IGBAA: ‘Let’s put Ireland on the business aviation map’
The inaugural business aviation conference in Ireland may be a seminal moment for expansion of the sector in the Emerald Isle.
The sense of enthusiasm was palpable among the 120 delegates in attendance at Adare Manor, County Clare for the Irish Business and General Aviation Association’s (IGBAA) first annual conference. Ultra-luxe tourism, aircraft registration, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and the potential for an AAM ecosystem linking Dublin and Shannon were among the topics discussed.
Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton kicked off the day. “Research in 2020 confirmed while Ireland has a strong offering, it is only attracting a fraction of the luxury tourism sector,” she said. “Ireland is also regarded as one of the top EU locations to do business. We are home to hundreds of overseas companies that employs thousands of people. These companies are a natural market for business aviation.”
Naughton highlighted Ireland’s “thriving” aviation sector now active for many decades thanks to its link to transatlantic travel. Ireland was first country outside the Americas to begin pre-clearing customs for the US.
“Over 50 aircraft leasing companies are based in Ireland,” said Naughton. “We also have well developed services in MRO.”
Graham Williamson, president, ACASS Ireland, who set up the firm in the wake of Brexit, said Ireland enabled him to build a sustainable business aviation business.“When Britain left the EU, I left Britain. For me the heart of business aviation is in Europe and Ireland is at the heart of Europe, so that’s why I’m here,” he said. “It’s English speaking, English law, but you are in Europe.”
People asked Williamson: What’s your exit strategy for the market? “There is none, I’d like this to last for 50 years. I’ll come and go and it will continue to create valuable jobs in this part of the world. It is not aircraft for the Kardashians our first aircraft was for Colombian miners, we’ve done vaccines, EU delegations, air ambulance.”
Josh Stewart chairman IBGAA agreed.“We lead in so many ways, but we are missing a lot of the business aviation ecosystem. Let’s put Ireland on the map we thought. In the European market business aviation was almost a €90bn driver last year. In Ireland that was about €1bn – there is progress to be made,” said Stewart.
Future technologies, against the backdrop of the recently-launched Future Mobility Campus Ireland, featured throughout the day’s panel discussions.
“The establishment of the Future Mobility Campus Ireland puts Ireland of the cutting edge of new aviation technology,” said Naughton.
Business aviation will lead the way on sustainable technology adoption, according to Robert Baltus, chief operating officer, EBAA. “You will not see airlines flying electric in the coming years but you will see business aviation doing it. That’s because we innovate in this space.”
Last year, Future Mobility Campus Ireland conducted beyond-line-of-visual-sight flights at the Shannon Airport testbed. Campus CEO and co-founder, Russel Vickers said: “We are building gigawatts of renewable energy on the west coast of Ireland. How can we channel that into sustainable aviation? We are quite poor on the infrastructure side over here on the west coast. All roads lead to Dublin –well, all the good roads anyway.”
Vickers outlined plans to establish an AAM ecosystem, whereby transport hubs and urban centres could be linked by air taxi on Ireland’s west coast and across to Dublin in the east.
SAF fuelled conversation in one of the afternoon sessions. Sustainable fuel is about getting back to mother nature and restoring the carbon balance in the atmosphere, according to Alder Fuels, president and CEO, Bryan Sherbacow.
“There are certain transport modes that will no longer need liquid fuels, because of renewables. Aviation is not one of those modes, for the near-term the only way to decarbonise aviation will be through decarbonising the liquid fuels it uses,” said Sherbacow.
Moderating the aircraft registration panel, Aoife O’Sullivan, partner, The Air Law Firm, summed up best what Irish business aviation needs to do. ““I call it the Isle of Man example. They came out of nowhere in 2007,” said O’Sullivan. “The market is there but you need to work hard and chase it.”