From the Chair, Aviation Law Committee

Thursday 24 June 2021

Serap Zuvin

Cakmak Law, Istanbul


It gives me great pleasure to greet you all as the new Chair of the Aviation Law Committee. For many years, I have observed that being a member of this Committee of the IBA is an excellent way to stay abreast of developments in the very dynamic aviation sector. It made me develop new friends and contacts all around the world, attend international conferences and meetings, as a delegate, a speaker or as a moderator. As Committee Officers, while doing all that serious work, we never forget to have fun. I am so excited to maintain, if not bring more, to this spirit for the coming two years of my duty as the Chair of this excellent Committee.

My first ‘From the Chair’ statement begins with a big ‘Thank you!’ to my fellow officers in the Committee for their dedication and hard work for the past two years. We were very lucky to have an extremely inspirational Chair, Alan Reitzfeld, as our leader. During his chairmanship, Alan’s sense of duty and discipline became contagious and, despite our demanding work schedules, all of us did our utmost to be present at the monthly conference calls and Zoom meetings. While we will miss his leadership, I am happy to announce here that Alan will continue to be with us for one more year as our ‘Immediate Past Chair’ and will keep his guidance and involvement with the Committee.

I would like to welcome back our previous Committee Officers, who have moved up in position: Brenda Nichols (Vice Chair), Linda Lee (Secretary), Gerard Melling (Treasurer), Jeanette Pinard (Publications Officer), Anna Masutti (Membership Officer) and Ben Graham-Evans (Website Officer).

Next, I am happy to welcome again, and introduce to you, our new Officers appointed for the new slates that we have added to our Committee: Alan Reitzfeld (Immediate Past Chair), Jenny Urban (Corporate Counsel Liaison), Ajay Kumar (Conference Quality Officer) and Neil Montgomery (Diversity and Inclusion Officer). We feel very lucky to have them in our Committee.

How did we finish 2020?

2020 was quite a challenging year for all legal professionals, with the global Covid-19 measures pushing us to go through a fast transition to the digital practicing of our profession. The IBA took its share and made a virtual IBA Annual Conference for the first time in its history. Over 10,000 registrants to the event proved that the community is desirous to unite in difficult times.

As the Committee, we were fast to accommodate the new normal and move all of our sessions, previously scheduled to be held in-person in Miami, to this virtual platform. I hope that everyone enjoyed the IBA Virtually Together Conference this year. Many thanks to our former Chair Alan Reitzfeld, who took the general lead on the Committee’s activities at the Conference, and the other Committee Officers for all of their leadership roles at the Conference.

We were able to hold the three previously announced sessions with the participation of many prominent speakers, both from the legal community and from the professional sector (including, for example, from four international airlines and two aircraft manufacturers). Participation of enthusiastic audiences made us feel that we did well. After each session, we were able to do some digital networking with a platform used by the IBA.

We were lucky to hold even a virtual off-site tour, presented by representatives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. It was a two-hour virtual tour presentation, highlighting the Terminal One Redevelopment Program at Newark Liberty International Airport (Newark Airport) in Newark, New Jersey, US, and also included a tour of Terminal B explaining various other operations at the airport. The virtual tour consisted of a detailed slide presentation and three pre-recorded videos, followed by a Q&A session with seven representatives of the Port Authority. It was an excellent multi-part, audio-visual presentation.

We held an Officers’ Retreat, with the participation of some of our former Committee Chairs and the Officers of our Committee, during which we discussed in detail the general direction of the Committee, expanded functions and our plans going forward. Seeing the valuable contributions, we are keen to continue holding Officers’ Retreats during the coming IBA annual meetings.

How do we start 2021?

The IBA has announced on its webpage that the IBA Annual Conference 2021, that was due to take place between the dates of 17-22 October in Paris, will no longer be taking place in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While we were all are very excited to meet with our community members in person in this landmark city of Europe, we appreciate the IBA’s decision to hold a virtual annual meeting for 2021. In any case, the Committee has exciting plans for the IBA 2021 annual event, which will not be in the form of a conference this year but there will be high-profile speakers arranged by the IBA.

Our Committee will be arranging virtual roundtable discussions or webinars with attractive topics. We are also considering holding joint virtual sessions with other committees of the IBA, with the belief that it will create further synergy and attract a broader audience to our conference sessions.

As we have done in the past, we may hold a separate Aviation Finance Conference, most likely virtually due to travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, as in 2018 and 2019, we plan to co-sponsor, with the New York City Bar Association’s Aeronautics Committee and possibly other organisations, a ’Hot Topics in Aviation‘ event in New York City. In addition to holding webinars during the year to make the expertise of our lawyers available to the global community, we would like to meet virtually with our Committee members as well, in order to hear their ideas on how we can expand our activities, reach out to new lawyers and have them join the Committee.

We will continue to publish our Newsletter, with great contributors of the aviation world, discussing topics of interest in different practice groups of aviation. We believe that this publication is an important means of useful networking among the aviation lawyers.

Last, but not the least, I would like to let you know that our Committee will be giving support to the training programme run for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority in Africa (either Nairobi, Kenya or Kampala, Uganda) with many presentations coming through via Zoom meetings. A number of our Committee Officers were kind enough to volunteer to lecture on topics varying from finance to bankruptcy and litigation to insurance. We are very excited about sharing the expertise of our Officers and providing assistance to the global legal community.

I wish that you all keep safe and healthy while we wait to meet for our next get-together.

Please reach out to me or to the other Committee Officers if you have any comments or thoughts on Committee activities. Active involvement of our Committee Members is very important to us.

Thank you very much.