How have SANS' operations evolved to adjust to the increased demand for traveling and traffic management services?
2019 was a successful year in which we established solid foundations that helped us fulfill our transformation strategy journey and plan. In addition, we defined five strategic pillars to support our strategy: safe operations, efficiency, human capital, people-focused financial effectiveness, and strategic partnerships. We obtained the first-ever Air Navigation Service Certificate in Saudi Arabia from GACA and moved ahead with our safety maturity level to meet international standards. By 2020, we will have achieved huge enhancements in our operations through our new ATM system and surveillance and communication systems. At an employee level, we have invested considerably to ensure our air traffic controllers, technicians, engineers, and leaders received multiple certifications to guarantee the quality of our staff remains at the highest levels. From a financial aspect, we focused on cost effectiveness as well as starting to diversify our revenue income beyond the traditional navigation fees. We contracted our first project, NEOM airport, which includes installing and commissioning navigation systems. We look forward to expanding our operations in system installation, project management, maintenance, technology, and navigation design services in order to diversify our revenues. Finally, we were recognized as the first ANSP in the region to establish a CRM system to improve customer relations, allowing all our customers to easily share their comments and concerns. 2020 will see us continue our journey with a focus on optimization and how we can take our services to the next level through safe operations, more efficiency, and adding value to our customers.
What is the current status of the aviation industry in Saudi Arabia, and what does the future hold?
We look forward to transforming Saudi Arabia into a true hub for the region and ensuring efficient cooperation and communication among all the stakeholders involved in the aviation industry. The new terminal at King Abdulaziz International Airport will play out as a new operation ground for all aviation players to come together to accommodate growing traffic at the safest and most efficient operational level. As well, a healthy balance between skilled people, capital, and advanced technology will complete the circle. While air traffic control will still be needed, navigation technology will force a new set of skills to be adopted by our controllers, for example, virtual and digital capabilities and skills. Infrastructural technology changes will require talents and skill changes, which is why our training department is working closely with our engineering department to predict the direction and scope of technology in the next five to 10 years and adjust the hiring and training process accordingly.
What emerging technologies are shaping the field of air navigation systems, and how should Saudi Arabia position itself with regard to localizing technology?
Digital/virtual towers and drone systems are shaping the conversation in the aviation industry, though implementing these new technologies with the appropriate safety and standardized practices presents both an operational and regulatory challenge. However, this challenge can be also seen as an area for growth, and finding the right balance to ensure this growth remains sustainable in the long-term is crucial. Large government entities like SAMI are working on localizing technologies to deliver long-term sustainable growth of the aviation industry and the overall economy, though some advanced technologies may prove too costly to be developed locally. In this sense, partnerships, especially small ones, are critical for future technologies to be implemented in operations. There is great appetite for foreign players to invest in the country, and Saudi Arabia can handle a great deal of that externally induced growth to then transfer it internally over the years. All the factors are aligned for the aerospace industry to grow.