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SMART Airports & Regions Conference and Exhibition opens in Edmonton


Nearly 400 delegates and 37 exhibitors from across the world landed in Edmonton today for the start of the 8th SMART Airports & Regions Conference and Exhibition in the Canadian city.

The annual event will explore the catalytic effect and critical success factors driving the economic development of SMART airports and the regions they serve, covering everything from the importance of working in collaboration with local stakeholders and industry partners and embracing new technologies to commercial land development and the creation of airport cities.

Welcoming delegates, Edmonton Mayor, Amarjeet Sohi, praised the ‘phenomenal leadership’ of current Edmonton International Airport (YEG) CEO, Myron Keehn, and also that of predecessor, Tom Ruth, who he noted had “taken the airport to another level”.

The Mayor said that YEG’s collaboration with its surrounding communities, “out of the box thinking”, commitment to sustainable development and willingness to embrace new technology and innovation would ensure that the airport would come out of COVID better than it went into it.

The opening session of the conference was a leadership panel discussion about ‘Resilience, Decarbonisation and Opportunity’ featuring Edmonton International Airport CEO, Myron Keehn; Seattle-Tacoma’s managing director, Lance Lyttle; Ferrovial Vertiports’ senior vice president of business for the Northeast region of the US, Kevin Costello; and the chief managing executive officer of Japan Airport Terminal Co Ltd (JATCO), Kazuyo Hachisuka.

All the airport leaders outlined their respective gateways decarbonisation efforts as well as the social and economic aspects of their sustainability strategies, while Costello talked about the future potential of carbon free electric vertical off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft and vertiports.

The second CEO/airport director panel discussion of the day focused on ‘Smart cities and airports – how we’ll live next’, in essence covering how future transportation infrastructure will change to meet the demands of global economic and social development.

In the spotlight for this one were Robert Hoxie, managing deputy commissioner of aviation of the Chicago Department of Aviation; Atif Elkadi, CEO of Ontario International Airport; Tom Ruth, former president and CEO of Edmonton International Airport; Jesus Saenz, director of airports at San Antonio Airport System; and Elisabeth Le Masson, special adviser to the general manager, Val d’Oise-Paris Region Development Agency.

Discussing airports becoming living labs for the innovation of new technology, Elkadi flagged up the recent launch of the ONT+ Visitor Pass Program in partnership with the TSA that allows non-travelling airport visitors to enjoy the post security amenities at his airport. Saenz noted that SAT recently took part in a pilot programme for new technology designed to prevent runway incursions.

Hoxie said that the CDA had stepped up its use of technology to help Chicago O’Hare operate “much more dynamically” than it used to pre-COVID, while Le Masson revealed that the world’s first commercial use of passenger carrying eVTOL aircraft will take place in Paris next summer, the timing coinciding with the Olympic Games being held in the city.

Next on the agenda during a lively and eventful first day were sessions on ‘Airport cities and commercial land development’; ‘New technology and innovation’ debated by a panel of chief information officers; ‘Retooling and rebuilding airport infrastructure – preparing for 2030 and beyond’; and ‘Airport revenue recovery’.

Speaking during the first of these, Shannon James, president and CEO of Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance updated delegates on the progress of the co-ordinated commercial land developments around Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and David Storer, director of business development at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) discussed some of the pioneering manufacturing initiatives connected to its Neighborhood 91 campus.

The day will end with an Evening Networking Party at Fort Edmonton Park, hosted by Edmonton International Airport, which will give everyone the chance to eat, drink and be merry while stepping back in time and learning more about the city’s historic past.

A full and comprehensive report of the conference will appear in the next digital issue of Airport World.

• All pictures courtesy of Tadej Bernik/Aviation Media.

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