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An MFA webinar: Talent and Sustainability Q&A’s
Martyn Fiddler Aviation invited Marc Bailey (CEO, BBGA) and Patrick Edmond (Managing Director, Altair Advisory) to participate in a discussion on talent and sustainability in business aviation. Here are a few of the questions received from the audience:
Q: Many aircraft manufacturers appear to be focussed on transitioning aircraft to use hydrogen and electric power in the future. Is this just greenwashing? Or do they truly believe that hydrogen and electricity will provide a like-for-like alternative?
A: “Fast forward 20-30 years: hydrogen and electric will be huge parts of the energy mix for aviation, however, they are long-term options for moving the dial on aviation emissions” Edmond noted. “Electric aircraft over the next few years will be small, regional turboprop aircraft - these are incredibly significant in the same way that the Tesla Roadster was a really important step towards electric cars. While they didn’t sell very many Tesla Roadsters, and they couldn’t travel very far, the hugely important step was developing the technology that could subsequently go into the mass market.”
Edmond continued “Regional hydrogen fuel cell aircraft will grow progressively over the next few years, however, hydrogen fuelling infrastructure is going to bring its own challenges. Until then sustainable aviation fuel which can be effectively used with existing aircraft will be the only game in town for business aircraft.”
“There is much hype surrounding different technologies and greenwashing is an unfortunate result. There are two primary types of greenwashing I see at the moment: 1. businesses are hoping they don’t have to do anything because the promised technologies will save them without any cost or output, and 2. Businesses are purchasing carbon offsets for minimal money to act as a get out of jail free card. It is incredibly important for aviation to avoid greenwashing in either of these forms” Edmond summarised.
Q: Is it optimistic to a hope that the new generation (Gen Z) will create diversity within business aviation, or, is there a danger that employers will continue to employ like for like - the result being the same diversity within a new generation?
A: “There is an established community filled with more mature people in it, which suggests there is a strong chance of things being created in their own image” Bailey explained. “Therefore, the bigger issue is that whatever we do, we can’t get drawn into the smaller details. e.g. if we need 30,000 people coming into aviation for the next three years, then we need to recruit those 30,000 people. There are areas of the government that love to see quotas but we just need to have really positive diversity policies which ensure the industry is open to everyone. There is a worry that if we get too tailored and too focused in terms of our diversity efforts, then we will miss the whole point of encouraging people into aviation.”
“The Aviation Skills Recruitment Platform and Talent View, which is supported by the BBGA and other organisations across aviation, was initially set up to offer support during the pandemic to people who lost their jobs. It then developed to help retain those coming into aviation as well as attract talent to return post-pandemic. The focus now is heavily on recruitment” Bailey explained. “The program itself sits within the framework of the Department of Transport’s ‘Flight Path to the Future’. This is a medium-term strategy for the recovery of the aviation industry. The recruitment platform is free of charge to employers, which means businesses can join the platform, register their business, and recruit as desired. There is no cost to employment from the platform, and it includes people from universities and colleges, as well as experienced individuals from various industry sectors, therefore enabling businesses to recruit candidates from a variety of different backgrounds”.
Q: Many businesses and the media focus on aircraft and aviation creating CO2 emissions – discussion of non-CO2 emissions appears as an afterthought. Should we be worried about these emissions or are these ‘low-hanging fruits’ aviation could solve quickly?
A: “The bad news”, Edmond explained “is that researchers are finding most of the climate impact of aviation is not due to the CO2 coming out of the engines, but is a result of what is called non-CO2 effects; these are either other gases being released or contrails in the atmosphere causing a heating effect. The good news, however, is non CO2 emissions look relatively simple to resolve, especially contrails as there are a number of research projects underway”.
“Companies in the UK are conducting really interesting work on predicting where contrails will be generated which will allow aircraft operators to flight plan to avoid these. This is something we didn’t realise was a problem until recently; there is a relatively easy solution to fix it and so the industry is keen to get behind it”.
Edmond summed up his thoughts “There is more and more emphasis on sustainability in aviation and how to bring about transformation across the industry. For example, the Training Division of Airbus Air Business Academy has just launched a course in civil aviation carbon neutrality whereby they provide training for companies who want to understand what they can do, as well as how they can shift their operations and reduce their emissions. It is a way of bringing more energy and attractiveness back to the industry, because this is the kind of challenge that aviation people are interested in – we don’t like routine tasks. Aviation people prefer finding solutions and being able to pilot that transformation is going to be fundamental for us over the coming years”.
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