Watched with dispassionate self-interest by politicians and regulators.
Addressing Airline Presidents and Journalists at the opening of the annual General Assembly of the European Regions Airline Association today in Interlaken, Switzerland, ERA director general, Mike Ambrose labelled 2009 the year of aviation's economic Tsunami, "one which has been watched in Europe by many states, politicians and regulators with dispassionate and self-interested indifference.
"Air transport's problems have been vastly overshadowed by the larger economic crisis," said Ambrose. "Pitifully little attention has been given by either the European Commission or the Parliament to the difficult situation faced by stakeholder companies in European air transport."
On the positive side, Ambrose noted that some states are showing signs of slow recovery. Progress is also being made in regional aircraft manufacturing with new and/or improved aircraft, such as the Bombardier C-Series, the Sukhoi Superjets' ongoing flights programme and the launch of the enhanced ATR72-600 series. Recent aircraft orders from Sukhoi and the Mitsubishi MRJ are also encouraging signs that industry recovery is beginning.
Further progress has also been made on SESAR and the Single European Sky Package II, which will help to improve costs and reduce environmental impact. "However," Ambrose noted, "it is vital that we continue to invest in the development of new capacity to be ready when traffic inevitably returns, but investment requirements are in conflict with airlines' current ability to fund investment."
On the recently published EC Paper which quantifies the funding needed to support climate change projects in developing states, Ambrose remarked: "Now is the time for us to be honest, even if this might not be politically correct. First, funding third world projects should come from general taxation, not aviation. Second, there is a known level of inefficiency and corruption in many developing states. All funding, whatever its source, must be rigorously controlled and monitored against specific climate change projects. The EC paper discusses only the enormous sums that the EU must provide. It notably omits any mention of the means by which the distribution of these funds will be controlled."
Almost 500 senior European regional air transport executives are attending the ERA General Assembly which is being held in Interlaken, Switzerland from 7-9 October.