June 25, 2022

The first season of ‘Sustainability in the Air’ is now over, with the second season due to hit after the Summer.

SimpliFlying CEO Shashank Nigam spoke to nine guests, including four airline CEOs, and based his discussions with them, we’ve put together a list of takeaways from the season.

In Shashank’s words:

Sustainability issues are always fraught with strong opinions, largely because of how large corporations tend to lean towards tokenism and greenwashing instead of substantive efforts.

However, hearing airline CEOs talk about sustainability with such passion was illuminating and refreshing. The desire for change is genuine and there seems to be a significant movement in the industry towards making plans for net-zero.

With new statistics about global warming adding to our anxieties each day, we tend to become impatient and wish for dramatic, radical change, forgetting that the real world is intricate. Effecting change takes time and continual effort and discussion.

So many of the innovations discussed during the first nine episodes have been possible because of smaller changes compounded together. There is merit in believing in smaller disruptions and incremental changes, especially when the idea of those bigger capitalism-subverting changes seems so abstract at the moment.

Change is possible. We may want to dream big but it’s okay to start small. In fact, starting is where change begins.

Every drop matters, every effort counts as long as we’re in this together. Sustainability, after all, is about cooperation not competition. And soon, we may realise that a new world may not be as far as we think it is.

Read the key takeaways and listen to the episodes here.

Every week we see news of a new eVTOL venture, promising zero carbon commutes in major urban centres.

Earlier this week, for example, Tomasz Patan, who is also the chief technology officer of Jetson, shared a video of how he flew the company’s $83,600 vehicle ONE from his home in Tuscany to work, cutting the usual travel time by car by nearly 90 percent..

Then there was Archer Aviation, which said it had recently begun testing a prototype called Maker with a new configuration that supports “transition flight”—the transition between an aircraft being lifted by vertical propellers and being carried by the wings for horizontal movement.

In terms of transitioning, German company Lilium, perhaps one of the best known and funded operators in this space, said it reached that milestone earlier this month.

Meanwhile Wisk Aero (funded by Boeing and the Kitty Hawk company, among others) envisages “freeways in the skies”, and is currently working on an urban mobility project with the city of Long Beach, California.

Deloitte expects eVTOL aircraft to be common in major cities by 2030, acting as a ride-hailing and ride-sharing service within and between cities.

In fact, a report out by Insight Partners, says that the eVTOL market will be worth $1.75 billion by 2028.

There’s been some scepticism about the medium term feasibility of hydrogen / electric commercial aviation. But at the smaller, shorter range end of the scale, it is slowly becoming a reality.

Heart Aerospace and ZeroAvia for example both have orders from airlines for the 19 seat commuter aircraft each are working on.

They will be used for short hops from small regional centres to major hubs (which as an aside, complicates the argument that short distance air travel needs to move to rail transport).

Then, further down at an urban commuter level, eVTOL aircraft are showing promise, getting funding and the technology is becoming a reality.

(Picture above, from Lilium)

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