Getting The Word Out On Advanced Air Mobility

Credit: Guy Norris/ShowNews

The general public needs to hear more about urban and advanced air mobility (AAM) as a prerequisite to entry into service, to prepare the way for broader support and community acceptance. That was the message from AAM industry pioneers at a packed special keynote panel session at NBAA-BACE.

The increasing focus on AAM at NBAA comes as more developers of electric and hybrid-electric vehicles exhibit at the show, and as the business aviation community looks to align itself more closely with the emerging air mobility sector. “These are the visionaries who were leading those companies into the future, and have all reached substantial milestones today,” says NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen, who introduced the session. “These are headline companies.”

“It’s really about getting the message out,” says Martin Peryea CEO of electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) and hybrid aircraft developer Jaunt Air Mobility. “Everybody here [at NBAA] is in the aerospace industry, but there are a lot of people out there obviously who are pretty disconnected. So, we need to tell them there's a new generation of aircraft that are coming out that's really going to enable people to move much more efficiently. And obviously that’s the same message with the cargo aspects of it. So communicate is the word.”

Melissa Tomkiel, president of Blade Urban Air Mobility–an air service provider that plans to transition from fixed- and rotary-wing equipment users to eVTOLs when they become available, also says wider community engagement is needed. “The infrastructure that we currently have is at risk, and if that goes away then all the funding for all these efforts to bring on this new technology is jeopardized. We need different capabilities–fixed, rotary-winged and eVTOLs—so we need this industry to continue to develop in all these different ways.” 

Another part of the message is to emphasize that AAM can work in addition to, rather than being competitive with, business aviation, says Benjamin Tigner, CEO of eVTOL developer Overair. “This is the dawning of a new age of aviation and it's a type of aviation that is very complementary to the business sector," he says. "We're not putting those companies out of business, we're adding to those companies, and that means we are going to need 10,000 new engineers and hundreds and even thousands of operators. This community has the opportunity to help us get the message out.”

Kyle Clark, CEO of eVTOL-developer Beta Technologies, meanwhile pointed out the long-term impact of electric aviation on sustainability. “Our call to action for this generation is to turn the corner on climate change, and we're a small piece of that. And it's not about those short trips like when you get off the Gulfstream and you take one of these vehicles to a final destination. It's that next step. It’s about when you start nipping on the heels of the regional [airlines], and then you start nipping on the heels of the ones that are going up and down the East and the West Coasts,” he says.

“Then, when we're at the point where we are absolutely turning the corner, we have now pushed everybody a little bit further forward in aviation," he says. "Then we will be at a stage where there are a very select number of flights that actually need a carbon-emitting fuel. We're going to get there if everybody in this room helps pave the way. We do that by changing people's minds. Stop saying ‘but the battery.’ We're flying further and further every, every month, and we're going to start pushing on the entire aviation ecosystem.”

Guy Norris

Guy is a Senior Editor for Aviation Week, covering technology and propulsion. He is based in Colorado Springs.