The Georgian Civil Aviation Agency has introduced many innovations over the past few years, and become a regional leader in aviation safety supervision. Levan Karanadze, the Agency Director and Vice President of the ICAO 40th Assembly, talks about plans and Georgia’s perspectives on becoming a regional aviation hub. What challenges do Georgian aviation face, and what key achievements have you made? Improved flight safety and security standards should be singled out as key achievements of the Georgian Civil Aviation Agency. Since 2013, the Agency has improved aviation safety control parameters by 56% (from 32% to 87.64%). According to the ICAO’s latest report, Georgia’s total coefficient has risen to 87.64%. According to the latest indicators, Georgia is a regional leader in the introduction and supervision of international aviation standards. We should also promote the work of protecting passenger rights. Today, we have introduced a full range of European regulations that provide the highest standard of compensations for cancelled flights, protection against the violation of the rights of persons with disabilities, lost, damaged or destroyed luggage. As for challenges, the Russian flight ban has essentially damaged our tourism sector and our airlines. The flight ban inflicted financial losses on Georgian Airways and Myway Airlines, as well as to Russian airlines. As a result, when compared to the previous year, passenger turnover at Georgian airports grew by about 3,5%, instead of the forecast 16%. How would you appraise Georgia’s potential to become a regional aviation hub? Georgia has real prospects to grow into a regional aviation hub, thanks to its favorable geographical location, liberal air flight policy, and the potential for further modernization of infrastructure. Furthermore, the country has a liberal visa regime with the EU, and the New Silk Road project has opened new prospects. Cargo shipping development is also an important factor to become an aviation hub. Our own seaports and airports practice simplified customs procedures and services; intermodal operations are more frequently used for connecting with global markets. Georgia is capable of establishing logistics centers, and becoming integrated with the global sales system. I would like to note that Georgia has a great potential to become a hub and gravity center for sharing knowledge and experience in this field. Over the past few years, the Civil Aviation Agency continues to pursue a regional positioning in this field. We share our experience to both neighboring and Central Asia countries in various segments of the aviation sector. Consultations are underway with IATA to establish a regional training center in Georgia. With this center, we will more easily attain our key objective. Would you agree that a lack of human resources and professional staff may become one of the main challenges for Georgia in becoming a regional aviation hub? I agree with you. A lack of professional staff in the civil aviation sector is one of the key challenges. According to the ICAO report, the world aviation market will need over 600,000 aviation specialists by 2030-2035. As for our market, we lack not only technical staff, but also qualified commercial and operation specialists. A lot of time and significant financial resources are required to train and prepare professional staff. The Civil Aviation Agency has employed about 10 new specialists over 2 years, and the selection and preparation process was complicated. To overcome this challenge, Georgia’s aviation field should become more visible in wider circles. Full, practical training course for aviation specialists are very expensive, but young people should make sure that they can work in a promising profession. Moreover, from the very start, young people should gain a high-quality education. In this respect, the Georgian Aviation University and other educational institutions have taken several essential steps. We invite specialists with practical experience to read lectures and improve the professional level of our students. I have personally engaged in this process, and I work to most effectively motivate my coworkers to engage in pedagogical activities. The agency has provided fundamental job to improve the training program and adjust Georgian certificates to ICAO and EU standards. We plan to carry out many other important programs like this. The aviation hub aspirations will fail without developing national airlines. How can we advance Georgian aviation, and how would you appraise the investment climate of Georgian aviation market? The number of arrivals and departures to and from Georgia grows on an annual basis. We bring our tourism potential to new markets. Based on realistic estimations, proper management, and protection of all standards will allow a national breakthrough. Aviation is a technically strictly regulated field. Therefore, investments alone do not suffice for successful development. Competence, consecutiveness and long-term visions are required. At the same time, like all other profitable businesses, the aviation sector also attracts dishonest elements, regretfully. Therefore, our challenge, as the regulator, is to prevent similar risks. To this end, we have tightened certain regulations in 2018 (such as wet leasing) for leasing airplanes to airlines registered in other countries. Georgian companies were also restricted from employing airplanes operated by foreign airlines with questionable security standards (airlines in the EU Black List and so on). We plan to keep working in this direction in 2020 too. What novelties should we expect in global aviation? We know you were appointed as Vice President of the EUROCONTROL managing board. At the same time, you are Vice President of the 40th Assembly of ICAO. How do you plan to use this position to promote Georgian aviation? The world’s most challenging issues are: reduction of aviation’s impact on the environment, the modernization of air space for lowering pollution, efficient integration of drones in the sky, and the employment of artificial intelligence’s potential. Electing Georgian civil aviation professionals in the managerial and representative bodies of various international aviation organizations is an important process for integration into leading aviation institutions, promoting the country’s standing and strengthening our reputation. Besides mentioned positions, this year I was also elected as Vice-Chairman of the ICAO EURNAT-DGCA Meeting and European Aviation System Planning Group. Georgia maximally makes use of all these formats and ties for deepening its cooperation with leading institutions and instances. In 2018, Civil Aviation Agency signed new agreements with the European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Organization for Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL). Cooperation memorandums were signed with the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR), International Air Transport Association (IATA), Federal Supervisory Authority of Air Navigation Services of Germany (BAF), aviation authorities of Ukraine and Armenia. We will continue active work in the future, as well.