The Future of Aviation

04/19/2021 9:28 AM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

The Southern California Development Forum (SCDF), an organization that provides networking opportunities for those in the real estate community, hosted a panel discussion about the future of aviation in April 2021.  

Justin Towles, senior policy advisor at Akin Gump, a leading global law firm providing innovative legal services and business solutions to clients worldwide, served as moderator for panelists from Gevo, Los Angeles World Airports, Joby Aviation and Urban Mobility Labs. Towles began the conversation by asking what the future looks like for sustainability in aviation. 

Sustainable Solutions for Jet Fuel  

Patrick Gruber, chief executive officer and board member at Gevo Incorporated, said Gevo is a company with a focus on making sustainable aviation by utilizing renewable resource-based jet fuel with a net zero carbon emission.  

“I think in the future in 2050, we’re going to see a mix of solutions. Which [primarily] is going to be hydrocarbon-based jet fuel, but you might see other applications of hydrogen or electricity happening in certain places where it makes economic sense,” said Gruber. 

William Goodwin, deputy general counsel for policy and regulatory affairs at Joby Aviation, talked about how Joby Aviation is in the process of developing an eVTOL aircraft, an electric airplane that will be able to take off and land vertically. This would be the first vehicle of its kind to be a quiet and emissions free aircraft. 

Airport Transportation 

David Reich, deputy executive director of mobility planning and strategy at Los Angeles World Airports, shifted the conversation to explore the future of airport transportation, such as electrification for not just passengers but for employees as well.  

“There’s been a revolution of mobility in the last decade, and a lot of that is affecting airports and will continue to affect it,” said Reich.  

Reich spoke about plans for the future to improve the airport environment and relieve congestion in the central terminal area, also known as the horseshoe. 

“Our $14 billion capital investment plan, which includes a $5.5 billion landside access program, will be the new automated people mover which will be on a fixed guideway. It will be autonomous and above all electric. This will increase HOV use by connecting to our metro system, “ said Reich. 

Clint Harper, advanced air mobility integrator, urbanist and economic developer for Urban Mobility Labs, spoke about working on integration within the city of Los Angeles to improve the airport ecosystem. 

“We have an opportunity to break down traditional transportation silos and lead the way through intermodal planning to create a balanced, sustainable and efficient mobility system,” said Harper.  

Understanding Sustainability In a Business System 

Gruber explored how sustainability functions by providing a transparent understanding on how greenhouse gas emissions are problematic and how the future of aviation will implement more renewable electricity.  

Topping greenhouse gas emissions in the world at 73% is fossil-based energy such as electricity, natural gas for heating and production, etc; transportation is a contributing factor at 16%. All of these factors come into play in a business system. 

“We are going to build our own renewable energy sources. A business like ours is going to make both hydrocarbons for jet fuel and we will use renewable energy along the way,” said Gruber. 

In summary, the future of aviation looks promising for both airport transportation and aircrafts through the implementation of sustainable practices.  


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