Being an Aerospace Leader

If you missed last week’s ASA/AFRA Conference in Washington, DC, then you missed some truly inspirational discussions.

Jean Paul Ebanga, CEO of CFM International, was the keynote speaker at the Confernece. He focused his comments on leadership and what it takes to be a leader in our industry.

As a leader, you are under constant pressure to deliver solutions. This means bringing technology to the market now. But the only way to do this consistently is to have a technology pipeline. As a leader, you need to have a long term vision. You need to generate the right conditions to permit generation of technology innovations, and you need to understand the importance of doing this over generations.

Ebanga discussed the remarkable state of CFM’s current technologies, like the unbelievable strength of modern carbon fiber being used in blades. And he discussed the difficult combination of sacrifice and foresight that is necessary to achieve success.

CFM went five years without a single sale, and then the airline deregulation and fuel price increases happened. The changed circumstances made fuel-saving engines a hot commodity and CFM’s investment paid off. CFM’s founders recognized this possibility and invested to be able to capitalize on it.

So what factors will help shape the next great company? Ebanga notes that we are living in a world of transition. It is the world that the west built; but the east and the south are rising. The wise leader must examine the needs of these rapidly-developing regions in order to be successful.

The demographics are changing in a way that favors aerospace. In 1960, there were 1 billion in the west and 2 billion in the developing world and air travel tended to be primarily focused among those in the West. But in 2014 the world holds seven billion. 1 billion of them are considered wealthy, and the wealthy are a primary target for commercial aviaton. Another 2 billion are struggling and they are less likely to be passengers in the short term. But the remaining 4 billion people will fall in between. And this “in between” group reflects people who will take vacations by air; and this rising global middle class needs to be considered in any aerospace strategic plan.

A principle message of Ebanga’s talk was to think beyond the numbers, and understand the world you are living in. Great changes are usually obvious in retrospect. But they are frequently unpredictable by those who merely look at the numbers of the past and expect those numbers to accurately predict the future. The trick is to recognize the factors that will influence the next great change.

Ebanga also joined Dr. Richard Levin, as well as CEOs Jimmy Wu and Mitch Weinberg on a business panel during the break-out workshops. The Wu-Weinberg panel is a perennial favorite among business executives at the Conference but it was particularly exciting to have Jean Paul Ebanga join the panel in the more intimate setting of the break-out workshop.

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About Jason Dickstein
Mr. Dickstein is the President of the Washington Aviation Group, a Washington, DC-based aviation law firm. He represents several aviation trade associations, including the Aviation Suppliers Association, the Aircraft Electronics Association, the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association and the Modification and Replacement Parts Association.

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