The US-India Aviation Summit 2011 served to reinforce the nascent bonds between the aviation industries of the US and India and generated considerable excitement amongst the guests from abroad
The US-India Aviation summit 2011 held at New Delhi from November 16 to 18 was the third edition of the biennial event the first of which was held from April 23 to 25, 2007 also at New Delhi. The second edition of the event was held from December 7 to 9, 2009, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. The primary objective of the biennial event has been to promote greater cooperation between the civil aviation industry of the US and India. With an expanding consumer base, India presents one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world with potentially enormous opportunities for investment. According to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the phenomenal rate of growth experienced in the recent past is expected to be sustained over the next decade and would be spurred further by the strengthening of ties between the civil aviation industry of the US and India. In the overall perspective, this equation is regarded by both India and the US as one of the strongest features of the US-India strategic partnership.
Opening Up the Indian Skies
The boom in the Indian civil aviation industry which is now regarded a key driver of economic growth, began in 2003, marked by the entry of the low-cost model in the airline industry in India. While the symbol of the low-cost model, Air Deccan, has now receded into oblivion, the unprecedented and impressive growth trajectory of the aviation industry in India it triggered, drew the attention of the government, the aviation industry and the entrepreneur in the US. The first positive step in the building up of the Indo-US partnership in the aviation segment was the Open Skies Agreement between the two governments signed in 2005. This agreement was indeed a turning point, as in its wake there has been rapid increase in the volume of air traffic between the two nations, strengthening economic engagement and fostering people-to-people contact. In 2007, the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) partnered with the Government of India, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and US aviation companies to launch the US-India Aviation Cooperation Programme (ACP) which is a public-private partnership model designed to enhance the long-term strategic and commercial relationship between the US and the Indian civil aviation industry. The ACP provides a mechanism through which functionaries in the civil aviation domain of the Indian Government can work with the US public and private sector entities to identify opportunities and work out priorities for bilateral technical cooperation.
The Aviation Summit in 2011
Sponsored by the USTDA, the US-India Aviation Summit provided a platform for the US and Indian aviation stakeholders to serve as a technical, policy and commercial forum to assist civil aviation representatives from India identify advanced technologies and practices that best suit its expansion and modernisation needs. The conference facilitated interaction between top business and government decision-makers from India and the US to provide a momentum to aviation development of the Indian aviation industry including regulatory and legal framework, technology and services, financing, public and private sector initiatives and best practices. The summit was intended to promote advanced US technical assistance and encourage high level dialogue to address key issues related to air traffic management and control, aviation security and airspace utilisation over the Indian subcontinent. In the long-term, the summit is expected to support the strategic and commercial relationship between the Indian and US aviation industries and present substantial commercial opportunities for the US equipment and service suppliers of avionics and aviation-related technology and services. Public-private partnerships would undoubtedly be the vehicle for India’s rapidly growing aviation market.
The summit opened with an appraisal of the success of cooperation in the past and evaluation of business opportunities in the future across the Indian aviation market. In her opening remarks, felicitating India on the centenary year of civil aviation, Leocadia I Zak, Director USTDA said, “USTDA and the ACP congratulate India on a century of aviation success and are proud to be a part of that history. Over the next two days, we have a fantastic opportunity to share experiences and learn from each other and that by continuing our successful partnership, we will achieve great progress for the next 100 years.” In his speech that was extraordinarily brief, Peter Burleigh, the US Ambassador emphasised the serious intent of his government to be a part of the future growth of the Indian aviation industry.
Outlook for the Indian Market
In his address, Nasim Zaidi, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India, stated that India was slated to become the fifth-largest market in the world in terms of overall traffic growth in the next five to ten years. India’s air passenger traffic was set to rise up to 260 million by 2020 and that private investment so far in the sector had been about $6 billion ( Rs. 30,000 crore) and that the country would require $130 billion ( Rs. 6,50,000 crore) worth of further investment over the next 10 to 15 years. He went on to say that the Government of India was embarked on creating the required infrastructure and suggested that the US companies should explore the wealth of opportunities in the areas ranging from airport modernisation and aerospace, Air Cargo to maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO). Referring to the huge investment opportunities that existed in the drive to modernise Indian airports, Zaidi stated that after the successful implementation of public-private partnership (PPP) in the development of six major and 35 non-metro airports, there was urgent need to further expand its airport network to cover Tier-II and Tier-III cities to cope with this growth and that in the pursuit of this objective, 30 more airports had been identified to be developed through the joint venture or the PPP route. The effort at development of airports included 14 Greenfield airports and in all, India’s Civil Aviation Ministry has plans to have 500 operational airports through partnerships over the next 10 years. Given the abundant technical expertise available with the US companies in areas of emission control, energy efficient airports, air traffic management and safety, projected investment of billions of dollars for upgrading Indian airports ought to be sufficiently attractive and rewarding.
Zaidi invited the private sector to invest in aviation education and training infrastructure in India to address the problem of shortfall in skilled manpower that the aviation industry would need in the long term. “The government is planning to set up a National Aviation University and a Centre of Excellence for aviation training and education. MRO is another area where we are looking for investment.”
The summit also witnessed a number of agreements in the first of which USTDA in partnership with Metron Aviation entered into an agreement with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to fund a technical assistance project to support the implementation of an advanced air traffic flow management system. Dorenda Baker, Director of the Aircraft Certification Service of the FAA and Bharat Bhushan, Director General Civil Aviation (DGCA) for India signed the Implementation Procedures for Airworthiness (IPA) which defines the scope and nature of the cooperation established under the Indo-US Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) concluded on July 18 this year. Apart from signifying completion of BASA, the IPA agreement reflects the mutual commitment of the two nations to enhance safety and enable reciprocal certification of aviation products. This would open up market opportunities in the US and the world over for indigenously developed aeronautical products. The pact also provides for airworthiness and technical cooperation between the FAA and the DGCA. As per the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the agreement will also encourage investment in the Indian aircraft manufacturing industry and provide an impetus to the rapidly growing civil aviation sector in India.