Winter 2023

Time to Talk

The Irish Business and General Aviation Association’s second annual conference drew a large number of delegates and passionate speakers to Ireland’s Adare Manor hotel

The paucity of empty seats in the splendid conference room at the equally splendid Adare Manor in Ireland’s County Limerick showed that the second Irish Business and General Aviation Association (IBGAA) annual conference managed to attract a near-capacity audience. Held on 1 November, the packed day of interesting panels and presentations sparked often-lively question and answer sessions with delegates, while the number of young people in the room was encouraging.

Anyone familiar with similar events from the longer-standing business aviation associations – the IBGAA is just three years old – would have recognised some of the themes on the conference programme. Sustainability was a recurring subject and in response to a challenge from the floor, IBGAA Founding Chairman Josh Stewart determined that next year the organisation would report on the progress made against this year’s promises.

There were also one or two differences. First, as a new organisation, the IBGAA has chosen to ‘grow up’ alongside the Irish regulator, working closely with the authorities and government to nurture the business and general aviation communities. The universal ambition is to recreate Ireland as an English-speaking, EU-member business aviation hub, with Shannon Airport as its de facto heart, but reaching out across the country.

Second, the IBGAA is drawing Ireland’s luxury travel market into the business aviation fold, providing HNWIs not only with the means to travel but also a reason to arrive. In 2027, Adare will host the Ryder Cup, an event that will bring tens of thousands of fans to Adare. The IBGAA is keen to ensure those among them who arrive by business jet are aware of the luxury tourism Ireland has to offer and its potential investment opportunities.

 

Highlights
There were inevitably standout moments from the panels and individual speakers during the conference. EVA was initially impressed by Jack Chambers TD, Minister of State at the Department of Transport and at the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications. Describing the capabilities of Ireland’s civil aviation authority, Chambers referenced the country’s forthcoming digital aircraft register, which he described as ‘the first in the world for its broadness and comprehensiveness’. The system promises to make aircraft registration and airworthiness applications more straightforward, aligning with IBGAA’s ambitions for Ireland’s global aviation status.

Speaking on the Evolutionary Shifts panel, Declan Mangan, Head of Operations Transformation and Environment at Air Nav Ireland, revealed his organisation’s willingness to engage with business aviation operators to help maximise their efficiency in Irish airspace, while 4AIR President Kennedy Ricci provided seminal insight on SAF and carbon accounting.

Brian Cox, Chief Architect at Jaguar Land Rover, was a surprise, and perhaps unlikely, non-aviation addition to the Evolving Aviation panel. “I think innovation should be looked at holistically across organisations and across the industry,” he declared. “It’s very easy to focus on the technical aspects but when you step back, the core of innovation is people, their knowledge, vision and creativity. That should be applied to every facet of your industry. There are SAF, electrification, autonomous systems, and they must all fit into the wider ecosystem, the regulatory environment, the social infrastructure, your customers and the processes and systems in a business that enable all of this. Those processes and systems were probably built for another time and often, if you want to be innovative, you have to try a new approach. It’s about all the pieces, the HR structure, organisational structure, the way you think about things, the mindset and the people.”

After lunch, Teneo’s CEO Michael O’Keeffe and Senior Managing Director Angie Grant provided fascinating insight into reputation and strategic communications and crisis management. O’Keeffe noted that when he began his career crisis management kicked in over a period as long as 48 hours after the event, but in the social media era crisis ‘reporting’ can escalate out of hand in hours or even minutes; predicting and preparing is critical to handling crises and protecting reputation.

Grant cautioned that modern attitudes tend to be polarised, while rumbling issues may suddenly escalate as people become mobilised into a movement through social media. She and O’Keeffe showed headlines from a recent search on business aviation coverage and cautioned that although the primary narrative against the industry was coming from a relatively small number of sources, the movement should be monitored carefully.

Brendan O’Connor, General Manager at Adare Manor, had interesting things to say on the Charter Market Trends panel. Noting that, like business aviation, the hotel trade operates on very slim margins, he reported that the hotel’s 5 or 10% of profitability relied upon the types of guest who might arrive in Ireland by private jet. Adare Manor is the most significant local employer and, O’Connor said, “Without business aviation providing access to Ireland, the economics of our region would change dramatically.”

Appearing in the same panel, Wayne Pollack, CEO and Founder at WP Exclusive Luxury and an IBGAA board member, explained the impact of private jet travellers on the places they visit: “We organised a trip for a US customer last summer. He spent a month in Europe, staying in France and Scotland and ending up in Dublin.

“He operates a private jet and employs two pilots plus other staff, and he bought the jet from a company that employs people. He visited Gleneagles, where they employ people. He loves golfing, horse riding and salmon fishing and all those activities employ people. He played at an exclusive club in Scotland and now wants to become a member and play there once or twice a year. Next year he wants to bring three or four couples from among his friends to Ireland. One of my mantras is ‘less is more’ and this is a great example, where a small number of people travelling are spending more, using top hotels like Adare Manor and private jets, to the benefit of local economies.”

The final panel discussion, Positioning Ireland to Capitalise on Future Growth, included notable comment from Martin Kennaugh, Client Services Director at Martyn Fiddler Aviation. Considering Ireland’s commercial aircraft register as a jurisdiction for business jets, Kennaugh stated: “Ireland is well thought of internationally, it has massive cultural links with the US, and it seems like a natural home in Europe for business aviation. We set up an office at Shannon in 2019 because we believe people want to do business here.

“I can’t tell you how hopeful we feel for the future of a sustainable Irish business aviation community leading the way in Europe. It’s possible when government and business talk to each other and the message gets through. One of the big takeaways from this conference is that we shouldn’t avoid talking about what we do and the value we bring to communities and national economies.”

Share
.