The Ontario Chamber of Commerce held the second annual aviation summit March 12.
Issues involved with cargo were the main topic of the event held at the L.A. Ontario International Airport.
“Aviation is a priority for this region,” said Mark Smiley, Ontario Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.
Smiley said cargo has great impact on the area and they thought it was a good topic for the presentation.
Thirteen percent or $40 billion of airline revenues comes from transporting cargo.
Speakers from various areas in aviation and from around the country met to speak on the issues involved with cargo.
A majority of attendees were local business owners and members of the chamber of commerce.
“We are a big part of the community,” said Peter Synn summit committee member and Enterprise Rent-A-Car regional sales manager.
The car rental company was one of the sponsors.
Steve Forrer, executive vice president of Aeroterm is heading a project to develop 100 acres in the northwest corner of Ontario International Airport and create a new area for cargo planes and companies.
One of the goals of the project is to help the local economy.
“We will use local construction firms,” Forrer said.
Aircargo airlines, freight forwarders and shippers are some of the types of companies Forrer hopes to attract.
He said the project is five to 12 years away from completion.
Though the focus has been primarily on passenger transport, government officials are also concerned with cargo transport.
“Terrorists are looking at cargo,” said John Beckius program manager for Air Cargo Compliance for the Transportation Security Administration.
Beckius described a layered approach of testing that includes dogs, screening and inspection.
Many passenger planes carry cargo and that poses risk to those on board. A terrorist wishing to transport something harmful is one of the potential problems.
An explosive device is also a threat.
In an attempt to make air travel safer, TSA is creating stricter testing and screening.
“If the industry is unwilling to comply we will make sure they do not carry cargo with passengers,” Beckius said.
Cargo-only planes have other risks.
Beckius said there is a threat of stowaways “commandeering” cargo planes to cause destruction.
Airlines, cargo companies, airports and the government are faced with many decisions to make about the safety of air travel and cargo transport.
With cargo, airports are expecting the amount coming through to rise and preparations need to be made to handle larger volumes in a safe way.
Michael Webber, president of Webber Air Cargo spoke about the global aspect of cargo and how it ties to the United States.
“We are in as global an industry as there is,” Webber said.
He said the North American cargo industry is the most mature market in the world with cargo companies that are 30-years-old.
“Cargo is a vital part of the airline industry,” said James Stevens, director of state and local affairs the Air Transport Association.
“I think the focus we have on cargo this year is both appropriate and opportune,” he said.
Stevens introduced a program called Smart Skies, a campaign started by the Air Transport Association to modernize the Air Traffic Control system now in place to keep up with the expected growing volumes of air traffic.
“Smart Skies is about smart funding investing prudently and fairly in our future,” Stevens said.
Topics also discussed in the summit were the environmental impact and fuel costs, new ideas for airplane designs and companies like UPS.
Susan Acker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.