Check against Delivery
Good evening ladies and gentlemen.
I am delighted to be here this evening for this International Aviation Ball and I trust that everybody will have an enjoyable and pleasant evening.
I understand that we have a distinguished delegation from Air Astana of Kazakhstan and to you I extend an especially warm welcome and trust that you will enjoy your time in Ireland.
The Air Astana delegation includes a leading Kazakh cosmonaut, Captain Talgat Musabayev, and I feel certain that the exploits and experiences of Captain Musabayev will be a particular inspiration to our new graduates.
In selecting the Faithlegg House and Golf Hotel, you have chosen one of the most beautiful and scenic settings in Ireland and I hope that all guests will enjoy your stay here in Waterford and perhaps in other places around Ireland later in the week.
Faithlegg is of course a renowned golfing location in Ireland and, with the greatest of apologies to any of our American friends here tonight, many of us are still perhaps basking in the glory of Europe’s victory in the Ryder Cup on Monday afternoon last.
Whatever about still celebrating that Ryder Cup success, the focus of our celebrations tonight must surely be on the 45 cadet pilots that graduated from the Pilot Training College earlier today.
Not all of them can be present tonight but to each and every one of those cadets I would like to extend my warmest congratulations on their fine achievement after fourteen months hard work and commitment.
I am sure that the staff and instructors of the Pilot Training College are also very proud of you and it is fitting that I should specifically acknowledge their key role in your success.
The Pilot Training College is one of just three Flight Training Organisations that have been approved by the Irish Aviation Authority to train aeroplane pilots to commercial level in Ireland. Stringent procedures and standards apply and the College, having received its initial approval in 2003, is approved to provide a broad variety of courses.
The geographical diversity of these graduating cadets is a good indicator of the appeal of the Pilot Training College and the excellence of its instructors and facilities.
I understand that the College in now amongst the top three of its kind in Europe, a commendable achievement and evidently reflecting a strong pursuit of excellence.
It is wonderful to see the continuing strong role being played by Ireland and Irish aviation professionals in the development of aviation globally. From the first east-west transatlantic crossing in 1928,to the emergence of Irish airlines as global players,to the strong presence we have in the aircraft leasing and financing business. Playing a leading role in training adds to this tradition.
A striking and most welcome feature of this graduating class is the predominance of cadets from Air Astana of Kazakhstan. 12 out of the total of 45 are from Air Astana and I believe that more are set to follow.
The close relationship established between the Pilot Training College with Air Astana came from a lengthy evaluation process and I wish this collaboration every possible success in the future.
Indeed, I hope that many other airlines will follow Air Astana’s leading example in the years ahead.
In my concluding remarks I would like to dwell a little on the future outlook for aviation because this will surely have crossed the minds of our new graduates as they plan their careers.
The worldwide economic downturn has caused turmoil in virtually every economic sector. Aviation has certainly not escaped the ravages over the past two years when traffic declines caused world airlines to generate operating losses of almost $9 billion in 2008 and falling to about $4 billion last year as a result of capacity reductions.
These are extraordinary losses but it is perhaps an indication of just how cyclical the sector is that record operating profits of almost $20 billion were posted only three years ago in 2007.
Looking forward to the outlook for this year and next, there are solid grounds for believing that the corner has been turned. Yet again the aviation sector seems set to demonstrate the resilience it has shown in the past.
Passenger traffic is set to rebound in 2010 after the last two difficult years and the financial performance of the world’s airlines is expected to improve in 2010 in line with the projected increase in traffic. For these cadets about to embark on careers in the aviation world, this is positive news.
The likely future demand for aviation professionals is in fact being actively considered by the ICAO. Some are predicting that there will be a shortage of 200,000 pilots and 400,000 maintenance personnel by 2018.
So, there are reasons for optimism. We will see further growth in the aviation industry and all parts of the aviation industry in Ireland, including training institutions such as the Pilot Training College, should aim to play their part.
Given Ireland’s strategic position between the European and American continents, this is a legitimate and reasonable aim and my attendance at this evening’s event demonstrates my support and commitment to this aim.