It has been an evolutionary process, but Miami-Dade County, with the support of industry leaders at the Miami-Dade County Beacon Council (MDBC) Aviation Committee, has evolved into the aviation center of the Americas.
Consider these facts:
1. Miami International Airport (MIA) ranks #1 in most international freight in the US and #2 in the number of international passengers.
2. Miami is the home of flight simulation. Boeing’s 134,000 square foot facility in Miami-Dade County is the company’s largest flight simulator training center in the world. It trains more than 4,500 pilots a year from all over the world with 17 full-flight simulators. The aircraft manufacturer estimates that the Boeing Training Center is responsible for 80,000 hotel room nights a year in Miami generating more than $21.8 million to the Miami-Dade economy.
Airbus also has a flight simulation facility in Miami. The Franco/Italian aircraft manufacturer, ATR, trains its pilots right on 36 Street near MIA. ATR recently relocated its Americas headquarters from Virginia to Miami, where its new facility is equipped with a brand new Full Flight Simulator (FFS) for the ATR-600 series aircraft. Additionally, Pan Am Flight Academy, owned by All Nippon Airways, has been in Miami since 1980 and still provides training support for airlines and aviation professionals from around the world.
3. In recognition of Miami’s status as an aviation hub, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents 275 of the world’s airlines, located its Americas headquarters and held its renowned Wings of Change (WoC) symposium in Miami. The conference, held in partnership with the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, brought together the leaders of the air transport industry throughout the world; aeronautical and political authorities, airline and airport executives, regulators, service providers and tourism authorities. The event will return to Miami-Dade in 2019.
4. Miami-Dade has attracted leading aviation companies such as MRO (maintenance, repair, operations) providers from around the world, including French-based Satair and home-grown HEICO, and parts distribution companies like KLX Aerospace Solutions Group, which recently chose Miami-Dade as its world headquarters. KLX is currently building a new 480,000 square-foot operations center in Hialeah.
5. MIA is the home of the second IATA-designated Pharma Hub in the world with logistics, manufacturing and servicing of $4.4 billion in pharmaceuticals in 2016. The only other IATA Pharma Hub is at Brussels Airport in Belgium.
Like in real estate, the primary consideration for setting up a world aviation headquarters include three major factors, location, location, location; however, today every business is also focused on three additional factors; talent, talent, talent. Miami is fortunate to have several strong educational partners training the aviation industry of tomorrow.
Regarding the future, Asia is one of the next goals. MIA officials say Miami is the busiest U.S. market for leisure and business travel to Asia that does not yet have nonstop passenger flights; more than 415,000 passengers travel between Asia and Miami annually via connecting flights,
MIA officials have a few potential deals in the works. Recently, Japan Airlines spoke with airport leadership about establishing service between Miami and Tokyo; additionally, Asia’s largest airline by passengers, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., is in the process of securing dozens of new planes and one of the aircraft could be used for nonstop or direct flights between Miami and Hong Kong.
So, the Miami-Dade’s aviation sector, with its growing passenger volume; massive international cargo traffic; world class pharmaceutical hub; burgeoning plane maintenance and service companies, and growing number of flight simulators, training the pilots of tomorrow, is a powerful engine fueling our local economy.
Alex de Gunten is the Business Development Officer for HEICO Aerospace and Chair of the Aviation Committee; James Kohnstamm is Aviation Industry Liaison and Senior Vice President for Economic Development for the Miami-Dade Beacon Council.