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McCarthy: Editorial

In August, the Conference Board of Canada released its summer 2006 aircraft and parts industry report.


September 27, 2007
By Drew McCarthy
 
 
 
 
 

In August, the Conference Board of Canada released its summer 2006
aircraft and parts industry report. With the caveat that it was done
before the alleged airline bombing plot arrests in the UK, the report
predicts double aerospace industry profits in Canada for 2006.

The
“good news” report forecasts profits of $802 million in 2006 with
profits exceeding $1 billion next year and continuing to rise through
2010. But, can anyone take this to the bank? Louis Thériault, director,
Industrial Outlook at the Conference Board of Canada said in a press
release that near-record numbers of international travellers in 2005
and continued strong demand in 2006 has invigorated the industry. But
on a cautionary note, he went on to say that it is too early to say
whether “the threat of terrorism will affect airlines’ longer-term
plans to purchase new aircraft.”

And once again, five years
after 9/11, there is palpable unease in the air. Since the UK arrests,
an Air Canada Jazz regional jet out of Montreal made an unscheduled
landing at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall
Airport, after an unknown and unclaimed package was reported on board;
an Excel Airways Boeing 767 made an emergency landing in southern Italy
after a bomb scare; the US Air Force was called in to escort a
Washington-bound United Airlines flight from London that was diverted
to Boston after a confrontation with a passenger; a pair of Dutch F-16s
escorted a Northwest Airlines flight bound for India back to
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport after suspicious passenger behaviour; and
a flight to New York from Atlanta was diverted to Charlotte, N.C.,
after a flight attendant found a bottle of water and then smelled
something suspicious on the plane.

These were not overreactions.
In today’s world, they were rational responses to potential, perceived
threats. Aviation has always focused on safety and it is now in the
process of focusing on security.

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Improved airport screening
technologies that include more sophisticated x-ray systems, radio
frequency identifying devices, and sensor technology will soon be
making their way onto the market. The question of affordability is key.
The public expects them, and, in fact, is wondering why they’re not
already in place.

In order to move forward, a hard and fast
distinction must be drawn between safety and security. Security of
person and property is the domain of the state and as such should be
fully funded by the state. These costs cannot be borne by airports that
will then have to pass these costs on to operators. Philosophically,
the principle of “user pays” cannot be applied when it comes to the
question of protecting citizens from attack.

Terrorism has
focused much of its efforts on aviation, and in particular, commercial
aviation. By doing so, it seeks to undermine one of the world’s most
dynamic and important economic drivers. Commercial aviation is not a
world unto itself. What happens in commercial aviation will ultimately
affect all of aviation, and what happens in all of aviation will
ultimately have an effect on the entire Canadian economy.


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