Need I say Moores

Who’s in the driving seat?

One of the themes of MRO Europe in Amsterdam was how the automotive industry is powering ahead of aviation, because of different approaches when it comes to innovation and risk.

The point was made right at the start of the conference, when TAP Express CEO Valter Fernandes showed a photo of an aircraft cabin 30 years ago and compared it with the cabins flying today.

He argued that, aside from a few lighting solutions, narrowbody cabins haven’t visibly changed in 30 years. Galleys are still as industrial-looking today as they were 30 years ago, and that’s the first thing a passenger sees on boarding.

By contrast, car design has changed dramatically. “I can drool over what the car industry can achieve today,” he said.

As if to prove the point, Fernandes’ presentation was followed by a briefing about electrical, on-demand, vertical take-off and landing taxis.

Personally, I believe non-premium cabins have come a long way over the last 30 years, with lighter seats, more effective use of space (in response to market demand for cheap fares) and a growing take-up in connectivity. In the premium cabins, the leap is even greater, and aircraft technologies overall have come a very long way. But I do see Fernandes’ point. When it takes three years to even get even the simplest cabin modifications flying, that is too long.

Like aviation, the car industry is heavily regulated on safety grounds. “Belt and braces create a great safety record, but I think two things [innovation and safety] can live together,” Fernandes observed.

There was a strong feeling at the conference that MROs take an overly risk-adverse ‘wait and see’ approach to new technologies, going beyond the caution that is understandably essential for safe operations.

 “If the customer is not there, you [as a tech start-up] are not going to make money,” said Christian Suttner, co-founder and managing partner of startup incubator Starburst.

Suttner said – figuratively speaking - that aviation companies are so busy cutting down trees, that they don’t have the time to sharpen their axes.

Maybe the greatest risk is not taking a risk in the first place, so long as it is safe to do so.

Victoria Moores

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