A leading international aviation expert has said that Government is on the right track in creating an aviation centre of excellence at Shannon.
Speaking at the opening day of the two-day Shannon Airport and Shannon Development ‘Irish Business Aviation Convention’ at Dromoland Castle Hotel, Aoife O’Sullivan, partner with Europe’s largest aviation specialist legal firm Gates and Partners, said that Shannon has a golden opportunity to become an international crossroads for business aviation.
O’Sullivan, who is also Chairperson of the European Business Aviation Association Finance and Leasing Group, said that there should be strong focus, in particular, placed on business aviation (private and corporate jets), not least on the potential to become a global registration and delivery location for the industry and enjoy significant resulting benefits.
Over 100 delegates from the business aviation sector both in Ireland and globally, including representatives of some of the industry’s most successful operators, are attending the convention.
“There is a very real opportunity for the centre of excellence that the Government is trying to champion and the beauty about it is that a lot of the pieces for this puzzle are already available," O'Sullivan said. "It’s just a case of bringing them together. It really is there for the taking."
“You need to work fast, however, as the opportunity could easily be lost as other jurisdictions are looking at this," O'Sullivan said at the convention. "Creating a tax incentive would not be enough on its own as Cyprus can trump you on that. But Shannon has a lot more going for it and it’s really a case of joining the dots and packaging an intelligent offering that will certainly attract the business aviation sector.”
O’Sullivan said that Shannon has an outstanding platform to launch itself as an aviation centre of excellence, between its heritage as the location where aircraft leasing globally began, excellent hanger space, a college nearby churning out aeronautical engineers every year and a runway that can accommodate all types of aircraft. You also have location strengths here in that you are in the right time zone for the majority of international transactions and have an excellent legal framework.
“What you need now is to add the tax incentive package to this, pull it all of it together, brand it and go out aggressively and take the business. At the very least you can overnight become a registration centre for private jets. You already have registration in Ireland but if you package the offering right, the number of registrations will multiply very quickly.
“That will give owners and operators of private jets a reason to be here or at least be aware of what Ireland has to offer. What flows from that could be enormous, right up to even private aircraft manufacturing.”
O’Sullivan’s position was supported by another key conference speaker, CEO of Avolon and aviation entrepreneur Domhnall Slattery. “Commercial aircraft, leasing and financing space really stared eight miles down the road from where we are today, at Shannon. It’s now a business that in the next five years will finance probably $300bn dollars-worth of aircraft, so from acorns.
“Therefore there is a great heritage, history, legacy in this physical jurisdiction about building great businesses in aviation and in my mind business aviation has a long term core, strategic rationale for its existence and it will continue to grow. It would be really wonderful to see Ireland with its tax capabilities, withholding tax network, its expertise, the legal expertise, taxation and accounting expertise so on so forth to take the leadership role in the business jet world.
“There’s a huge rationale for its location in aviation – aviation finance, business jet, commercial jet or otherwise and that’s a really great opportunity for this part of the world.”
Also speaking at the convention, Shannon Airport Director Mary Considine said: “The platform for another new era at Shannon will enable us to build on our already proud legacy. Opportunities arising from this, I have no doubt, will interest many companies attending today and tomorrow as the process underway right now is all about creating the best possible operating environment at Shannon.”
Dr. Vincent Cunnane, CEO of Shannon Development and convention co-host said: “Shannon is home to a range of aviation related training programmes, many of them run by the College of Ireland who are establishing a centre of excellence for training services, including pilot training and aircraft engineering. Shannon already has a large cluster of aviation companies involved in MRO (Maintenance Repair and Overhaul), leasing, private aircraft charter, and FBO (Fixed Based Operators) and we hope to expand this sector even more in the future.”