In early February Port EVP of Business Development Jim Perschbach welcomed nearly 300 aerospace leaders to San Antonio. The group of airline executives, senior engineers and other industry experts gathered as part of the Aero-Engines Americas 2017 forum, which Port San Antonio sponsored in collaboration with Aviation Week.
Participants at the Aero-Engines 2017 conference in San Antonio, Feb. 2-3
In a keynote address opening the two-day forum, Perschbach underscored the community’s ambitions for the century ahead. At the center of the region’s aerospace growth plans is the Port, the site of the former Kelly Air Force Base, whose origin traces to 1917.
Today, the 1,900-acre complex and its large industrial airport at Kelly Field serve as a growing strategic aerospace platform for marquee names that include Boeing, StandardAero, Lockheed Martin and others. Those firms support both commercial and military aircraft platforms.
The Port San Antonio campus and Kelly Field runway are a large and growing aerospace center.
Perschbach gave an overview of the work that the Port and other aerospace leaders in the region have underway to grow a global center of support and innovation. He pointed to efforts that are enhancing “nose-to-tail” offerings—providing airlines and other operators with an array of services. Planned expansions include additional engine MRO, airframe, avionics, painting and completions options.
“By grouping these services in a single place—both at the Port and elsewhere in our community—airlines and other operators see significant reductions in down-time, obviously maximizing usage and revenues,” said Perschbach.
San Antonio is poised to grow “nose-to-tail” services for aircraft operators worldwide.
The Port is already home to large operations by industry leaders that include Boeing, StandardAero, Lockheed Martin, GoAeroMX and GDC Technics. These firms have capacity within their existing facilities to accommodate additional workloads. Furthermore, the Port campus is among only three sites in Texas for the construction of new hangars and other air-accessible facilities to develop other large-scale aerospace projects.
In 2016 the Port prepared nearly 200 acres along Kelly Field for the construction of new aerospace and advanced manufacturing facilities.
Perschbach also zeroed-in on San Antonio’s unique attributes for building collaborative efforts between the aerospace industry and other large technology sectors in the region.
Over 1,000 military and civilian cybersecurity experts are based on the Port’s campus.
In particular, he noted that the city has one of the world’s largest concentrations of cybersecurity experts. A major cybersecurity hub is on the Port’s campus—next door to the site’s big aerospace complex. Over 1,000 highly specialized cyber warriors work within a secured Department of Defense complex in the heart of the property. It is home to the 24th Air Force headquarters, which are charged with protecting networks and other U.S. military information technology assets worldwide.
This critical mass has recently attracted several private firms to the Port campus, noted Perschbach. These companies that are located within and outside the secure DoD complex who lend their support to the military and private-sector clients.
Aerospace is an industry where San Antonio cybersecurity experts see notable expansion opportunities.
“Modern airplanes are essentially flying computers. Their systems are increasingly complex and integrated with the ground,” said Perschbach. “These innovations have dramatically improved operational efficiency and the flying experience for millions of passengers. But they also open the door to potential breaches. At the Port, just next door to major aerospace operations, we already have the cybersecurity know-how to address these and other critical innovations that commercial aviation will require in the years ahead.”
Several private-sector cybersecurity firms are now based at the Port.
He noted that cyber also has important applications beyond protecting aviation systems.
“The information technology community in San Antonio is very well positioned to collaborate with their aerospace neighbors on solutions that address other challenges. Among them is bringing new solutions to areas such as non-destructive testing for composite airframes or integrating aircraft maintenance manuals with virtual reality glasses. Even improving administrative processes, such as digitizing and integrating work orders for aircraft maintenance, would increase efficiency and potentially save the aerospace industry billions.”
With a focus on promoting collaboration among the area’s top technology sectors, Perschbach concluded his talk by highlighting Port San Antonio’s upcoming Technology Complex. The planned multi-building office spaces in the heart of the campus are being designed as a foundation for cybersecurity and other technology firms to expand their operations, collaborate with one-another and attract necessary partners to work toward shared goals.
An upcoming expansion of the Port’s campus will create places for the cybersecurity and aerospace industry to collaborate on joint efforts.
“Even in our digital age, there is no substitute for creating a physical space where like-minded people can engage face-to-face to share their challenges, ideas and arrive together at new solutions and innovations,” he added.
“We have that opportunity in San Antonio today, and look forward to seeing it flourish in the years ahead.”