RULING THE SKIES

Abu Dhabi 2019 | AEROSPACE & DEFENSE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mikail Houari, President of Airbus Africa & Middle East, on the company's core strategies, its role in fostering a new generation of aerospace leaders, and the new aviation data platform called Skywise.

Mikail Houari
BIOGRAPHY
Mikail Houari was appointed President of Airbus Africa & Middle East in January 2017, bringing 30 years of global and regional industry experience. He joined Airbus in 2005 as Vice President for Latin America, overseeing the defense and space divisions, before moving to the UAE to cover the Middle East in the same capacity. Later in 2011, he was appointed General Delegate for Airbus Group, before taking the position as Deputy President of Airbus Africa and Middle East. He is President of the French Aerospace Industries Association in the UAE. A business graduate from the Ecole Superieure des Sciences Commerciales Appliquées in Paris, he is fluent in French, German, English, Arabic, Portuguese, and Spanish.

How would you define the core strategy of Airbus in Africa and Middle East and its relations with suppliers and MROs?

Airbus is extremely proud of the strong and positive presence it has established in the Middle East and Africa over the last four decades. We employ more than 3,000 people across Africa and the Middle East and are committed to supporting the development and growth of a sustainable aerospace sector in the region. Our strategy takes into account the tremendous potential for further growth and expansion of the aviation sector in the Middle East. We can cite several examples of our deep and growing relationships with regional OEMs and suppliers. In the UAE, Airbus works with Strata Manufacturing (a Mubadala company) and TPI (Tawazun Group) directly and via Tier-1 suppliers including FACC, SAAB, and SABCA. In Morocco and Tunisia, strategic partnerships that we have developed via STELIA (100% subsidiary of Airbus) have played an instrumental role in enabling both countries to act as major suppliers on Airbus programs. We aim to leverage new digital technologies to help transform the regional MRO industry. We have the support of a number of quality MROs in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and we continue to invest in these partnerships. Airbus is also a proud partner of all leading regional airlines, including Emirates, Etihad Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, and Air Arabia, among others.

How does the Airbus industrial partnership approach exemplify standards of cooperation between an OEM and local players?

Airbus has invested in the regional industrial footprint through numerous commercial agreements and partnerships in several countries such as the UAE, Tunisia, and Morocco. Not only does this contribute to the Airbus global supply chain efficiency; it also creates opportunities for skills development and the stimulation of new revenue streams for local economies. It also provides important incubators for local talent to address the global talent shortages in the fields of aviation and aerospace. In the UAE, Strata Manufacturing produces composite components for the A330, A330neo, A350 XWB, and A380 aircraft, while TPI produces metallic parts for the A320, A320neo, and A330 programs. In both Morocco and Tunisia, Airbus suppliers and the Airbus subsidiary Stelia utilize a highly skilled workforce and take advantage of the proximity to Europe to source a mix of machined, composite, electrical, and assembled components across all Airbus programs.

How does the education and training partnership fit into the company's 2030 strategy?

We recognize that developing the skills of regional youths will help foster a new generation of aerospace leaders. To that end, we have launched initiatives such as Future Scientists in the UAE, Entaliq in KSA, and Airbus Little Engineer across the region. Airbus' talent and capacity-building initiatives offer something for everyone, from school students to emerging professionals to university students. The Airbus Little Engineer (ALE) initiative aims to build future talent by re-igniting a passion for STEM subjects at the grass-root level through hands-on robotics workshops. Notably, ALE workshops have been delivered to over 4,000 students from across Africa and the Middle East.

Does the industry require automated decision-making to improve its performance?

Over the last 10 years, the pace of technological disruption has accelerated drastically, reducing the cost of products and services. As we embrace digital technologies, we move from a hardware-focused approach to an integrated, problem-solving approach that connects software, hardware, and customer perspectives. Increasing automation in all fields of the aviation and aerospace industry is an inevitable phenomenon that will only grow in magnitude in the years to come. Our Hangar of the Future combines various technologies that together speed up maintenance and improve efficiency. Our new aviation data platform, Skywise, in collaboration with Palantir Technologies, a pioneer in big data integration and advanced analytics, is a single platform of reference used by major aviation players. It is already improving the performance of industrial operations throughout Airbus' industrial footprint and allows the delivery of enhanced aircraft and equipment designs and better service and support offerings based on deeper in-service data insights.