SILC plays host to aviation leasing stalwarts By Siobhán Maguire

Technical leaders within the aviation sector gathered this month for the Shannon International Leasing Conference (SILC), an annual networking and conference event.

The one-day invite-only conference which was staged in Limerick explored the increasing relevance of Shannon as a leading cluster of aviation services with a strong heritage supporting the lease sector since its inception.

Now in its third year, SILC has grown in reputation as a key meeting point for aviation companies. SILC is part of the International Aviation Service Centre (IASC), home of the largest aviation and aerospace cluster in Ireland, located in Shannon. IASC was born out of the Shannon Group, which was established in September 2014 to build the region as a globally relevant aerospace cluster with expertise in the areas of leasing, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), corporate aviation, logistics and training.

Samantha Harding, SILC’s organiser, said the gathering was an opportunity for aviation leaders to engage with one another about how Shannon can lead the way as a global services centre in the aviation sector. She added that the event allowed for industry leaders to network and share in the conversation about Shannon as a global hub for aviation leasing.

“SILC2018 was an exceptional event this year and the feedback from those in attendance has been hugely positive,” she said. “The tagline of the conference was ‘Shannon – adding value in a competitive landscape’ and that summed up the core conversations on the day, that the Mid-West has that special something to build on and develop its global status as a global leader in aviation leasing.”

Technical leaders from leasing companies which included AerCap, Avolon, SMBC, NAC met at Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT), with the day moderated by Matt Cooper, the journalist, and key note speech from Katherine Bennett OBE, Senior Vice President of Airbus.

“We had several dynamic panel discussions on the day that showed the strength and knowledge-based Shannon region as a global contender in the aviation industry,” said Harding. “SILC guests are made up of senior technical leaders from the aviation community, and the one-day conference afforded them an exclusive opportunity to catch up on latest developments within the industry and the ongoing expansion plans within Shannon.

“With 40% of the world’s leased fleet managed through Ireland, one of the primary goals of SlLC is to create cohesion and infrastructure in the aviation community in Ireland, and principally in the Shannon area”. further stated Harding. The second presentation of the day, from Tom Caffrey, Lufthansa Technik and John Drysdale, IASC examined how collaboration within the services companies has worked so successfully this year, as planes were successfully transitioned through Shannon.

Shannon enjoys a unique place in aviation history. In 1939, the flying boats of the first transatlantic scheduled air route touched down in the Shannon estuary. In 1945, the region welcomed the first scheduled transatlantic landplane services, and in 2015, Shannon celebrated its 70th anniversary as a central aviation location with strong links with the United States and Europe.

Shannon continues to develop in 2018 as an aviation services centre, with the service companies providing a range of skilled services and cost efficient solutions to both airlines and the leasing companies.

What is unique about SILC is the no-nonsense approach to its discussion format. “We have worked hard to make SILC a top-class conference where there are no sales people or pitches,” added Harding. “This is about people learning and mixing with their peers, sharing industry knowledge and understanding the positive impact the Shannon region has to offer within the industry internationally.”

GECAS, leaders in aviation leasing and financing, were among those who addressed the room on the day. Séan Flannery, General Manager of GECAS Ltd, and Anton Tams, Senior Vice President and Manager of Technical – gave a presentation to the attendees in the afternoon, sharing the success of a company that spans five decades.

Traditionally, Shannon has been focused on taking in aircrafts and fixing them, but one of the main highlights of the SILC agenda was to focus on how this is set to change with sights set firmly on developing a new industry which will design and manufacture parts for aircraft. Already major players in the aerospace industry, including Aero Inspection International, are looking at 3-D printing in conjunction with the University of Limerick (UL), in the manufacturing of aircraft parts. Owen Bagnell, Head of Operations at Aero Inspection International, said the move towards diversification in aircraft manufacturing allows for Shannon to be even more competitive in the global arena. “We’re in talks to manufacture small parts and get away from aviation and into aerospace, where we can manufacture small parts,” he said. “We want to get the manufacturing done here in Shannon ourselves and expand on the range of services already provided for the aviation industry here.” Harding stated “SILC is developing as a forum for news sharing within the aviation industry and we welcome the advancements happening in Shannon and our involvement within that.” Richard O’ Grady, Director Sales & Marketing at Magellan Aviation and SILC attendee, confirmed that the company has further strengthened its position in the spares parts market with the signing of an LOI with an aircraft lessor for 3 x B737-800 aircraft. “This is our single largest transaction and shows our ability to acquire assets in a challenging market” stated O’Grady.

The last panel of the day looked at skill shortages in the aviation sector in Shannon, and how more talent can be attracted to the area, as well as the future of training. “The panel ‘Educating for the future’ looked at how Shannon is retaining human capital but also the need for more aviation professionals,” Harding said. “There is a skills shortage which must be addressed and the way to do that is through valuable apprenticeship and traineeships in tandem with airlines and MRO’s. The panel included educators from LIT, UL, Lufthansa Technik Shannon as well as industry representation from Richard Hough, ELFC, Linda Barron, Aviation Skillnet and Ruaidhri Neavyn, HEA Jacinta Courtney, Lufthansa Technik Shannon said “We want to get the message out there that traineeships are available and are an ideal way to get into the aviation industry. There is an appetite to build up our talent pool and retain and generate more jobs in the industry.” SILC attendees finished the day in Jerry Flannery’s in Limerick, listening to rugby anecdotes and stories from Paul O Connell, Ronan O Gara and Donal Lenihan before attending a brunch hosted by Atlantic Aviation Group the following day.

~Courtesy Sunday Business Post