September 15, 2022
President and CEO, The Boeing Company
Suzanne P. Clark
President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the aviation and aerospace sectors have faced a barrage of unanticipated challenges. From a halt in commercial passenger travel at the height of the pandemic to ongoing supply chain shortages and geopolitical conflict, these developments have prompted the industry’s leading innovators to change when and how they fly the skies.
On Day 2 of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Aerospace Summit, David Calhoun, President and CEO of Boeing, sat down with Suzanne P. Clark, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to discuss the current challenges facing the aviation industry and how government policymakers can help shape its future success.
The Aviation Sector Can Combat the Workforce Shortage by Investing in Education
Calhoun described the ubiquitous impact of the workforce shortage and how industry leaders can help rectify it by committing to training and education initiatives.
“I don’t think there’s a company anywhere in our field that isn’t feeling the impact of the workforce shortages,” Calhoun said.
“This industry has had a demographic problem for a long time,” he continued. “There is no doubt the industry has lost a lot of very experienced people.”
Calhoun added that Boeing’s commitment to investing in training and education has helped offset what he calls a “short supply” of technical expertise in the industry.
“We’re digging down deeper into the supply lines … [from] colleges to high schools to technical training [programs],” he explained. “We will change the demographic curve that has been haunting us for a long time, but it takes time. We won’t solve it in a day.”
Government Policy Plays a Key Role in Aerospace Defense and Sustainability
When asked about opportunities to invest in new defense technologies, Calhoun stressed the urgency of lobbying to gain the support of government policymakers.
“We’re at a moment in time where if we miss a few years, we’re going to get ourselves in trouble,” he said, citing the compound impact of the current threat and inflation environments. “We all have to lobby for more because … these threats are real.”
Calhoun added that educating policymakers about what is possible will also play a key role in the success of the aviation industry’s sustainability initiatives.
“I think it’s doable, [but] my fear is pace,” he said of the industry’s goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
Calhoun suggested that excitement about the promise of potential technologies can lead policymakers to hold companies to unrealistic sustainability standards that halt steady progress.
“Our job as an industry is to try to build tools … and begin to educate policymakers on pace,” he said.
Success in Aerospace and Aviation Relies on Global Trade
Calhoun concluded by emphasizing the importance of global trade for companies in the aerospace and aviation sectors.
“Boeing’s success is global success,” he said. “We’ve been beneficiaries of an aggressive free trade policy for decades.”
Calhoun added that despite ongoing geopolitical conflicts, lobbying for free trade remains critical to Boeing.
“We will lobby and work as hard as we can to make sure that global trade continues,” he said. “I don’t know how successful we’ll be, but we all collectively have to lobby for that. We have to work for that.”
From the Series