The speed with which the outbreak impacted aviation globally was, in the grand scheme of things, instantaneous. It was only a few short months ago at the beginning of 2020 that I wrote about globalisation and that it was something to be embraced and not feared!
I have spent the last week trying to apply an ‘engineer’s logic’ to how the future may look and slowly, piece-by-piece, I am coming to a vision, albeit a personal one, of a post-pandemic industry.
Cash is king. This has always been true of business and those that are heavily leveraged will, without any shadow of a doubt, struggle to tread water during the global lockdown. There will be casualties.
The operators and businesses that already had a fiscal war chest built up will be judged in the future by their next step with regard to their assets. Not in the traditional sense, airframes and infrastructure, but in the area most valuable to rebuilding their business and market share – their employees.
Already there have been some spectacular own-goals by carriers that in the split second between realising there was a problem and government interventions, laid off their staff in the thousands.
Some governments have led by example and literally wrapped their arms around the citizens they know that will be at the very core, to not only weathering the storm, but in re-building a nation.
The same is true of a business, especially in a highly specialised technical industry such as aviation and aerospace.
Adapting to the changes rapidly is critical in order to not only support the fight against the coronavirus, but also to bring in new revenue streams. Again, some operators have quickly adapted to freight and cargo operations in lieu of normal operations.
There has to be by definition, two distinct time frames; lockdown and post-lockdown.
The lockdown period has been discussed above, but what about the post-lockdown as the world slowly and probably ‘regionally emerges’ from isolation?
Human behaviour and responses will undoubtedly be different. They have to be, as the ‘psyche’ of every single person on the planet will have been effected. Do you really want to sit in row 66 with other people in the future?
Where I can see gains, and there are already signs of this, is in the executive and business jet markets. We saw this post 9/11 and we will, I believe, see this again, as companies and people take more control of their environment.
Resilience is something we all require in order to stay healthy in the physical and commercial sense.
So while you may find yourself in isolation today, plan your exit strategy and use the time wisely. As individuals, we are masters of our own destinies. As industry leaders, your decisions affect humanity. Stay safe.
About the author - Steve Ford is the author of 20 West: A journey through six decades of turbulent change within aviation. Ford trained as a professional aircraft engineer and holds aircraft engineering licences both sides of the Atlantic, having served a full apprenticeship with British Caledonian Airways.