Nov. 1, 2013

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen led a panel at a U.S.-India Aviation Summit this week in Washington, DC, in which industry experts recounted the challenges – and signs of success – that mark the development of business aviation in growing economies like India.

The panel and Summit were jointly hosted by the United States and Trade Development Agency (USTDA) and the Government of India on Oct. 31.

“Aviation is an important engine in our nation’s economy,” Bolen said in opening the panel, and there is recognition that business aviation is a critical component in the overall aviation ecosystem, and that it benefits citizens, companies and communities across America.

Bolen noted that business aviation is a growing international industry – and that its benefits in the U.S. are becoming increasingly evident in all parts of the world – because “we are living in a global marketplace where connectivity of all types is important. The Internet gives us the computer-to-computer connection, or connects people to data. But throughout history, business gets done when people connect to people. And that’s what business aviation does very well.”

Bolen’s views were echoed by the panel of industry experts who not only described the central role business aviation can continue to play in India’s economy, but also underscored the policy and regulatory challenges that have constrained aviation growth with burdensome taxes policies and lack of access, and the need for improved education and training in aviation.

For example, Ed Smith, senior vice president for international and environmental affairs at the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, pointed out that in India, “there has to be a realization of general aviation as a valuable business productivity tool at the cabinet level. It also takes a different mindset to regulate general aviation as noncommercial.”

Craig Spence, secretary general of the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations, cited a recent economic projection that by 2017, India is expected to be the world’s third-largest economy in terms of growth.

That said, Spence added, “India needs to improve access to airports for general aviation and also develop the infrastructure to support general aviation. Air transportation is an ecosystem that must be in balance to support economic growth.”

Representatives from India’s aviation sector agreed there is a need to foster recognition of the important role of business aviation at the policy level, and an equally important need for application of consistent regulatory and training standards in line with international norms.

To help achieve those twin objectives, Kurt Edwards, director general of the International Business Aviation Council, said his organization has been tasked by the International Civil Aviation Organization to work with the development of information resources to assist global policymakers in creating the support needed to expand business aviation.

Karan Singh of India’s Business Aircraft Operators Association added, “We could learn from our partners here in the U.S., and at the international level, more about how to develop and operate” a modern, integrated air transportation system that can “help our businesses grow and succeed globally.”

Despite the challenges confronting the industry in India, Vivek Lall, president and CEO of Reliance New Venture, noted that officials there recently approved a new national aviation university to be devoted to the “very critical and essential need to raise the caliber of education and training” of the thousands of skilled pilots and technicians needed to work in the growing industry.

The third U.S.-India Summit was sponsored by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency and the government of India, in cooperation with the U.S.-India Aviation Cooperation Program. In addition, officials from the FAA participated, along with the U.S. Commercial Service and Transportation Security Administration.

Other members of the panel included James Viola, manager of the FAA’s General Aviation and Commercial Division in the Office of Flight Standards Services; and S.V. Suresh, general manager, composites manufacturing division of HAL Ltd.