Aviation conference soars

Aviation conference soars McGill University

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McGill Reporter
September 27, 2007 - Volume 40 Number 03
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 40: 2007-2008 > September 27, 2007 > Aviation conference soars

Aviation conference soars

"At the current rate, paper airplane tickets will disappear worldwide in 259 days," explained Giovanni Bisignani, CEO of the International Air Transport Association, to the packed hall, "so if you traveled to Montreal using a paper ticket, frame it; it will soon be a nice souvenir."

The rapid rise of e-ticketing was but one of the many issues critical to the future of the civil aviation industry discussed and debated during Aviation Safety, Security & the Environment: The Way Forward, a fourth conference co-hosted by McGill's Institute of Air and Space Law (IASL) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

From Sept. 14-16, over 325 representatives from around the world, covering government, industry, academic, legal and financial sectors, convened at the Hilton Bonaventure Hotel. The conference preceded the 36th Session of the ICAO Assembly, where government officials from 190 member states made the decisions that affect, regulate, and guide the aviation industry internationally.

For Professor Paul Dempsey, Director of the IASL, the idea was to define and draw attention to "what the ICAO delegates should be thinking about doing at the Assembly in terms of solutions to the problems identified."

While specific consensus was hard to come by, there was certainly agreement that the central topics—safety, security, environment—must also figure at the top of the ICAO agenda. As air travel is, by definition, something that transcends national boundaries, many reiterated the industry's call for harmonized standards, international solutions and cooperation between those states that are developed and resource-rich, and those that are not.

Professor John Saba, who led the conference organizing team, explains that "the key benefit to the state delegates who attended the Assembly was that they could openly discuss issues, unrestrained by their country's position. McGill is perceived by the state delegates as providing an objective forum for open discussion."

For Dempsey, this reflects not only the goal of the conference, but fits squarely into the very purpose of a university. "We were able to do what a university should do—that is to help educate decision-maskers on public policy issues," he said.

New scholarship announced

For one masters student at the IASL, the conference was an especially nice occasion. Leira Mugarra received a $2,500 scholarship from the International Aviation Women's Association (IAWA), an organization that promotes the advancement of women across the entire spectrum of the aviation and aerospace industry.

When still in her native Venezuela, where she completed her law degree and worked briefly in a labour law firm, Mugarra began thinking about what to do next. She discovered an interest in air law, and decided to pursue her studies in that area. Choosing where to do so was the easy part: "I decided to apply to McGill because it's the best place to study air and space law."

The IAWA plans to offer this scholarship annually to a McGill student, hoping to help bring gender balance to an industry long-dominated by men. For her part, Mugarra takes heart in the fact that her own class at the IASL has acheived gender parity, which she sees as one small sign that the industry is evolving.

As for how she plans to spend the money? "It's already gone," she laughed. "Tuition."

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