Former Administrator Marion Blakey traveled extensively while leading the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). But despite being a road warrior, she still has one thing in common with many travelers: she’d like to see her family and friends more.
Blakey, who currently advises a number of aviation startups, has led the FAA and was Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB); President and CEO of Rolls-Royce North American Inc.; and President and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA).
#1 What is the single most important action a business can take to improve sustainability?
Every business must know its impact. Take an inventory of how your organization is affecting the environment, know what your carbon footprint is and determine what you can do to alter that. There are excellent guides and experts to support businesses with this process; there’s no shortage of actions businesses can take. For example, if you’re building a new building, make sure it’s LEED certified.
But at the heart of it, you also want to support your employees in pulling together to be sure that they are acting in an environmentally sensitive way. Employee engagement is essential.
#2 Is there an innovation you’re excited about that’s important to the future of sustainable travel?
Supersonic flight is right up there. I’m very excited about the potential to be able to go from Washington, D.C. to London in a bit over three hours. I used to do that as a commute and I can tell you that — if Boom’s Overture were operating — I would have been delighted to take those flights.
I also think that the progress we’re making in terms of commercial space — habitable space or the equivalent, if you will, of the International Space Station — will advance phenomenal research and activities that we will all benefit from.
#3 Can you share examples from companies you advise about different advances in sustainability?
A number of companies that I’ve chosen to help as a board member are going to make significant advances. One company, for example, is building the largest cargo aircraft in the world. It’s going to be capable of transporting wind turbine blades to areas where you couldn’t otherwise transport such large structures over land via highways, ferry or train (or build on-site). This will address wind energy opportunities in regions, such as rural areas of the Midwest, that otherwise can’t be accessed via land transport.
Another advancement I’m excited about is evtol (electric vertical take-off and landing). It’s inspiring to consider the amazing effects it will have in terms of flying people short distances — over traffic, with little noise and without significant pollution.
#4 What are the most promising opportunities to reduce the carbon footprint of the travel industry?
A certain amount of reducing our collective carbon footprint falls on all of us as consumers of travel. We all have to be more careful about how we make choices, how we comport ourselves when we are in a place, and how we take care of the environment around us.
In terms of technology, there are many significant opportunities, including sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). We’re all banking on SAF becoming a much bigger factor in how we lower the industry’s carbon footprint.
There is also the focus on electricity and hydrogen as we seek new sources of propulsion. It’s inspiring, and I think we’re going to see much more relatively soon in these respective fields.
#5 Supersonic travel means less time in the air and more time on the ground, where it matters most. What will do with the time you get back from supersonic flight?
We would all like to have more time with family and friends, and certainly that’s what I would enjoy. I would also visit places that I would have previously said, “Oh, I don’t have the time,” because of the length of the journey. But, if I could get to those destinations more quickly and efficiently — you have me at hello.
Bonus question: What is the first place you would visit on Overture?
In a heartbeat: Paris. Just to zip over and be able to do it quickly and sustainably. Like so many people around the world, I would love to go to Paris on Overture.