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AirCargo 2024 took place mid-February in Louisville, Kentucky, and Scott Case and Doug Davila attended on behalf of Position : Global. AirCargo is the annual conference put on by the Airforwarders Association, AEMCA and ACI-NA. This event is usually held in a different city annually and next year will be in Arlington, Texas.

The three day event is a combination of networking, an exhibition hall, social gatherings and sessions dedicated to air cargo issues that affect the attendees whose businesses range from freight forwarders to truckers, airlines, sureties, technology companies and other professionals like Position : Global who serve the breadth of the air cargo supply chain.

From left to right: Brandon Fried, Executive Director of the AfA, Captain Houston Mills of UPS

The event’s educational program opened with a keynote from Captain Houston Mills of UPS. He brought out a term coined by the Army War College post-9/11 to deal with constant changes happening in air cargo today. 

The term is VUCA and stands for

  • Volatility
  • Uncertainty
  • Complexity and
  • Ambiguity

Companies in the air cargo supply chain can certainly agree there is plenty of each of those elements in what they do today. The discussion of how to modernize also came up during his keynote, and the FAA Reauthorization Bill and ways to better utilize airspace today – both through updates to the Air Traffic Control (ATC) system as well as the equipment used to monitor planes.

A major concern Captain Mills raised was the pilot pipeline – will there be enough pilots to meet air cargo and aviation needs in the future? Many pilots in service today came from the military, himself included. But when he was in military flight school, the commitment was 4.5 years. Today, that figure is ten years. 

In the AfA’s general meeting, Roger Libby of DHL said the biggest existential challenge will be customs changes. CBP is asking for more data from stakeholders. The demand for HTS-level data on low value shipments for targeting is greater than before. 

An informative, 90-minute session on the topic of cargo security and mitigating theft, fraud and cyber crimes gave attendees a number of best-practice suggestions for testing their networks, handling hacks and offered an insurance product new to the marketplace that covers “difference in condition” and is growing in popularity in the life sciences, temp control, blood, critical auto, aviation, MRO and AOG sectors.

For export freight forwarders, two gentlemen from KLM in Amsterdam informed the audience about ICS 2 and warned that there is a group named the Association of Certified Sanctions Specialists who are spending a lot of time digesting the individual and multilateral sanctions imposed on negative global actors in Russia and elsewhere.

From left to right: Doug Davila, Position : Global VP of Marketing, Arnoud Wink, KLM Manager Border Control & Regulatory Affairs, Kester Meijer, KLM Director Operational Integrity, Compliance & Safety, and Scott Case, Position : Global Founder and Chief Storyteller

There were multiple other panels, but the conference ended with a comprehensive panel led by retired Cargo Airline Association chief (and renowned photographer) Steve Alterman on the topic of airport congestion. Michael Taylor, lobbyist for the AfA and panel participant, shared that the AfA and NCBFAA managed to convince the GAO to begin a study into the matter and their findings should help guide and give Congress ideas on the current state of the market and when funding opportunities for aviation arise in the next cycle, dollars can be earmarked specifically for air cargo congestion related solutions, whether they be infrastructure, technological or other.

Position : Global has multiple clients who attend AirCargo and in addition to making new friends, it’s great seeing the old ones who have supported us and supported the IACAC here in Chicago. Thanks to IACAC sponsors Alaska Air Cargo, Southwest Cargo, PTS Logistics, Roanoke, Avalon, National Air Cargo and the others who were in attendance.