Ricardo Capilla
CEO
Airbus Mexico
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View from the Top

Changes in the Sector Are a Must: Airbus

By Sofía Hanna | Tue, 07/20/2021 - 10:56

Q: What role has the Queretaro industry played in supporting Airbus' success in Mexico?

A: Airbus established direct operations in Mexico nearly 40 years ago and additionally in Querétaro with our manufacturing plant in 2013, after the Mexican government decided to bet on us. After a while, Mexico’s competitiveness and the business environment in Queretaro led us to rethink our strategy for the country. Now, Airbus has four times more production than what we initially planned for Mexico alone, thanks to the country's great quality, low costs and diverse trade agreements. In Mexico, we found a competitive and flexible environment, so we decided to build more diversified products. After the pandemic, we also recognized the importance of having a competitive, resilient setup that can be adapted to the customer's needs. We want to show Mexico that we are here for the long term. The country is not only a place to sell our products; it is a place where we can contribute to society. 

 

Q: What benefits have you noticed from using 4G/5G, tetra and tetrapol technology and what opportunities do these technologies create?

A: Technology solutions are part of the security side of our business. Airbus is much more than an aerospace company as it also provides solutions to security and military clients through Secure Land Communications (SLC), a company of Airbus Defence and Space. We can provide secure land communications through radios and networks for the military or for state or federal governments. These solutions have been quite successful in Mexico because of its vast territory, which is sometimes not well communicated by road. Our network has allowed the police and military to communicate with each other with National Roaming, so it provides seamless communication. We are now developing and introducing technology that will streamline the sharing of voice, data and video. 

 

Q: How much will the aerospace industry depend on Industry 4.0?

A: The aerospace industry is becoming increasingly technologically driven due to its processes, manufacturing, engineering and Digital Design, Manufacturing & Services (DDMS). DDMS is changing the way we conceive, manufacture and support a product. Industry 4.0 offers numerous facets and tools, like robotics or autonomy, and will be an important factor in the industry. But, for certification, manufacturing and design will still follow regular procedures. There has to be a change in other parts of the industry before everyone can incorporate Industry 4.0. Some industries are moving much faster and from them we will learn and apply our findings to the aerospace industry. The way we will implement Industry 4.0 will be very different from our suppliers or other industries because of the nature of what we do in-house versus outside. For that reason, this technology will most likely be applied at production sites.

 

Q: How will the new Vertex technology revolutionize vertical takeoff and landing? 

A: Our helicopter division has significant experience with vertical takeoff and landing. We are now in the development phase of our Urban Air Mobility strategy, which is our zero-emission approach to within-city mobility. The technology is still immature in terms of storing the energy and because batteries continue to be too heavy, there is still a long way to go for these projects to become a reality, but we will have some prototypes by the middle of this decade.

 

Q: How is Airbus working to achieve a sustainable aerospace industry? 

A: Aviation contributes 2-3 percent of global CO2 emissions. One of our objectives is to have net zero CO2 emissions for industrial activities by 2050. By 2035, we aim to have zero-emission aircraft prototype. But before that, the sector needs sustainable jet fuel. Now, Airbus aircraft can fly with a mix of 50 percent sustainable jet fuel and 50 percent traditional jet fuel. Our home countries are also committed to supporting the use of clean fuels and customers are already requesting them. We believe that hydrogen will eventually become the main source of energy but we cannot wait until that moment comes. We need to start working toward a sustainable industry now by investing in R&D. 

 

Q: What areas should Mexico strengthen to become part of Airbus’s R&D initiatives?

A: Mexico needs to bolster its attractiveness for investments in the engineering, design and production of new technologies. The country is good for production, but it still needs to strengthen its entire supply chain. Companies cannot rely only on manufacturing; added value is required. To provide that, the industry, government and academia must work together and develop policies and strategies that promote collaboration. Mexico needs a strong investment policy that allows the country to attract R&D operations. 

 

Q: How has Airbus' relationship with Mexican airlines evolved over the past year?

A: Airbus offers excellent products that are efficient, well supported and have high availability. We are also working closely with local airlines to understand exactly what they need. During the past year, there have been many changes in the market shares of airlines. We remain open to all of them and we continue to listen to them and provide support. Mexico is returning to its pre-pandemic traffic levels in domestic and regional flights. The A320 and the A321 models are flying in Mexico with great success. 

 

Q: What opportunities or challenges does Airbus foresee regarding the new airport in Santa Lucia and Mexico's air safety downgrade?

A: As a manufacturer, we have to be vigilant of the environment we work in. Companies like us need to have the ability to adapt to new circumstances. There is a time for debate but, in some cases, we have to accept the reality, look for the best opportunities and if bad things are coming, turn them into great opportunities. The airport in Santa Lucia and the air safety downgrade will provide opportunities. The downgrade was not desired by anyone but with feedback, the country can learn and become stronger. Mexico sees the aeronautical industry as an essential priority, so this situation will turn out for the better in the midterm. 

 

Q: What are the next steps for Airbus in Mexico?

A: We have been in Mexico for 40 years now and we are here for the long term. We have had our ups and downs, but the fundamentals will not change. We adapt to the circumstances we are in and we are overcoming the greatest crisis that the aerospace industry has ever faced. We are staying afloat and we will come out of this stronger. The sector will slowly begin to ramp-up as we see an appetite to continue flying and connecting. If there is a slowdown, we will work to bounce back. In manufacturing terms, we will continue growing because we will follow the market. There is knowledge and need in Mexico, so we are in a good place to continue. 

 

Airbus is an international pioneer in the aerospace industry and a leader in designing, manufacturing and delivering aerospace products, services and solutions on a global scale.

Sofía Hanna Sofía Hanna Junior Journalist and Industry Analyst