Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by USTDA’s Thomas R. Hardy at the U.S.-India Aviation Summit

Mumbai, India – Welcome to the official launch of the 6th U.S.-India Aviation Summit here in Mumbai.  On behalf of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, it is my pleasure to welcome each of you to this year’s Summit.  It is an honor to be joined today by U.S. Ambassador to India Ken Juster, Minister Prahbu, Chief Minister Fadnavis and Secretary Choubey, and Chief Secretary Jain.

USTDA is pleased to co-host this Summit along with our friends from the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the member companies of the U.S.-India Aviation Cooperation Program. It is a testament to our partnership and commitment for closer ties that we come here today.

Earlier this week, when traveling to India I was reflecting on the importance of cooperation and where we are today.  When I made my first trip to India in 2005 as part of a U.S. government delegation led by Secretary of Transportation Mineta, there was very little structure to our engagement.  Sure, there were bilateral engagements — strong partnerships generally — but no framework to chart a path to identify goals and achieve results.

We have come a long way since then.  During that trip, I was proud to be part of a small group that began discussions about ways to better coordinate our efforts and lay out a vision for what could be possible through more structured cooperation.  It was at that time that the earliest seeds were planted for what ultimately became the U.S.-India Aviation Cooperation Program.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to discuss with Minister of State Sinha his vision for India’s growth.  During that meeting, he reflected on the need to increase the number of airports from 75 to 200 to accommodate a billion passenger movements annually.  He also spoke about the need to set the tone and vision to make this growth a reality. This desire to lean into our cooperation was echoed yesterday by Secretary Choubey. With India’s aviation growth forecasts, cooperation between our two countries is more important now than ever. 

I am happy to say that the U.S.-India Aviation Cooperation Program is going to be an important tool in helping to meet these goals.  Last year, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the U.S.-India Aviation Cooperation Program, which now includes almost 30 U.S. member companies. To date, the ACP has been a tremendous platform for the public and private sectors to share resources and collaborate in support of India’s ambitious aviation goals.

In fact, since the launch of the ACP, the member companies have conducted 50 projects to support India’s aviation growth. Some of these efforts include:  building the capacity to accommodate passenger growth and enhance safety and security all while ensuring that India is building the human capacity skills necessary to support the entire aviation ecosystem.  From Honeywell’s project on a Ground based Augmentation System in Chennai to a future project we are developing with Boeing on Airspace Management, USTDA is supporting a range of activities that are helping to build a stronger, more vibrant aviation system. For example, we are partnering with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) on a long-range capital improvement plan to sustainably expand the operational capacities of the Kolkata and Lucknow International Airports – two of the fastest growing airports in India.  In fact, immediately following this opening session, Landrum & Brown and AAI will exchange their contract to launch this important work.

This is just the latest effort that is pivotal for India to grow its aviation ecosystem.  USTDA is also continuing our support, together with KPMG, to develop the business case for expanding the utilization of GAGAN more widely across India — and in the surrounding region.  Doing so will help aviation stakeholders to manage airspace and improve safety, while also further positioning India as a regional leader in aviation. The final report of that work was just completed and is available for all to see.

Critical to the ultimate success of all our important work and cooperation is ensuring India remains a global leader in aviation safety.  The future growth of India’s aviation market depends on the continued investment by DGCA to strengthen the safety of the aviation system.  USTDA is proud to have cooperated, along with The Wicks Group, on a program supporting a strong regulatory framework and enhanced oversight requirements – fundamental to a strong and secure aviation market.  We appreciate this partnership and recognize the important role it is playing.

But that is only part of the story.  Immediately following this session, we will together witness tangible outcomes of our cooperation.  Outcomes that will increase the efficiency and strengthen the security of the aviation market throughout India.  These successes are the direct result of the framework for cooperation set in place a decade ago. The contract signing between AAI and Harris Corporation will assist in the modernization of India’s communications infrastructure for air traffic management, which is necessary to keep pace with growth. Beyond efficiency is the need to invest in security to protect the system.  Smith Detection and AAI, again, will conclude a contract to install and integrate high-speed explosives detection systems for hold-baggage screening at eleven sites across nine airports.

I am also pleased to announce this morning that USTDA has committed to a new long-term partnership with India to build on the work that will be undertaken this week.  Over the coming year, USTDA will be hosting a series of visits for Indian leaders to the United States to introduce them to the latest technologies, solutions and processes for building a strong and vibrant aviation system.  The next two days will be pivotal for this program as it is designed to meet the needs of our partners here in India.  We will be listening carefully to understand specific needs identified this week and will tailor our program accordingly.

Whether the goal is enhancing safety and security, expanding airport capacity, or becoming a regional leader, we strongly believe that the cooperation that began to take root in 2005 will continue to be the bedrock of our future partnership. 

That is exactly why we have gathered the right partners here in Mumbai:  To determine how we can continue to advance our cooperation.  Our goal for this Summit is to recognize and celebrate the achievements to date and outline concrete actions for our partnership going forward. At the end of the day tomorrow, we will reconvene to identify practical next steps in advancing India’s aviation roadmap.  I am confident that the people in this room here this morning will play a pivotal role in ensuring the success of our commitment to a strong and vibrant aviation sector.

I look forward to speaking with all of you during the Summit and to charting our path forward, together.  When we meet for the next Summit, I am confident we will have many new successes to celebrate, based upon the work we do and goals we set over the next few days.

Thank you.

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