The Clare man at the helm of the one of the biggest aviation companies in Europe has highlighted the potential of Shannon as a centre of excellence for aircraft reconfiguration.
Ennis native John Slattery, who is President and CEO of Embraer Commercial Aviation, was addressing business executives in Dromoland where a wide range of topics, including Brexit and Shannon’s positioning on a global stage, were all discussed.
Shannon has been at the heart of international aviation for over seventy years and is now home to the largest aerospace and aviation cluster in Ireland but its future could include the development of a centre of excellence for aircraft reconfiguration, capitalising on its reputation for quality and speed in maintenance repair overhaul (MRO) sector.
Fresh from investor discussions on Wall St, ahead of a shareholder vote on the sale of Embraer Commercial Aviation to Boeing, which he sees as a natural move in a time of consolidation in the sector, Slattery warned the many aerospace companies in Shannon and in Ireland generally not to lose sight of competitor activity in Asia and Russia, who also want to do business with Tier 1 aircraft manufacturers.
“Ireland does punch above its weight in the sector due to its talented and experienced engineering base and we’re world-class in leasing, airline operations, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and its associated services but, we can’t allow ourselves to suffer from hubris; we have an amazing tax treaty structure, which takes years to build but other countries want into the business too. We have to continue to find new opportunities and specialisations, ” he said.
Looking to the future and focusing in on education, Slattery said that the single biggest challenge for commercial aviation is human capital.
“We can’t be picking kids in university or secondary level; we need to go after them when they are in primary school and get them interested in maths. We are not focussing enough on maths; it’s being left behind. We should be looking at what schools outside Ireland, such as in India and Shanghai, are doing to interest kids in maths. Parents and kids in those parts of the world are obsessed by maths. We’re at a point of inflection now where big data and maths are at the core of our sector and that’s what Ireland needs to be looking at,” he stated.
Speaking about Brexit, from a personal point of view, he said it was like watching a slow car crash.
“It’s very difficult and the clock is ticking. A hard Brexit would have a huge impact on airlines at many levels,” he added.