SABCA celebrates 100th birthday: Aeronautics and Space are preparing for the future

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SABCA celebrates 100 Years Birthday:

Aeronautics and Space are preparing for the future

© SABCA a Blueberry Company

Authors: Benoit Denet & Martin Gillet, reporting from SABCA Headquarters.

This Wednesday, 16 December 2020, SABCA CEO Thibauld Jongen invited the press to announce the 100th birthday for SABCA. Due to COVID, the Celebration ceremony and festivities have been set on hold for a future date to be communicated.

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© Martin Gillet
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© Martin Gillet

Excerpt from the press release:

“One hundred years ago today, the Société Anonyme Belge de Constructions Aéronautiques (SABCA) was founded, playing a pioneering role in the conquest of air and space and becoming an international benchmark a century later. Today the company celebrates its centenary with an exclusive and limited edition photographic work, and evokes the challenges of the future together with the Directorate General of Aviation and the von Karman Institute“.

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© Martin Gillet

The origins

“It was with a 47-page booklet that Georges Nélis, Commander in the Belgian Army, convinced the government to develop an autonomous civil and military aviation industry in Belgium. He founded Sneta (Syndicat National pour l’Étude des Transports Aériens) in order to study the feasibility of this project. In no time, the dreams, ideas and studies of these pioneers became reality. In 1923, shortly after the founding of SABCA on December 16, 1920,  SABENA was also born from the Sneta. It hardly took a few years for Belgium to have in its hands an aircraft construction and maintenance firm, and an airline.

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© Martin Gillet

One hundred years later, the passion of the early days is still there. Aeronautics and
Space exert an endless power of fascination. Knowing that through our profession, we contribute to launching satellites and flying planes and drones flawlessly, gives an immense feeling of satisfaction. We tend to forget it on a daily basis, but we achieve prowesses of which we can be proud, says Thibauld Jongen, CEO of SABCA.

The Directorate General of Aviation, the current Directorate General of Air Transport (DGTA/DGLV), was created during the same years. Along with the Netherlands, Belgium then became the first state with aviation legislation; legislation in which the government had a vision policy clearly focused on the future and said it was ready to make significant investments in for the development of aviation. The rapid changes in the industry have led the DGTA to have continually adapted to new developments, a reality still today. From here in a few months, we will publish a white paper for Belgian aviation with a vision for the future for all actors.

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© Martin Gillet

This paper is intended to provide policymakers with the information necessary to help aviation to survive the post-Covid era. The close collaboration between industry and universities, which has always been a guarantee of success, will be one of our sources of inspiration “, announces Koen Milis, Director General of the DGTA/DGLV.

The Future

“SABCA is present in many markets and has evolved in concert with the technologies on one hand, and demand from its industrial customers on the other. This is reflected in particular by its new unit Unmanned Aerial Systems, which develops systems allowing drones to fly in autonomously in the airspace. The focus is on high-risk assignments and is aimed at clients which are not part of the aviation industry, but which must be able to meet all the aviation quality requirements. Some examples to cite are the inspection of nuclear power plants and wind turbines, the transport of medical equipment and the inspection of buildings and infrastructure.

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© Martin Gillet

Within the aviation industry, we have always been and still are today facing new challenges,” says Jongen. “The Coronavirus crisis has transformed our industry, which requires resilience and inventiveness. We will have to invest massively as an industry in the years to come if we are to remain at the top of the world rankings. I think in particular to the digitisation of production processes, to extended research on light and electrical components for the green appliances of tomorrow and the conservation of knowledge in Belgium through excellent training and pioneering developments.

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© Martin Gillet

Right now, scientists at the von Karman Institute (VKI) are working tirelessly on the design of the aerospace industry of the future. We are studying a new generation of very quiet, economical aircraft and even without CO2 – hydrogen aircraft engines and working on small satellites that can return autonomously to earth. To do this, we rely on the teachings of the past and collaborate with the academic institutions as well as our industrial partners to improve our processes and our results, says Peter Grognard, Managing Director of VKI.

With Blueberry as a new shareholder, Sabca is on the right track. Blueberry wants to create a unique ecosystem in the aerospace industry by bringing together different companies, with the objective of stimulating and developing the sector. Blueberry has already reunited SABCA and Sabena Aerospace, both born from Sneta 100 years ago.

And it is today that “aerospace” of the next 100 years is taking shape !”.

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