Speech: David Melcher, Chair of ICCAIA

Environmental Technology

Geneva - The Chair of ICCAIA and President and CEO of AIA, David Melcher, delivered at speech at the Global Sustainable Aviation Summit on 'the manufacturer perspective'.

Good morning and thank you Michael for that very kind introduction.  In making up my schedule, I had the choice of staying in Washington and trying on our industry’s behalf to convince members of our United States Congress to break the current budget impasse.  Or, I could fly to Geneva, meet some of the world’s most dynamic aviation leaders, and participate in a vibrant dialogue about meaningful issues. And no, this was not a difficult choice.

So on behalf of the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations, or ICCAIA, I appreciate the opportunity to highlight the critical technology improvements aerospace manufacturers are spurring to help guide us towards our sustainability goals.

But first, I want to talk to you about values.  This industry is very proud to help make robust global commerce possible, and to enable for the first time in history people-to-people exchanges between all nations on a massive scale.  We believe we’re a vital force for good in modern society.  In carrying forth our work, we’re alert to our responsibility to make air travel the safest form of mass transportation, and to set the pace in environmental stewardship. 

At the Aerospace Industries Association, where I represent manufacturers from the United States, we embrace the core values of credibility, integrity and responsibility.  I can assure you all of ICCAIA’s members share this approach in providing aviation solutions for environmental challenges. 

The time is certainly ripe for our entire aviation community to continue pushing for greater environmental performance.  As fuel costs are the single largest operating cost today, from a competitive standpoint, manufacturers are battling to gain further fuel efficiency and outshine one another on environmental performance metrics.  And this is a game where everyone wins.

But we don’t just compete with one another.  We also cooperate within the manufacturing community and with our fellow aviation colleagues.  Our industry has set ambitious CO2 reduction goals that we’re working hard to accomplish, even in the face of increasing passenger numbers.   As you can see in ATAG’s recent publication, “Aviation Climate Solutions,” the combination of new composite structures, improved aerodynamics, alternative jet fuels, breakthrough propulsion concepts, and more efficient operations are making leapfrogging advancements possible.    

Our industry’s $15 billion a year annual research investment is helping meet the 1.5 percent per year improved fuel efficiency goal, and will help us cross the goal line of carbon neutral growth by 2020.  For those of you keeping score, that $15 billion in investment is five times the estimated value of Manchester United, so we’re talking real money here.

Let me give you some examples of the innovation occurring due to this investment.  Winglets, sharklets—whatever we would like to call these small efficiency boosters—reduce lift induced drag and save between 380,000 and 570,000 liters of fuel per year. 

On the ground, taxiing aircraft that utilize new electric taxiing systems reduce the use of main engines, saving up to 85 percent of fuel normally emitted before they take flight.

And on the shop floor, we’re witnessing a revolution in the use of 3D printing for the design and production of aircraft and engine parts.  Next year, one company [GE Aviation] will introduce the first 3D-printed parts in an aircraft engine platform.  Parts produced with this method are already beginning to appear on the latest generation of aircraft, resulting in components that weight 30 to 55 percent less than traditional metal parts.

Our industry is also finding common ground with government air transportation agencies, the airlines and airports to promote more efficient operations and improved infrastructure, resulting in significant environmental benefits.

Indeed, the Single European Air Traffic Management Research Program, SESAR, combined with the U.S. NextGen national airspace system modernization program is making aviation safer, more efficient, and environmentally friendly.

In the U.S. the industry-government NextGen partnership has led to the introduction of several satellite-based flight guidance technologies and new flight procedures that are appreciated by the flying public.  For example, at Seattle-Tacoma Airport, due to more efficient take offs and landings, flight times have been reduced on average by nine minutes, and CO2 emissions have been reduced by over 14,000 tons per year. 

 Similarly, I commend the organizers of the SESAR public private partnership for making air traffic modernization a strategic priority for Europe.  They’re making significant progress in harmonizing air operations between multiple national authorities and ATM centers.  Achieving the goal of a “Single European Sky” will certainly be a big deal.  In addition, I applaud SESAR’s ambition to promote environmentally optimized Trans-Atlantic flights which hold the promise of saving up to a half ton of fuel or the equivalent to 1.6 tons of CO2.  Let me add that to register further gains it is incumbent upon the aviation community to ensure that there is greater interoperability between NextGen and SESAR systems.

Now in addition to furthering our objectives through technological innovation, it’s also clear that our community must work with other industry groups, governments and NGOs to help shape the best and most effective global environmental policy for aviation.

As such, ICCAIA endorses the role of the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, as being the proper venue for international discussions of aviation-specific environmental issues including the issue of CO2 emission standard setting.  ICAO has the right bandwidth for thoughtful discussions and decision making about technical feasibility, economic viability, environmental benefits and interdependency considerations. In addition, when ICAO sets aviation environmental standards, we have faith they will be adopted by the widest possible group of governments across the globe in a way that keeps our industry operable, and most importantly recognizes the non-negotiable element of safety. 

In this light, we’re confident that in 2016 ICAO member states will agree on a practical global framework for market-based measures, and endorse a CO2 aircraft certification standard to further reduce aircraft emissions in the most effective, safe and environmentally-friendly way.  Such an agreement, along with our commitment to continue efforts to innovate will provide, in our judgment, the best way forward.

I trust that if this group meets up again in five years we will have met or even exceeded these significant industry goals.  And if that is the case, we should all lift our glasses and toast this great industry for a wonderful, impactful achievement.

 In closing, I wish to thank all the members of the aviation community for participating in this important summit and for the opportunity to speak today.  I look forward to working with you as we continue to make progressive achievements that are emblematic of an industry that always lifts—literally and in spirit—the people of this planet.