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Evolution of Air Cargo: Past, Present, and Future – Chicago’s Pivotal Role

Welcome to the latest edition of the International Air Cargo Association of Chicago's (IACAC) monthly blog. In this feature, we invite you on a fascinating journey through the evolving world of air cargo. Our exploration takes us from the historic roots of this dynamic industry to its current bustling state and onto the exciting possibilities of the future. At the heart of this story is Chicago - not just a city but a pivotal force in the air cargo sector. Join us as we uncover how this industry began, where it stands today, and the promising horizons we're heading towards, with our beloved Windy City playing a crucial role at every step.

The Past - A Journey Through History

The story of air cargo began more than a century ago, with the first recorded air freight shipment in 1910. Since then, the industry has witnessed remarkable transformations, evolving from mail transport to accommodating massive cargo shipments, pivotal in global supply chains.

Chicago, with its strategic location, emerged as a key player in this evolution. The establishment of Chicago Municipal Airport, later renamed Chicago Midway Airport, in 1927, and the subsequent development of O'Hare International Airport, played crucial roles in cementing the city's status as an air cargo hub. These airports facilitated not just passenger movement but also the flow of goods, contributing significantly to the region’s economic growth.

The Present - Current Trends in Air Cargo

Today, the air cargo industry is a complex, dynamic system, integral to global trade. The latest statistics reveal a robust growth trajectory, accelerated by trends like e-commerce and technological advancements. In Chicago, O'Hare International Airport is one of the busiest airports for cargo in the United States, handling a significant percentage of the country’s air freight.

The rise of e-commerce has been a game-changer, leading to increased demand for faster delivery times. In response, air cargo operators in Chicago have adapted with innovative solutions, enhancing efficiency and capacity. Technological advancements in tracking, logistics, and sustainability initiatives have also redefined the operational landscape.

The COVID-19 pandemic posed unprecedented challenges, underscoring the sector's resilience and adaptability. Amidst global lockdowns, air cargo played a crucial role in transporting essential goods and medical supplies, with Chicago serving as a vital link in this global effort.

The Future - Predictions and Projections

Looking ahead, the future of air cargo is poised at the brink of revolutionary changes. Technological innovations, including drone delivery and AI-driven logistics, are set to redefine the industry. Predictions suggest a surge in demand for air freight services, propelled by evolving global trade patterns and economic growth.

For Chicago, this future brings both challenges and opportunities. The city is expected to continue as a significant global air cargo hub, necessitating investments in infrastructure and technology to keep pace with growing demands. However, challenges such as environmental concerns and the need for sustainable practices also loom large.

The journey of the air cargo industry is a testament to human ingenuity and the relentless pursuit of efficiency and connectivity. Chicago, with its rich history and strategic significance, has been and will continue to be a key player in this narrative. As we embrace the future, it is crucial for IACAC members and stakeholders to stay abreast of these changes, adapting and innovating to maintain our pivotal role in this ever-evolving industry.

We encourage our members to actively participate in IACAC events and forums, fostering a community of informed, engaged professionals ready to navigate the future of air cargo. Not a member? Learn more here and become part of the conversation today.

The IACAC Announces 2021 Scholarship Winners!

The IACAC is thrilled to announce our 2021 scholarship winners!

Every year the IACAC works hard to raise money for exceptional college students and this year we were fortunate enough to give out awards to four students for $1500 each. The scholarship fund is created and maintained by raising money at our annual golf outing, networking events, and donations from members like you!

Congratulations to Anthony Divenere, Mia Crotty, Lilly Sato, and Cathlene Tomas!

The award presentation will take place at our annual holiday luncheon and raffle on Tuesday, December 14th.

Register now to attend and support our future leaders as we celebrate their success and feed next year's pot with raffle giveaways!

On behalf of the IACAC Scholarship Committee, we congratulate the winners and wish them great success!

President’s Letter: October, 2021

This is the second to last President's letter that I will write for the International Air Cargo Association of Chicago. Next month, we are holding elections and someone else will hold this seat and will be the voice you hear from beginning in December. Until then, you're stuck with me, and all the sappy stuff will come in next month's edition.

For now, I've got to say "thanks" for a bunch of great things that happened this month and that wouldn't have been possible without our members and a host of friends and guests.

The IACAC had not one, but two major events in October. The first was a bus trip to Rockford International Airport. Our group was small, but mighty. It's not the most socially distanced ride I've ever had, but twelve people with a coach bus to themselves felt like some kind of kick-ass school field trip that we absolutely stole it taking. Thanks to Dave Junkroski and PayCargo for helping to underwrite the cost of the bus. Thanks to Ken Ryan, Zach Oakland and Rockford International Airport for the tour and lunch.

For those of you who weren't there, you missed a lot but nothing better than this:

Bus. Down. The. Runway.

That's all I'm telling you - find somebody who took the trip and ask them. But watch the video:

Our second event was our annual Oktoberfest at Church Street Brewing in Itasca. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I arrived and the tasting room was, I don't know, four times the size of when I last saw it pre-pandemic. Kudos to Lisa and her team for what they've built. Kudos to the 50 or so attendees we had at the event. Kudos and thanks to cargo.one, BCS Placement, B&R Transportation and Basic Crating & Packaging for their sponsorship of the event.

Prost!

Looking ahead, there are a number of things that I'd like to ask everyone to please remain focused on between now and the end of the year.

  • We've got an amazing luncheon next week with invited representatives from the ground handling companies at ORD who are operating multiple facilities. We have confirmations (as of 10/6) from Swissport and AGI. We have invited, and anticipate speakers from, WFS and MIC Cargo as well. Register here. NOTE - We're in conference room "Hotel" on the first floor, not the usual second floor big room.
  • Immediate family members of member companies and individual members can apply for the IACAC Scholarship. Applications are being accepted through the end of November. Learn more here.
  • Next month are our elections, and a number of board seats and the presidency is available. Please contact me if you're interested in running.
  • The holiday party is coming up in December (it'll be here before we know it) and it is at Coopers Hawk Winery in Arlington Heights. Stay tuned - calls for sponsorship this month will be coming and start planning on raffle items to benefit our scholarship fund.

President’s Letter: September, 2021

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks that changed the world in ways too numerous to count. The most important thing to keep front and center in our minds are those who lost their live at home and abroad. Whether in the attacks, the subsequent war effort which drew to a close last month in Afghanistan, from injuries or exposure during the cleanup or the untold number civilians caught in harm's way, the world has paid a price too great to be tallied.

Seen through the prism of air cargo, the changes brought on with the creation of the TSA and the security programs that are in place today evolved over that time. I had a front-row seat for it, representing the NCBFAA as their air freight committee chairman and participating in seemingly monthly stakeholder meetings at the new agency, mostly with the AfA's Brandon Fried by my side representing the interests of air freight forwarders.

The continued need for vigilance through the air cargo supply chain has not waned during this time - it has only evolved. Technology has evolved, canines have been added and the worries about cargo have expanded beyond bombs in boxes to unsafe batteries and potential cyber-intrusions. All of which is to say that the need for the air freight forwarder and the importance of our role in the supply chain is not just focused on keeping air freight moving through congested supply chains, but continuing to keep the flying public safe as they return to the skies for personal and commercial travel.

Golf Outing Thank You's:

We held the annual golf outing last month and have posted up an assortment of pictures here on our website. This event doesn't happen without a lot of help from a lot of people and groups. Thank you to:

  • Chuck Menini
  • Brian Bartolotta
  • Ben Pecoraro
  • Christine Aguirre
  • Laura Candella
  • Therese O'Sullivan
  • Jim Slawnikowski
  • The staff of Bridges of Poplar Creek Golf Course

Without all your efforts, the day would not have been possible. Thank you as well to our sponsors:

We're really looking forward our next social event at Church Street Brewing Company as we return to our traditional Oktoberfest party on Thursday, September 23rd. Sponsorship opportunities are available - contact me to learn more.

President’s Letter: July, 2021

The excitement as I look ahead to this month, next month and the rest of the year is thanks to the optimism and hard work of everyone who has done their part to get vaccinated and to get things back to normal.*

*or whatever passes for it as we continue to emerge from pandemic behaviors

Here in Chicago, air cargo continues to remain busy as we see in the figures that the Chicago Department of Aviation shares with public and private sector stakeholders. There were a number of stories this week as well surrounding passenger screening figures at O'Hare and as someone who traveled for the first time post-pandemic last month, it was really an exercise in muscle memory - where to park, what luggage best fits the trip and needs and even ensuring the toiletries bag was stocked with stuff that - by and large - doesn't come with an expiration date.

For the air cargo business, July 1st was a huge day. It was the day that the new screening requirements for freighter aircraft came into effect, and that's the reason we picked it as the topic for our July luncheon featuring Lufthansa Cargo, Jeff Koehl of Global K9 Protection Group and IACAC Board Member Bill Gerst from PTS Logistics. Register now - we'll feed you this time, albeit a Panera box lunch, and it'll be a chance to talk about what's happening in a non-SSI context.

Later next week, IAC's going to the Dogs - the Chicago Dogs, specifically. Our first networking event back will be outdoors and socially distanced with the Chicago Dogs on Thursday evening. Tickets are still available as are sponsorships to help cover the event for your fellow attendees. Support the IAC, see people you've not seen for a while and we hope to see you on Thursday evening.

Most excitingly, we're golfing next month again. Mark your calendars for Tuesday, August 10th at the Bridges of Poplar Creek. Get your early bird foursomes booked as well because we're filling up quickly. Due to course limitations, sponsors will not be able to offer food on the course, but we will still have plenty of places for liquid libations sponsored by great companies like Alaska Air Cargo and others. Stay tuned "fore" more on sponsors - and be sure to stick around and please bring a raffle item to benefit the Scholarship Fund - because that's what this whole thing is about, anyways.

President’s Letter: June 2021

The IACAC is excitedly looking ahead to the summer and the rest of the year and wanted to let everyone know what we're looking ahead to.

Next Tuesday's IN PERSON MEETING - Charters

We're not able to serve food just yet - but attendees will get a $10 gift card to a local restaurant to get their own meal. 

Charters are continuing to hold sway with forwarders and airlines even as passenger flight schedules are returning throughout the summer. Forwarders - and airlines - each have a role to play in the sourcing and scheduling of these complex but important flights. Join us Tuesday to hear a representative from United Airlines as well as someone from our local forwarding community talk about charters and what's involved in their planning and execution. Register here. 

Seeking sponsors for Chicago Dogs game in July

We're planning our first social gathering in July at the Chicago Dogs. Your sponsorship will underwrite the cost of admission as well as food and beverage tickets for our attendees. We're still finalizing the event, but sponsorships are available for $100, $250, $500 and $1000. Sponsors will get the attendee list and also be able to provide literature or giveaways - we cannot have signage inside the park. If you're interested in sponsoring, send an email to info@iacac.com and we'll work out the details.

Golf Outing August 10th!

Don't miss it - we're back and spots are - honestly - going quickly. We've got capacity for up to 144 golfers and are planning our luncheon afterwards.

Sponsorships are available for the golf outing as well including breakfast, on-course opportunities to sit and network with golfers, lunch at the halfway house and more. PLUS we'll have our traditional post-golf luncheon and raffle to benefit our Scholarship Fund.

To register, check out the event page and get signed up! We'll be making contact with 2019 sponsors who get right of first refusal here in 2021 for the holes they were on previously.

Oktoberfest!

Yep - we'll be back at Church Street. Mark your calendars for Thursday, September 16th for our annual event. Beer, music, food truck - fun. We're looking forward to getting back together with everyone.

President’s Letter: May, 2021

The rollercoaster ride appears to be...continuing...for those of us in the world of logistics. Whether shipping by air, ground or ocean, rates are through the roof for our customers and in exchange for these sky-high prices, we're experiencing rock-bottom levels of service.

There has always been an uncomfortable and tenuous relationship with underlying service providers because our companies may have been the ones to select them for the service, yet regardless of how long-tenured the friendships and relationships may be, they are unable to stave off days-long delays in recovering air freight, weeks-long delays in intermodal rail movements and rates that are triple or quadruple what they were just two short years ago between common ocean freight origin and destination pairings.

If you think this is a thankless position to be in - don't. Your peers know, the experienced logistics and purchasing managers at your shippers know and the more sympathetic carrier representatives know as well. And all are grateful for your continued hard work and adaptation for now the fifteen months of hard work.

Here at the IACAC, we're looking ahead excitedly at a number of things that are happening and want you to be aware of them.

Membership harmonization: We are bringing together our CRM, our website records, our email distribution list and accounting together in a more cohesive fashion. We all use a variety of best-in-breed tools in our offices and the goal is connectivity and communication among them. We're no different.

Beginning with new memberships and renewals this year, we are moving to a membership that is one year from the date of sign-up or renewal. This was driven primarily by the fact that 97% of our memberships are paid by credit card and it was much easier to set them for annual automatic renewals.

We also have probably a dozen people and companies who thought they renewed back in January (myself included) only to discover that the membership type that was created did not charge credit cards, even though they were provided. Our treasurer Therese O'Sullivan is working hard to go through that list and if she's reached out with an invoice or a request to process your card again, that is why.

Golf news: We have been given the green-light for up to 144 golfers - the usual contingent for our annual outing. It will be held on Tuesday, August 11th at Bridges of Poplar Creek with the same usual registration and start times (shotgun at 8:30). We have been given the green light to have sponsors on the holes. The past few years we've done food and alcohol on the course and those are - for the moment - in flux. Alcohol may be staff-constrained because as our sponsors well know, course employees must pour. Right now, it looks like one hole each on the front and back, two beverage carts and the turn at the clubhouse. Registration for golf will open later in May.

A personal congratulations as well to Adam Rod from the Department of Aviation. I have had the pleasure of working with Adam for a number of years now and he has been our liaison for issues with congestion and O'Hare-related issues. This past month, Adam's position changed and his new title is Assistant Commissioner, Cargo Operations and Development. Rather than 20% of his time being spent on cargo, it will now be a full-time job with an office and support staff he must build.

Given the tremendous growth in air cargo that ORD saw during the pandemic even given the severe constriction of passenger flights but uptick in both phfreighters and freighters, an airport representative tasked with making O'Hare a better cargo experience for all stakeholders is welcome news. Congratulations, Adam.

President’s Letter: April, 2021

Cautiously optimistic as I am about the arrival of spring and the last gasp of winter after a couple of days when it didn't make it out of the 40's this week, I have to feel comfortable that the tulips and daffodils sprouting around my house must know something that I don't.

The school calendar isn't lying as the kids are off for the next week, right? And I saw today that the US reached just short of 4 million vaccines, so there has to be joy, right?

And, c'mon - it's baseball season.

A year ago last month, the United States came to a stop, something that nobody in air cargo needs to be reminded of. After all, when the flights were cancelled, the planes were grounded and images like this filled our feeds, we knew it was bad, but nobody really had an appreciation for how long it would remain, nor for how many of our fellow Americans would be lost to the virus.

As if we weren't busy enough thanks to port congestion and delays, all your friends who have no idea what you do for a living became supply chain experts with the escapades of the Ever Given in the Suez Canal.

But if you're in the business like we are - you know that an already constrained air freight market was about to get a whooollllee lot tighter as The Loadstar wrote about this week.

For us at the IACAC, we've been head-down in our own businesses - and kudos and thanks to all of those who have kept the lights on and the doors open to ensure that commerce continues to flow. Overflowing with optimism late last year, I gave our perennial luncheon host Adam Rod a list of dates for 2021 and sadly, we've not been able to avail ourselves of CDOA's usual excellent hospitality.

But...and I cautiously say but...we're getting closer to being together again than needing to remain apart.

We've got webinars planned for this month and next and - honestly - probably still June considering that the time for maximum vaccine efficacy ranges from five to six weeks depending upon which one you get.

July, though? We're thinking...baseball game. Our friends at the Chicago Dogs remain constantly in touch, and we're going to be in touch with them when the time is right.

We can promise for certain that the golf outing is happening as is the raffle - the kids deserve a banner year of scholarships after what we've all been through - but the luncheon is too far away to know what we will be allowed to do. Sponsors of 2019 should be hearing from us this month to gauge their interest in sponsoring a hole again in 2021 and we hope to pick up where we left off with the same smiling faces - masked or unmasked.

For now, I'm going to make sure we've got enough eggs and candy for the kids on Sunday because 70's this weekend portends a wonderful holiday weekend.

President’s Letter: December, 2020

To begin, on behalf of the IACAC Board of Directors, we want to wish everyone a very happy holiday season. In a year unlike any other, this is the time of year that between the pandemonium which shows no sign of abating until well into 2021, we can find a few moments to stop, say "thank you" and breathe around those we love.

If you had asked me in January to write the year-end summary assuming a "cut-copy-paste" of previous years, it would've included a successful outing, member engagement and networking and working together to educate and bring on new members.

But...that's not the year we got.

As we look ahead to 2021, two approved vaccines and the timetable when we can expect to all be vaccinated, we're looking quite honestly at the summer before we can safely resume our in-person activities.

To that end, our webinars will be free because we would like people to be engaged. A number of people have expressed an interest in knowing more about vaccine logistics and what ORD is doing and we're reaching out to a few people to speak to just that - people in our Association who are playing a role in getting front-line and at-risk workers vaccinated as quickly as possible.

The loss of our golf outing and holiday luncheon meant the fundraising engine for our scholarships sat idle this year - but it's not too late. We've picked two winners and will notify them in January - but we'd like to do so with some more money to award them.

You can mail us a check if you'd like, or donate online directly to the Scholarship Fund. $25, $50, $100 - whatever you can give. This money goes right to our scholarship recipients and through no fault of theirs should we not be able to do for our two winners what we normally do in a regular year. Click here to donate.

The Annual General Meeting at which we hold elections is also running behind because of the pandemic. It will be held on Tuesday, January 12th and if you're interested in running, reach out to Brian Bartolotta and send him a headshot and a bio. We've got three - possibly four - positions available for voting directors.

Thanks to everyone for your patience, and we hope to see you all back as members in 2021 when we do everything we can to make up for lost time.