Getting through and going beyond …

Setting a course for the future of aviation and air travel
by Stephen J. Timm, president of Collins Aerospace

This year’s Paris Air Forum is a chance to gather, albeit virtually, to discuss critical topics in aerospace and defense that can strengthen our industry. Collins Aerospace has a long history in European aviation, particularly in France, and remains committed to growth in the commercial air transport and defense markets – in every strategic region across the globe. We look forward to the conversations.

Yet given this year’s challenges, we know long-term recovery will take more than words. Our industry’s ability to collaborate, adapt and innovate will determine our future, just as it’s defined our past.

Since the launch of flight 100 years ago, we’ve worked together in times of crisis to lead the way through some of the world’s most intractable problems.

World War II accelerated industry collaboration and innovation, which led to a long list of new technologies – radar and jet engines to name two – that revolutionized the battlespace. After 9/11, the industry responded with new security procedures to keep passengers safe and cockpits secure, and to restart global travel.

Today, the pandemic is driving innovation. The need to protect passengers requires new technology on aircraft and in airports, and calls for countries everywhere to adopt new “health passport” procedures to ensure safe travel at every point of a traveler’s journey.

A redefining moment

The leadership we demonstrate today in addressing the challenges of COVID-19 will help the entire industry solve problems faster and more efficiently in the future.

At Collins, we’re redefining what aviation and air travel will look like – a week from now, six months from now, six years from now. We consider this work our duty and our privilege, and I’m sure we’re not alone in that sentiment. It’s a shared responsibility.

For example, we’re working with public health leaders on research-driven technologies that can reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection and help reopen borders to travel.

On the commercial side of the industry, this means working on redesigning airport terminals, increasing the use of biometrics, improving health screenings and contact tracing, and bringing more surgical-grade filtration systems into the cabin and touch-free solutions to airports and aircraft.

The same connectivity solutions driving change in commercial aviation are helping transform the military side of the industry, as well. Lives depend on pilots and warfighters having the most advanced equipment to guide them, protect them, and inform their split-second decisions. Therefore, we’re advancing this mission on many fronts -- our European sovereign capabilities enabling programs like FCAS or the Main Battle Tank, for example.

Sustainability must drive solutions

Bringing more sustainable solutions to market is another key priority, one that calls for a unified approach. The industry must go further to boost fuel efficiency and reduce carbon emissions, and customers need our best ideas to reduce size, weight and power requirements on products and platforms. Hybrid electric propulsion, hydrogen turbine, fuel cells, lighter building materials and additive manufacturing are exciting opportunities for collaboration.

The technologies emerging from this crisis can put us on a more sustainable path forward – even as we guard against the impact of a future pandemic. That said, current financial realities call for new public and private partnerships to help bring these solutions to life.

Finally, we must work across our governments to ensure we have secure, compliant ways to conduct business and deliver our products to customers. To do that, we need candid conversations about what it will take to safely reopen borders.

The aerospace industry knows how to engineer solutions that can lead the world out of challenging situations. We’ve done it before, and we’re doing it now as we come together to minimize the pandemic’s effects on our industry and our world.

And the world is waiting for us, trusting us, to get it right.