DICK TWOMEY

We have learned a great deal from the pandemic, and not all of it has been bad. Dreadful though the ravages of COVID-19 have been, we now know that:

• All nations need to update their health sectors and their state of readiness to combat unexpected calamities;

• The reduction, during the confinement period from which we are slowly emerging, of activities which produce large doses of CO2 has given us an astonishingly cleaner atmosphere. The changes which are achievable in major polluted cities have never been so clearly demonstrated, and this is not only in obvious places like Beijing or Delhi. A contact in the USA has reported that: “For the first time in 17 years I look up at the Manhattan sky and see the stars. I hear birds chirping. It’s incredible!”

• The various curfew and confinement measures — that the majority of nations have considered necessary – have in most cases not separated people, but quite the opposite. A much improved neighbourliness and concern for minorities and /or vulnerable individuals has been creeping into (or returning to?) our cultures.

On the minus side of course our freedom of movement and travel has been severely curtailed. The disastrous effects of the pandemic on air transport and tourism have shone a bright light on these sectors, highlighting their significance for the whole world’s wellbeing. But instead of resigning ourselves to a gloomy perception that life and air travel will never be the same again, this is actually the right moment to work even harder to use our newly acquired experience to pursue the wise development of a National Aviation Policy (NAP). The current predicament of our national air carrier recalls the old adage that you never sufficiently appreciate what you have until you have got it no longer.

If we already had such a long-term aviation policy in place, we would have been in a strong position to start cementing the rebuilding blocks together after the pandemic.  We all know what the components of an Aviation & Aerospace growth pole are and must recognize the advantages of banding them together for the good of the nation. It is the best bottom line for the country that counts. We can observe that several other sovereign nations point the way forward. I mention – as one example – one of our Southern Hemisphere neighbours, where an organization called “Aviation New Zealand” has been in existence for several years, successfully raising the bannner of a comprehensive aviation pillar of the economy with its motto of “One Industry, One Voice”!  What pleases me in this case is to see how the NZ Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) — as the industry’s Regulator and local arm of the International Civil Aviation Organization– is a fully participating member in this group. (See Aviation NZ diagram)

The challenge today, for an industry decimated by the pandemic-caused travel restrictions, is to find a new element which can boost the slow re-growth of business back to something like pre-Covid levels. Experts are suggesting that this is unlikely to happen before about 2023. What can be inserted into the mix, to make industry more resilient than it was in the past, is the new interest in working closer together for recovery of airports, aerospace manufacturers and air navigation service providers, all with the shared objective of protecting the environment.  In the UK the engine and power company Rolls Royce (RR) is leading the pack with the formation of a “Sustainable Aviation Coalition” to encourage other organizations to place Aviation/Aerospace at the top of government agenda as a catalyst for economic recovery plans. RR will continue developing R&D capability with respect to aircraft and engine technology and the use of sustainable (non-fossil) fuels; hybrid and electric aircraft; modernization of airspace using new aircraft performance and reduction of emissions and noise; together with progressing carbon offset measures and carbon removal techniques.

In summary, the challenge and task ahead is not just to rebuild National Economies but to build back better — for the environment, for air travel customers and for everyone.  It can be done.  International trade will always be needed. People will continue to travel.  With sustainable fuels and other tools, we just have to do it all better!