Writing the Next Chapter of Our Industry’s History

Writing the Next Chapter of Our Industry’s History

A Message from Eric K. Fanning


This statement is an excerpt from the Spring 2018 Edition of AIA’s Executive Report. To view more articles and commentary, click here.

In January 1919, at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, our founding members and aviation dignitaries gathered to celebrate flight’s ‘initial’ stage, believing they were the architects of something profoundly important for society. They were right. The original vision statement for the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce – AIA’s first name – set the framework for the ‘American Century,’ laying out air transportation’s contribution to the “peaceful progress of the human race,” and “America’s leadership in the air.”

From left to right: The 1919 meeting of AIA membership that celebrated the dawn of our industry; Apollo 11 roars to the moon 50 years after the 1919 meeting; Concept image of the NASA QueSST supersonic x-plane, set to take flight the year after AIA’s centennial in 2019.

A century later, that vision continues to ring true. We are innovators. We are leaders. We are advancing human progress in every aspect of life. Events like next year’s centennial provide a platform to engage policy-makers and the public in a dialogue about the future, and the material and social progress that advancements in aerospace technology will help bring about. For an industry founded on the optimism of a small number of daring dreamers, one should expect nothing less.

Thanks to our industry, we now have:

  • air transportation and cargo systems linking the far corners of the world;
  • defense platforms ensuring the security of our nation and the safety of our men and women in uniform;
  • space missions extending our human presence outward in the solar system; and
  • communications nodes and cyber networks that connect the global economy.

While the scope and complexity of aerospace enterprises have changed dramatically, the pioneering spirit of AIA’s founders continues to drive our focus. In the coming months, I’m eager to report what AIA is achieving on your behalf by focusing on our primary objectives of increased aerospace and defense investment, expanded industry-government engagement, enhanced global competitiveness, and innovation spurred by a 21st century workforce. We’ll advocate, as did our founders, for the strong national investment required to realize our nation’s and our industry’s full potential. We’ll continue to capitalize on AIA’s important convening role, bringing together government and industry partners to advance progress on shared concerns. We can build on our sector’s leadership position in trade by increasing security cooperation and by advancing policies that help our industry compete fairly in existing and emerging markets. And with activities like our award-winning rocketry challenge, we will reach out and inspire the next generation of young women and men who will comprise our talented workforce of the future.

“Events like next year’s centennial provide a platform to engage policy-makers and the public in a dialogue about the future, and the material and social progress that advancements in aerospace technology will help bring about.”

I am also convinced that in an era of rapid change, our industry can have a broader role in providing the thought leadership our country needs. We have the unique ability to shape the focus in D.C. and beyond toward a more meaningful discussion on the technological possibilities of the next hundred years. AIA can play a central role in this dialogue, using our centennial as a platform for opening people’s eyes to the ways this industry can contribute to strengthening our security, expanding our prosperity, and opening new windows of exploration and discovery.

So how will we do this? AIA will increase our visibility beyond immediate stakeholders and find new ways to tell our stories and highlight our industry’s innovations. Our recent rollout of the new AIA/Avascent report on the growth potential of the large unmanned aerial systems (UAS) market demonstrates our approach to leveraging AIA’s research by starting a national conversation. We certainly engaged key stakeholders, leading a panel at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Aviation Summit, titled: “Think Bigger: UAS and the Next Major Shift in Aviation.” There, our discussion focused on how large UAS represent a cornerstone of future aviation, changing the nature of travel, technology and transport, and the economies surrounding those markets to the tune of $30 billion a year by 2036. But recognizing the need to expand our audience, I discussed the report on Fox Business’s Varney & Co. the morning of its release, and we highlighted its key findings across our digital channels with dynamic content. The result was that we raised our industry’s profile in a positive way across multiple audiences.

This must continue. Our intent is to keep leveraging our people, reports, events such as air shows, workforce summits and House and Senate Aerospace Caucus briefings to raise the level of discourse in shaping national goals and priorities. We are seizing on forward-leaning approaches on how and where we engage with those who are already invested in our industry, and those we believe should be invested, from Capitol Hill to rural America, from think tanks to podcasts.

“Together, we’ll write the next chapter for our industry, and define why we represent America’s future.”

I am thrilled to serve as the President and CEO of AIA, following aerospace giants I’ve looked up to throughout my career, and to work with our dynamic members as we lead AIA into its second century. I have seen our industry from every seat at the table, from CBS News to Capitol Hill to the Pentagon. Through those interactions, I have gained an appreciation for the complexity of our industry, and for the importance of the workforce that makes seemingly impossible visions a reality.

In that elegant ballroom at the Waldorf, our predecessors laid out a vision for where our industry and our association would go in the future. One hundred years later, those same principals hold true. Together, we’ll write the next chapter for our industry, and define why we represent America’s future.

Eric K. Fanning
President and Chief Executive Officer