possibility of large passenger helicopters being used for feeder and short-haul point-to-point services. "Vertical take-off could be a potential future solution to crowded airports," he said.