The first post-pandemic APATS event was by any measure extraordinarily successful, and the undeniable enjoyment of the attendees to be in one another's company once again mirrored the emotions felt at both the corresponding EATS and WATS.
The enthusiasm for all event elements was marked from the kick-off Heads of Training meeting and Icebreaker Reception on Monday right through to Wednesday's final conference session. The three conference halls were packed, the exhibition floor was buzzing with discussions continuing on the show floor even as the breakdown began. It was clear, and verified by feedback, that the networking and bringing the Asia community back together again was invaluable, both commercially, educationally and expanding networks which had been lost during the covid years.
Most remarked on how positive and valuable the event had been for them, with many old hands offering a 'best ever' assessment.
Our data evidenced that 40% of the attendees were first-time participants, mostly from operators, ab initio and regulatory groups. Many of our 2019 exhibitors returned to the show floor this year, but we also saw 30% growth in new organizations, exhibiting with us for the first time. The thirst for information on new products and services was incredible, our exhibitors reporting substantial sales opportunities as a result of new connections made.
APATS also bought a younger, more diverse audience, again mirroring the EATS and WATS experience, with larger teams from key players present than pre covid, reinforcing internal networking and expansion of networks within the wider aviation community. International and regional representation bought with it an opportunity to learn from each other, share experiences and offer best practice, again cited by many as a critical factor in the region moving forward. The percentage of female attendees was much higher than previous events, and added further to rich conversations and alternative points of view, a very positive development.
We were joined and supported by ERAU university, an enthusiastic representation of the next generation of pilots, maintenance engineers and aviation professionals. Their hunger for knowledge and eagerness to learn was uplifting, fuelling hope and anticipation during challenging times in aviation recruitment.
As to the themes of the event itself, the personnel shortage coupled with the tremendous fleet/traffic growth forecast for the region dominated all thinking. Understandably, new training methods and technology, in particular XR and AI with its enabling Data, were a constant undercurrent in all three streams: Maintenance, Cabin and Pilot.
The Human Factors were discussed more in the way of looking at the overall mental health. That seems to be more of an issue than we thought and something we will continue to focus on at future events and via published content.
The traditional final tech-focused session addressed possible uses and how curricula might be formed.
We would expect more of the latter at future events as the enormity of the challenge for all sub-communities, schools, airlines, regulators, NGO's and industry becomes apparent to all.
Interestingly, the discussion broadened to look at other areas of the aviation environment where better, faster training is needed from the ground environment to ATM and AAM/EVTOL.
Overall, tremendous anticipation for the technology and growth to come coupled with a sober realisation that all sectors of the aviation world, especially the training and safety community, will need to bring their A-Game to secure success.