Enes Kocatopçu ve Muhammed Kerem Sarı made an interview with Directorate General for Civil Aviation’s former Director General Bahri Kesici, who has retired due to age limit in the beginning of the previous month. In this interview, Enes Kocatopçu ve Muhammed Kerem Sarı had the opportunity to ask Bahri Kesici questions about Civil Aviation activities and initiatives in Turkey.
BCI4@ Team: Who is Bahri Kesici? Could you briefly tell about your aviation enthusiasm since your youth and your career in this area?
Bahri Kesici: I was born in 1956. I went to elementary school in Emirli village, secondary school’s first grade in Kavak Secondary School in Samsun, then studied at Kırıkkale High School including the second grade and studied the senior year at Ankara Atatürk Anatolian High School and graduated. I got into METU Electrical and Electronics Engineering Department, continued my academic studies as a military student as Aeronautical Engineer Lieutenant, and graduated.I worked as an engineer and manager for twelve years in fields such as aircraft maintenance, calibration, and electronic systems. After working as the Calibration Laboratory Commander at the 4th Main Jet Base Command, I worked for two years as a Technical Liaison Officer at the U.S. Wright Patterson AFB. I was appointed to Ministry of National Defense’s F-16 Department in 1196 and during 1997-2000 worked at the Project Management Department at Air Force Command’s Plans and Principles Directorate. Voluntarily retired as a Senior Lieutenant Commander in early 2000, I worked freelance for a while, and in 2002, I became a candidate to be nominated as Samsun MP. Later, I worked as a business development manager at a factory at OSTİM, acted as the Mayor of Kavak Municipality in 2004-2009 and was assigned as the Deputy Director General at Directorate General for Civil Aviation in 2009. Performed as the Director General for the last four years, I retired as of 5 January 2021 after my career of nearly 40 years.
BCI4@ Team: Would you briefly speak about the level reached in “Manufacturing in Aviation” and “Utilization in Aviation” during your term as the Director General, and about civil aviation in Turkey?
Bahri Kesici: Without doubt, Manufacturing in Aviation and Manufacturing in Aviation are not the concepts that can be described with our term. From a historical perspective, similar with other nations of the world, a movement occurred in our country’s aviation in 1910s, a fruitful progress was made in the advancing years, within the scope of Manufacturing in Aviation, countless heroes of the times worked at the Turkish Aeronautical Association such as Vecihi Hürkuş, Selahattin Alan, Nuri Demirağ and achieved major success. However, especially during the World War II and in its aftermath, aviation became stationary. Still, during the term of late Turgut Özal, substantial progress was achieved in defense industry aviation production, though the goods were imported or the production was made under licenses. Significant progress was achieved after 2003 in civil aviation or air transportation fields in terms of infrastructure and aircraft and passenger numbers, even records were set, and our country remained among top twenty countries in the world. These developments were specific to Utilization in Aviation and they led to major achievements in social welfare. When we speak of Manufacturing in Aviation, we think of factors such as design, domestic manufacturing, certification, generated projects, number of people employed at foreign aviation organizations, thesis written in our universities and international publications. During our term, Hürkuş Aircraft designed by TUSAŞ was certified, substantial progress was achieved in Gökbey Helicopter’s certification process, engine certification process of TEİ production engine was launched, progress was made in the design and production of the indigenous balloon, certain initiatives were made regarding some amateur air vehicles’ design, UAV field gained ground, İGA İstanbul Airport was built and certified. These are gains for our country, yet thinking of our country’s potential, we need to achieve more. There have been major achievements in infrastructure required for transition to Manufacturing in Aviation and the focus will be intensively on design and production in the upcoming period.
BCI4@ Team: We know that you are interested in amateur aviation, hot air balloons and unmanned air vehicles. How do you evaluate the developments in these areas and the future of them through the perspective of “Manufacturing in Aviation” and “Utilization in Aviation”?
Bahri Kesici: To begin with, amateur aviation is in fact the basis of aviation. When we look at the countries with developed aviation, we see great number of amateur air vehicles and amateur aviators, and kit plane building is also popular. Another field is the hot air balloons and I believe that the highest number of commercial balloon operations in the world exists in Turkey. Developed countries have rather amateur or sportive operations or fly hot air balloons in festivals. Certain regions and countries, mostly Africa, also operate commercial balloon tours.Regarding Unmanned Air Vehicles – UAVs, though relatively new, this sector has the potential to become quite popular in the future. We unfortunately remain at the forefront in Utilization in Aviation in terms of amateur aviation, hot air balloons and UAVs. I should mention that hundreds of hot air balloons currently performing flights in our country have been imported. Then again, we are witnessing certain pleasing developments. Our two companies active in the design and manufacturing processes of hot air balloons are located at the Cappadocia region and we are pleased with their existence. I am optimistic about the following process since Manufacturing in Aviation has been launched in this field. Domestic air vehicles used by amateurs or for training purposes are foreign origins. This is unfortunate because many of our engineers and technicians return astonished from their business travels for purchasing training aircraft, as they cannot understand how we cannot build such platforms in our country despite all the facilities we own. The know-how, equipment and infrastructure to achieve the production of such platforms exist in our country but the entrepreneurial spirit has not reached the required level. We encouraged many companies, including TUSAŞ to step in such areas in many conferences yet no progress has been made. Certification culture is still not in the sufficient level and this issue is quite overrated by the governmental authorities. Surely, these factors discourage the entrepreneurs. We are gradually overcoming this obstacle as well. Regarding the UAVs, Chinese companies are fully dominating the market. Though it has been slightly challenging, we strived to operate cargo drones when I was a Board Member at PTT yet we failed to receive concrete results. However, UAV use in civil area continues to spread now, as it becomes more popular, the businesses and processes will become faster and more economical. UAV activities in governmental and defense areas have climbed to the top of the list in the world, therefore, designing and manufacturing our own UAVs in the civil area and launching the utilization of UAVs in all stages of life, in agriculture, in mapping, healthcare, search and rescue activities, in press, monitoring forest fires, cargos and in all other areas seem essential. I project that we will become more successful in UAVs in the future. If we manage to design and manufacture all platforms, from amateur aircraft to hot air balloons and to UAVs, we will have more say in the world and then achieve Manufacturing in Aviation. Obviously, our country has the sufficient know-how.
BCI4@ Team: Could you briefly tell about the SGHM’s activities during the global COVID-19 pandemic?
With the outbreak of the pandemic, even when the virus first hit China we initiated meetings with the sector and made plans to minimize the pandemic’s impacts. However, we had to adopt restrictions in line with our government’s decision when all countries imposed flight restrictions. We made new regulations with international aviation organizations, with ICAO in particular and with ECAC, EUROCONTROL, EASA and ACI and started to adopt measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
As we accomplished these actions, we strived to adopt measures required to conduct the flights and normalize the life. We also took certain steps to prevent financial bottlenecks in our sector. Within this context, the exams have been delayed, license and authorization periods have been extended and face-to-face training has been limited.
The measures need to be adopted by the airlines, security units and entire sector for preventing the spread of the pandemic have been identified and issued as a circular. For the first time in the world, all our airports have been certified. Additionally postponements and discounts have been made in our tariffs to support the sector financially.
Our government also provided support through methods such as the short-time working allowance and VAT rate discount. From where we stand now, we can see that the recovery of the sector will take time due to the ongoing travel restrictions.
Domestic lines are expected to become more active after the vaccination but the international flights are projected to return to their normal course in nearly 3 years. I expect a boom in aviation and tourism sooner if the vaccination reaches success, as people are tired of the travel restrictions.
BCI4@ Team: In respect with today and future, upon the pandemic, we have been observing an increase in the demand and business volume of general aviation segments such as air cargo, air ambulance, business aviation and air taxi. This increase is expected to remain in the future, the process is projected to linger. In fact, a certain customer group is expected to prefer general aviation more. Related air vehicle manufacturers are claimed to develop certain strategies that align with this change. Concerning this development, starting from areas with high potential, what is your opinion on the projects on the launch of FBO implementation in airports and even the construction and operation of General Aviation Airports that enable cultural aviation activities?
Bahri Kesici: There are no problems regarding the airport infrastructure particularly in our country, partially the problem lays in our understanding. Cargo bears great importance in the following process and it will continue to matter. Ambulance, air taxi and general aviation will gain momentum.
In my opinion, whether there is a General Aviation Terminal or not, our existing airports are sufficient for such services. However, the services to be provided should be regulated and service prices should be lowered accordingly. General Directorate of State Airports Authority and other airport operators should evaluate this issue well. In my view, specialization regarding FBO concept is of essence as during business travels especially conducted with small aircraft, time and quality come into prominence more. The demand should be perceived well and timely adjustment should be provided when delivering the services. Our private sector already has such dynamism. Perhaps, the privatization activities should be increased.
BCI4@ Team: This year, you mentioned in your message regarding the International Civil Aviation Day, "...for the 2019-2023 period, ICAO identified the theme for the International Civil Aviation Day as ‘Advancing Innovation for Global Aviation Development’…from now on, no sector can survive without data sharing and cooperation…” What are your evaluations and suggestions for the young people regarding developing cooperation and efforts towards communication and data sharing technologies?
Bahri Kesici: As you have also mentioned, ICAO identified the theme for 2019-2023 as Innovation, so there is a need to achieve new and different things, tell new things, innovations that will excite the society and aviation society are required. On the other hand, data and information will increase as it is shared and will be serving the humanity. Growth is not possible by being introverted, constant interaction is mandatory. What should the young people do? Youth already implies energy and at the same time divergent thinking, in a sense youth means innovation, surely I do not imply anarchism. The pie will grow bigger as we share our knowledge and will be enough for all to survive. Besides, your effort as the BCI4@ team is to share this interview via certain channels, what Aviation Turkey magazine does, is the share of know-how and experience. In fact, we all should, and in particular, the youth should be open to innovation and sharing. Sometimes people refrain from sharing information due to competition, but the master is never scared of his apprentice as he is already ahead of the apprentice with this know-how and experience. In short, we will not be scared to share.
BCI4@ Team: As Turkey, how do we contribute to the NGAP (New Generation Aviation Professionals) initiation formed by the ICAO to train qualified and competent aviation experts to operate, manage and maintain the global air transportation system of the future? What are your projects regarding this and what do you expect from the youth?
Bahri Kesici: Our country is among the pioneers of the NGAP program introduced by the ICAO. We have been attending the events and conferences within this scope and many universities in our country have been included in the program. However, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down all such activities. We consider NGAP as a program compatible with the ICAO’s theme for 2019-2023. Perhaps one or more country-wide conferences can be arranged to increase awareness and enhance the participation when the pandemic retreats.
BCI4@ Team: What type of capabilities in terms of “Knowledge”, “Skills” and “Competence” do you think the young people should have who are receiving education and training in aviation area? What are your comments on building “Authority-Educational Institution-Industry” cooperation and its effective functioning?
Bahri Kesici: As you know, we have various educational institutions focusing on aviation, and our universities contain departments on aeronautical engineering, air transportation management/ aviation management, cabin services There are also trainings on pilotage, air traffic control, aircraft maintenance areas which require licenses from the aviation authority. The content, scope and competence of these training programs have been designed at international standards. Universities, academies and vocational and technical high schools under the Ministry of National Education (MEB) have to train professionals in cooperation with the DGCA in line with sector and country’s requirements. This is partly achieved, but many people graduate from schools or departments within the body of Council of Higher Education (YÖK) and MEB. People who received vocational or professional education in aviation can hardly find jobs in sectors other than our sector. Therefore, it is useful to align with the requirements and expectations of the sector in this field in a more controlled manner. In this way, instead of establishing redundant schools or departments, training people in accordance with the demands will be achieved. Perhaps this can be accomplished by building councils on a legal ground.
BCI4@ Team: You also recommend aviators to place “PhD” and “Pilot” titles before their names. Could you explain further the reason of this?
Bahri Kesici: We have to enhance our professional careers to gain more reputation in Manufacturing in Aviation along with Utilization in Aviation in the world or have a say in global aviation. First thing to do is not refraining from air platform and flying or in other words not perceiving aircraft, flying or being a pilot as a taboo. Our professionals employed at civil aviation should have doctorate diplomas so that we could gain accountability in the international arena. Of course, as I express these words, I use and/or, as all professions regarding aviation are important; being a pilot, an air traffic controller, and technician require license. Other than that, there are ATSEP, AIM, Flight operation and engineering as well as miscellaneous expertise. I advise them not to only focus on one of these professions but at the same time get a PhD degree in one of these or in other branches. Otherwise, we cannot exceed the average level, and in that case, we cannot have a say in the world. Our country has a high level of moral geography and sphere of influence; we already have the potential to become a model alone.
BCI4@ Team: During your term as the Director General, as a Turkish civil aviation authority, a directive on “Developing the Social Gender Balance” in aviation was issued. Based on this directive, an “Advisory Board for the Social Gender Balance Development Commission” was formed as working groups that embrace the entire sector. Turkey was the first country to accomplish systematic implementations in “Developing Social Gender Balance” area by holding regular meetings and events with these groups. Aware of Turkey’s efforts at ICAO level, a special invitation was sent for the “Social Gender Balance Development Commission” for the event held in the following period. What do you think about “Social Gender Balance” in Turkish civil aviation and the future of the activities to that end?
Bahri Kesici: Maintaining the gender balance is not easy, sometimes challenges arise. The rate of female professionals is lower in aviation; perhaps these rates are different in education and healthcare industry. In fact, there is no gender discrimination in aviation in our country, but we need to raise more awareness and encourage women. With the approval and support of the sector, DGCA has conducted remarkable activities in this area, made regulations and gained success, even though these activities slowed down due to the pandemic, they are expected to expand in time. Aviation is an industry with professional activities where women and men have equal opportunities. More awareness is required.
BCI4@ Team: Do you believe that founding a “Council of Youth” comprised of persons who will contribute to the management of the Turkish civil aviation authority and aspire to work at such jobs is useful? Do you have plans to such end? Do you think building a “Council of Seniors” from the persons who have know-how and experience and worked in this sector is beneficial? Are there any plans in this context?
Bahri Kesici: Concepts such as youth council and seniors’ council are quite critical. The Student Pilots Association and Aviation for All Association are mostly formed by young people form and we executed certain programs with them. More programs may be conducted later. I suggested these associations to build a federation, in that case, they are able to embrace every segment and major events can be organized easily. On the other hand, we could not carry out many activities regarding the Council of Seniors. At least we planned an event with the former director generals of DGCA but it was cancelled due to the pandemic. In my opinion, there is great advantage in executing these institutionally with a certain degree of authority. Why not? The youth of this land wishes to become more successful, it should be made possible.
BCI4@ Team: Is there a plan to launch a regular “Aviation Summit” based on the yearly activities and progress evaluations in aviation to identify the points and resources in the related period? What are your comments on this issue?
Bahri Kesici: Actually, an aviation summit was planned but it was postponed due to the pandemic. Then again, the 12th Transportation Council will be held at İstanbul Atatürk Airport on 6-8 October 2021 and subjects related to aviation will be examined. We held various meetings, conferences and events regarding aviation but we did not have the chance to carry out an aviation summit because of the pandemic. I believe they will be organized in the upcoming period.
BCI4@ Team: Do you have additional remarks for the readers?
Bahri Kesici: Thank you for giving me this opportunity. Aviation is a field without any borders. The world is connected through two factors; one is the internet and the other is aviation. During my career at the DGCA, I always said, “I am collaborating with the best team in the world”, and now I am repeating it. All units of our civil aviation sector are in this best team. Records have been set during the last ten years, our flight network has expanded; these achievements have been reached particularly with the contribution of our President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and all our ministers and employees. I have acted as the DGCA’s 16th Director General; I would like to mention all the services and achievements gratefully. I believe that the future of aviation is bright in our country.
We, Enes Kocatopçu and Muhammed Kerem Sarı are very delightful to make this interview and we also thank our interview mentors dear Esma Görkem Ersoy and Dear Cem Akalın for their major contributions in building our questions.