Airline Start-Ups – an Unreasonable Risk?

Mass Market - No Profit

Two (good) articles today about the riskiness of starting up an airline and the comments they got shared with, triggered some controversial thoughts with me.

The Articles + Comments

Airline Cash BurnOAG summarized on the Evolution of airlines since 2019 (just before the Pandemic) to today. While their findings are very interesting, there is a tone in the summary and a resulting summarization by Tim (someone I generally value) that I happen to disagree with. OAG’s John Grant wrote:

“Airline start-ups are incredibly difficult, cash rapidly disappears and securing the necessary operating licences frequently takes longer than expected and that’s even before sourcing aircraft, securing slots, avoiding the competition, and building all the necessary reservations systems and back-office support functions.”

And Tim shared the full post with a comment: “OAG is a great data resource for large scale review and schedule activity. This data really doe strike a chord. Airlines are a very risky business. This is very illustrative.”

The other one was an analysis by McKinsey, checking on the aviation value chain’s recovery shared by Patrick, which he introduced with these words: “McKinsey & Company has done an interesting analysis of the aviation value chain. For each subsector, they’ve calculated the “economic profit”, meaning (return on invested capital – weighted average cost of capital) x invested capital. In other words, are firms in that sector creating or destroying value? Their conclusion: only fuel suppliers and freight forwarders created value last year, and airports and airlines lost a lot!”

The Economist’s (My) Response

Mass Market - No ProfitAs an economist by original education and having experience with Startups and Business Angels, I do happen to believe in a sound “business case”. As an airliner, I learned with American to focus on the business case. Like to reconsider twice before approving any waiver on fare rules or trying to upsell to the more expensive (i.e. more flexible) air fare. But I also learned the value of a renowned brand (AA) and service. Or to treat your colleagues as your most valuable customers – they help you sell each and every day. And can ruin a customer relation as quickly.

In “global fares training”, I learned the cost of a flight transfer, something that I never forgot; thanks Ruth King (our fares trainer), I will never forget you.

At Northwest Airlines, I learned that airlines and their managers just sold “cheap”. With full flights in summer season, the airline generated losses on the transatlantic flights. A lesson I’ve seen later over and again. Most sales staff had neither information, nor idea about the “yield” they had to generate to fly profitable. Northwest focused on a minimum yield (revenue per seat-mile) half of that of American. Then sold at that yield as the standard “special fare” and making group offers or “reseller-rebates” below that rate aplenty. As I summarized 2019 on my article about why airlines keep failing, “know your cost”.

Yes, talking about Why Do Airlines Keep Failing. It’s the same response I have on the above two mentioned articles. And many like them. At ASRA 2008, I emphasized brand faces. But I also told those brand faces – the airline sales managers – that they are not there to sell the cheapest price. Anyone can do that, the Internet lives of that. A real sales manager understands that they have to sell the high-end tickets.

Live story, also happened today. Qatar Airways passengers (mother and three kindergarden-aged kids) arrived with >18 hour delay in Düsseldorf. German Rail (clerk) sold tickets to the customer to pick up the passengers that are neither change- nor refundable. So they had to buy completely new (expensive) tickets. A good clerk of this company renowned for it’s unpunctual trains (<60%) would have mentioned the possibility of a flight delay and sold the slightly more expensive tickets that allow for a change. Or at least the optional insurance.

So thinking back to my experiences with Northwest and other such airlines, it’s my questioning about KPIs as well. If my KPI is load and not revenue, I must expect to loose money. It remains beyond me, why airlines offer connecting flight at what a rough calculation on Ryanair or easyJet CASK/CASM (cost per available seat km/mile) proves as below cost, even without the “stop en-route” (landing fees, complexity, etc.). Those are managers who had a nap, when their tutors talked about sound economical calculation? And I keep questioning, why airlines publish loads without revenue per seat. To date, we have hundreds, if not thousands of flights every day, that fly full but loose money. All this is confirmed by the above mentioned and many other such articles.

The Fairy-Tale of Loss Making Airlines

Heresy. Aviation ain't profitable - and the world is FLATTo claim “aviation” is a loss making business is true and can’t be further from the truth.

Yes, many airlines are loss making. And it fits the common reasons I elaborated before. And yes, you can make airlines very profitable, if you have a management that thinks just a bit outside the box and applies economic rules to their modus operandi (mode of operation). But this also goes in line with route development and other areas. If you don’t have your numbers under control and focus on the ones that are “good to sell to shareholders”, you’ll fail.

Like with any company, with any startup, in and outside the aviation sphere, we must constantly have an understanding of our cost. And of the competition. What is it our customer wants? There is a psychological price. If you missed that in your economics studies, make your Internet-search for it now. If you have sales teams, train them to upsell the seats. Sell the higher yield fares. Not at a discount, but at a value!

Natural Leader LemmingsThis is one reason, I do not believe we can make Kolibri ever happen by taking over an already failing or failed airline. Wrong structures, wrong thinking in place. I learned this lesson with Air Berlin. The force of inertia was simply too strong. There are some airline that make revenue, but even their managers I find often blindly “follow the worms” (a Pink Floyd referral, yes, the picture is lemmings).

(That’s) The Way Airlines Operate

But unfortunately, all investors we talk to, always think inside their boxes. Can’t tell how many talks I had to radically change our approach and take A320 and do like everyone else does. Ain’t that contrary to the concept of Unique Selling Propositions?

And has ever a “disruptive investment” (another investor buzz word) been developed out of the box using the same thinking? The same values (I’m the cheapest)?

The others are usually starting to tell you that you have to start with smaller amount of money. Sure way to burn your money is a cheap business plan. As OAG writes “getting to size is so important”. You can’t produce a low cost in small numbers. For us, the ideal mix is seven aircraft, where the “administrative overhead cost” becomes manageable. i.e. You have the same cost if you maintain one – or seven aircraft. The same reservations office (just less staff and calls), only little less marketing. You must outsource your operations (at cost) to share the necessary organization with other small airlines. Etc., etc.

Source firewalkeraussies.comTo date, I am still working with consulting companies reviewing airline business plans. Aside the usual failure issues, size is a recurring issue. Another being the lack of fallback in case of flight disruptions, may they be caused by technical issues, weather or other events. Their focus on cheap “human resources” and missing team building results in friction and internal competition that further weakens their product offering.

But even taking that into account, we believe the business and financial plans we developed are sound. And profitable from the outset. With a focus on services and a military-style responsibility “for ours” (no “HR” in that company), a “service-focused concept”. Everyone to pull on the same side of the rope. Yes, not starting with a dead corpse, trying to revive, adds some bureaucratic hurdles. But it allows you to think outside the box and instead of following the worms (or other airlines), to do things “right”.

So ever since I entered into the business, I learned at American Airlines under Bob Crandall how to do things right. And learned over and again that the same mistakes are made by short-sighted, narrow-minded managers. And I know all the reasoning used to distract and divert off the incompetence to operate an economically sound business. Usually, I account this as “no faith in your brand”. That then goes along with topics I mentioned before, like brand dissolution (airlines are often academic example), missing USPs, etc. – Cobalt CEO told me about their USP shortly before their demise “We are Cypriotic”. Seriously? When I started, Lufthansa was the brand. Lufthanseat was the employee. All employees of American Airlines knew “Proud to be AAmerican”. Then came the button counters. And mighty AAmerican was taken over by their once-small rival U.S. Airways. Another box of memories.

So yes, airlines are often a loss making business. With bureaucrats leading them into disaster. Sometimes fast, often times a veeeery long death. Air Berlin and Alitalia are very good examples. “Too big to fail”? Simply “prestigious”? And there are “the others”. Airlines that have an idea about what they are doing. That know their niche(s). That know their cost and marketing. That value their brand. That build a reputation. Until button counters (aka. bureaucrats) take over.

I hope that someone of my hundreds if not thousands of readers (hard to believe, that’s what my server stats claim I’d have) knows some investor with the guts to understand that profitable aviation and sustainable aviation can be the same thing. That the stories those consultancies and their statistics and reports tell have two sides to the coin. And that we get a chance to proof, that climate neutral flying is no heresy, but the future of flight.

Food for Thought – Jürgen

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The Panacea Distraction

The #panaceadistraction - While searching for the panacea, non-decision-makers keep running their business as usual.

The #panaceadistraction - While searching for the panacea, non-decision-makers keep running their business as usual.The #panaceadistraction disqualifies many #impactinvestments as greenwashing. A look at realpolitik in impactinvesting.

The Trigger: Lubomila’s COP21 statement

"Our Obsession with technology will slow down the green transition.” [Lubomila Jordanova]Having been reminded again of Lubomila Jordanova‘s statement for the U.N. Climate Change Conference 2021, it bugs me, how little has changed in those past two years. Working with climate activists up to United Nations levels, I find a lot of what we call #academicthinking, more about Science Fiction than about taking what we have to the market. A #panaceadistraction if I’ve ever seen one.

And while #buzzwords used by investors are #disruptiveinvestments, #sustainableinvestments and the like, a big part of the #panaceadistraction is their focus on (classic) “boxes” to invest in. Can’t tell, how many times in the past decades I have heard, that our ideas wouldn’t fit the box. #thinkoutsidethebox and #thinkbeyond.

The Sustainability Lie: Stay inside Your Box

Illustration by Hans-Jürgen Marhenke (loaded directly from and linked to the website)

The direct “impact” is that #impactinvestments are mostly #greenwashing on #lifecycleassessment and #circulareconomy – very often blindsiding the #energydemand, using the cheap excuses of “we purchase #greenenergy or #climatecertificates … I was recently told that the industry creatively sells multiple times the amounts of “green” energy we create. I can imagine that. Aside of my #railshame-article, cleaning the green color of the mighty German #greenrail. Just another reference to the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma.

ASRA 2008 brainnodes vs. internet equals AIOr #artificialintelligence (just like space) – being a big dream (some consider it a threat). A big investment interest! Whereas most if not all of AI I’ve seen fits the statement that most AI is IA: More (or often less) Intelligent Algorithms. Yes Athena, Minerva and Mike Holmes, I’m waiting (wondering who understands that reference on the fly)…

So how #sustainable is #impactinvesting really? And which #impactinvestors in reality are part of the mighty #greenwashingindustry? Or do they focus a bit too much on the #panaceadistraction instead?

A Look Back: Pioneering and Disrupting

As a kid, I saw those pioneering constructions on those triangle-shaped hang-gliders, today both bureaucracy and investors wouldn’t invest a penny. But they lead to paragliders, a huge industry today.

Back in 1995, the big four in aviation technology (Amadeus, Galileo, Sabre and Worldspan) actively and with might opposed the development of booking flights on web-basis. How “disruptive” was that “stupid” idea? And yes, I made it happen, together and funded by a visionary Louis Arnitz (RIP). And yeah, that was the time Bill Gates disqualified the Internet, promoting his Microsoft Network.

Hydrogen powered Wing in GroundIn 2008, I developed another “disruptive” idea of a hydrogen-powered WIG, to promote the need to think sustainable on a global aviation conference. While it made it through viability study into serious negotiations by a tropical government and a major green fund, it fell victim to Lehman, but I still think it should have been developed. Though since #synfuel came up (2019ish), my bets are on that technology, I even applied it to our plans for Kolibri, closing the huge black hole where before our ideas of #biofuels were more or less a band aid on a searing wound. Aside that I prefer we grow food on the fields and not biofuel-rape. And why is it rape has such a bad double-meaning?

Though I’m a caller in the dark it seems, at least when talking with mighty investors – they fall back to their boxes and disqualify “aviation” as “not something we invest in”, without even a second look. #talkthetalk, focusing on the #panaceadistraction instead.

Think Positive: The Solutions are There!

There is so much #disruptivetech out there with a business case (aka #impactinvestment), beyond that I integrated into the plans I have for Kolibri, lacking the funding support, lacking the vision of those self-proclaimed #impactinvestors. And a lot of #talkthetalk again. i.e. #energybuffer technologies, alternative energy sources such as #tidalenergy – why only offshore-wind? Though nothing we do, nothing comes without a toll. Remember the #butterflyeffect and the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma.

As a direct result, we have an exploding #sdgfundinggap for sustainability and climate developments. It’s not the first and not the last time, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Gutérres called and calls this #fartoolittlefartoolate.

Butterfly Effect, e-Mobility Lie and the Panacea Distraction

e-mobility Life Cycle Assessment Greenwashing Volkswagen AGWhile my readers and followers know that I question #windpower and emobility for #greenwashing and short-term thinking, I also promote the fact that we need the change. We must act. Today.

And while e-Mobility ain’t the panacea, politicians and media tries to make you believe, hydrogen and synfuels ain’t as impossible as they frequently claim either. It’s ambitious to turn our world away from cheap, endless “green” energy and the believe of endless resources. Earth Overshoot Day is bad enough, this year August 2nd. Looking at the country level I feel even more devastated (Germany was May 4th)

Country Overshoot Days 2023
Country Overshoot Days 2023

The Fairy Tale of Zero-Carbon

Basic physics: Movement requires energy. Anything we do requires energy. Travel from A to B, even when using a sail boat (as Greta Thunberg did to cross the Atlantic) requires Energy. And resources. As an economist, I know that anything comes at a price.

So there is no #zerocarbon. If we achieve #carbonneutral, we do very good! If we can reduce our abuse of our natural resources – beyond carbon – we do good. Our target must be to move Earth Overshoot Day to December 31st or later. Next year, in two years. Not even Kolibri will be 100% resource neutral. But if we can turn it 90-100% circular, if our energy consumption is renewable, we will have a major impact to Earth Overshoot Day.

Why Fossils are Problematic

Don't Choose ExtinctionFossils conserve climate gases. While Venus consists of very similar chemical setup, the climate gases on the planet are uncontained. In turn, temperatures there are above 400°C. If someone tells you, we can keep using conserved energy like fossils or the latest ideas using deep-sea manganese nodules, this is climate gases we add to a heavily saturated Earth atmosphere. This is, why yes, I believe we must end fossil consumption (incl. excessive use of plastics) as quickly as we can. Or reduce it to an absolute minimum. Yes, plastics have advantages, but mostly can be replaced by more sustainable solutions. And keep in mind, plastics are used and globally applied by the mighty, rich industry nations. Who’s richness being a result from securing and using cheap fossil energy.

So mostly, this is about fighting the people who rely on cheap energy for their business models. Do I hear “digital” somewhere? 😂

So true #greeninvesting must focus on energy conservation and intelligent use of the energies we have. Personal, fossil, “renewable”. And yes, I put “renewable” into quotes… Just: #dontchooseextinction!

Holistic Approach and All-In

Offshore Windpark (Husum)Another issue that keeps coming up in my discussions is that we must stop competing on sustainable solutions. This is a major, not even just an industry or generational challenge. It’s a global one. So let’s stop competing and start joining forces! Back to my example of offshore wind farms and tidal energy turbines. Why not using them side-by-side in the same sea region we anyway impact by building those humongous wind farm structures? Why not using old Oil Rigs to apply tidal energy turbines, clean them, make them an artificial island structure for sea life (also arial one)?

Live Cycle Assessment and Earth Overshoot Day

Circular EconomyWhat I learned in my discussions with “green” activists up to government and U.N. levels, is that there is a lot of #wishfulthinking out there. A lot of #cognitivedissonance, reasoning to oneself that the bad-doing ain’t “that bad” or even good. And a #greenwashingindustry that uses that to protect their status quo. Not just at “all cost”, but in fact at the cost of our living and breathing environment!

To identify Greenwashing quickly, I mentioned to look at energy bill. United Nations urges to look at the #lifecycleanalysis and an end to end #circulareconomy. We must stop #raisinpicking to fake green, but what is our impact to the planet. Then we talk about #realimpactinvestment. And not at another #panaceadistraction

Food for Thought!
Comments welcome

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Sustainability – Ideas for Discussion

Going Beyond Greenwashing

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

This is not about Kolibri, but some thoughts and assessments about sustainability and greenwashing. And some ideas on why all the statistics show that the situation worsens. From Earth Overshoot Day to Energy Consumption to rising CO2 levels.

Working on Kolibri and benchmarking our cost against easyJet and others, we found our cost too high. One of the typical reasons for the airline one-day-flies, as I call them. Flying one or two seasons before they are pushed out or swallowed by the big shark. Looking for ways to cut cost, and as we thought about a sustainable operation, the extended way of the U.N. Sustainability Development Goals, we developed the business cases for truly sustainable aviation. Focused on fair income for the employees (that we refuse to call “human resources”), housing, food, transport and ground mobility, health… Yes, completely outside the box, but all contributing to the profitability.

Worshiping the Golden CalfWhile we now suffer from decades of management misconception that everything must be subordinate to (quick) financial profit and that profits justify the means, we now start to recognize that “sustainability” must be a “shareholder’s value”, as long as “long-term success” (viability). My friends and audience do know I questioned the pure financially focused “shareholder value” for the past 25 years at minimum. And as an economist by “original” profession, I question all those dreamworld models that burn money in the next big hype.

That said, aside our idea on Green SynFuel for aviation, as we though outside the box, what are other ideas I recommend investing in. Admittedly, ideas we plan to reinvest on our own journey to establish what shall become a truly carbon-neutral airline within ten years.

Circular Economy

Circular EconomyOne of the abused topics is Circular Economy, which Wikipedia defines as “a model of production and consumption, which involves reusing, repairing, […] refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible.” While I find Wikipedia already distracting from the core of the case, the image they show is quite on the point. Whatever you use, must come from sustainable sources, and after being used must return into a state it can be reused for the same product.

Looking at plastics, 95% of the recycling in reality is downcycling! Or export. Or local landfills. Or incineration. Or – and quite a lot – ending up polluting the oceans and landscapes. But downcycling ain’t circular but add to disposal and pollution!

e-mobility Life Cycle Assessment Greenwashing Volkswagen AGIn a discussion group on Circular Economy and the Agenda 2030 organized by U.N., the focus was directed to the LifeCycle Assessment (LCA). In which i.e. Volkswagen came to rather devastating results for their ID3. The life-cycle of one of their ID3 electric “Golf” is not substantially better than the Diesel, worse if you consider the German grid-energy mix and not the more favorable (beautified) European one. It’s considered a direct consequence when United Nations Secretary General António Guterres ahead of COP26 blames: “Far too little, far too late“.

Vertical Farming

Indoor Vertical FarmingGiven the current droughts and considering circular economy, thinking about greenhouses filling entire regions in Spain, I think we will need to invest into vertical farming. Given a “closed system” to improve the water usage. Reduce use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Discussing with a startup recently, I was surprised on the efforts on seed sequence. Not for the plant or the soil, but to make sure the bees they use at all times find sufficient nectar.

They are experimenting with water conservation and are able to provide a quality way better than “bio”. And it’s not just salad, but potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, corn, you name it, they grow it. And they are testing apples, grapes, and other vegetables too. And they are using moving trays, from seedling at one end, to harvesting on the other.

The few remains they can’t reuse go into high quality compost for the plants that still require soil – there is no downcycling, it’s just that they use pure nutrients without soil wherever they can.

Desalination – Hydrogen – SynFuel … i.e. in the UAE

Last year, there was an article by the World Economic Forum about the UAE strategy on “extended” Hydrogen, reflecting about 1:1 on my, since 2008 frequently shared opinion that hydrogen is a natural successor to fossils in the expanded tropical belt. I strongly recommend reading!

Hydrogen powered Wing in GroundGiven our work in 2008 on the hydrogen-powered WIG, a “wing-in-ground”, an “airplane” that uses the “ground-effect” for smaller wing-size and improved performance, we were told the idea would be perfect for the tropical belt. As those WIGs “fly” in five to ten meters above ground, water is perfect for them. But even more important, the use of seawater allows to develop a salination. The sweetwater can to a large extend be used for the population. Naturally, before desalination the seawater is being cleaned. Then the salt from the desalination process is used to increase the salination levels of more seawater. That salinated seawater is then used for the electrolysis.

Operating in the “extended tropical belt” and seaside, the availability of wind and water for the “green” process is very safe.

World Climate Zones

Sure, this was a very steep learning curve. It triggered my understanding that carbon-neutral transport is not just imaginable. It’s feasible. And many of those ideas, applied to our ideas for Kolibri made and make it possible for me to develop a plan that makes it possible to use a body like Kolibri to make it fly carbon-neutral within 10 years (even less, given the right support). Saving a mere 2 Gigatons of CO2. Not by then, but by then every year!

The Four Columns for Happy Living

United Nations defined the four columns as the foundation for people to be happy as:

  1. Shelter
  2. Food
  3. Health and
  4. Safety

That naturally includes the families, something often ignored. Or is identified as “salaries”, hiding behind “politics” resulting often in the inability to secure the above columns. And did you know that those are a growing problem even in the so mighty “industrial world”?

Learning From the Military

Noone is left behind
Noone is left behind

Ndrec and I are both having a military background. While Ndrec was a career officer in the Albanian military, I grew up in a U.S. garrison town in Germany with their families.
In the military, while you are there, everything is taken care of. Aside a salary the soldiers can use for surplus luxuries.

Quite similar, in the last centuries, many companies developed housing and even just 35 years ago, I’ve stayed in an American Airlines-owned residence.  All larger airports have own cantinas for the airport employees and “external” airport workers.

Precarious Working Conditions

Most companies pay a “competitive salary”, but increasingly, those competitive salaries do no longer cover the most basic needs of people. That is especially true for families with children. “In 2020, there were 96.5 million people in the EU at risk of poverty or social exclusion, representing 21.9% of the population.” [Source] But while EU highlights progress on SDG1 (no poverty), even for industrial leader Germany reports show a growing poverty with wealth increasingly piling up with the rich 10%, owning currently 56.1% of it, the top 1 % holding about 18% of all wealth, as much as 75% of the population owns. More than 60% “own” less than 5% of the wealth, while 20% are being in debt! And those numbers are growing.

Those numbers are looking even bleaker on a European level!

#Greenwashing and #Raisinpicking

Greenwashing Demon (shutterstock_1170455851)

While the SDG funding gap grows at an alarming speed, poverty rises at alarming levels in Europe, there is an entire industry of greenwashing impact investors out there, using raisin-picking creatively to greenwash their investments. But there are 17 SDGS. And the possibility to do aa life-cycle assessment.

And as referred to before, two simple question disqualifies many, if not most of those “impact investments”: What is the energy bill and where does the energy come from? Is carbon-certificate-trading used to paint the idea green? Investments needing carbon certificates to go green are unsustainable themselves, selling their indulgences by buying what good others do. If you buy into grid energy, use grid-energy shares. Only if you have your own plans for energy source (solar and wind parks, etc.) you can calculate.

Primary Energy Demand vs. CO2

Our growing energy demand causes directly rising CO2-levels. The graph is already a bit older, but the statistics are showing that the short improvements during the global pandemic have already recovered and the rising energy demand in Europe is in line with the CO2-rise.

And do you claim climate action but pay no attention to your staff (and their families) happiness in form of sustainable salaries? Delivery services claim their “riders” deliver “green” using bicycles. Whereas it is commonly known that those very riders usually work in precarious working conditions! Same for Uber and other “investors’ darlings”.

Earth Overshoot Day 1971-2022Earth Overshoot Day

Did you know the Earth Overshoot Day after a very brief respite 2020 fell back again in 2021 and 2022? So what are your plans on using resources?

And did you know that “sand” is a resource in short supply? As is clean drinking water!

There is a frightening map on on the countries that use more resources than they have and there individual overshoot days. The U.S. overshot by March 13 already! Germany May 4th. All European countries overshoot in the first half year, so they use more than two Earths resources.

Timeline + Scale

EU climate plansThere are many investments into small-scale change, with a focus on two to three years. That by itself should be an issue of concern for any real impact investor. As for climate change and sustainability that can only be a start. What is the 10 year outlook? What impact will it make by 2050?

What is the impact on which SDGs? The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals! Precarious jobs are clearly a negative impact on the SDG1 and ripple also into the other SDGs. A negative energy balance naturally impacts climate. SDG7 and SDG13 are related, as are all the other SDGs!

Sustainability is a generation challenge! To turn around our abuse of global resources back to a sustainable level. Conserve energy. All that with as little impact as possible to the luxuries of the decision makers? Having grown up in the 70s, that was the time this all started. And my boss on the practical part of my economics studies questioned “price wars”. While there can always be someone cheaper, a good buyer considers the well-being of their supplier. And buying cheap from China comes with a price. His lessons resonate more than ever nowadays!

A Holistic Approach to the SDGS

Employee TrainingOne of the main concerns we are faced with at Kolibri is our approach to sustainability. First of all, why would an airline turn sustainable, it’s heresy, ain’t it? And why would we pay salaries above country average? Maybe, because they are sustainable and secure the people’s motivation and loyalty?

What about our plans for training, kitchens, real estate, residence parks, solar parks, transport? Can’t you shelve those (in the trash)? But we believe that if we right those wrongs, we will have a motivated and loyal work force. And ain’t that funny? All those “investments” are to be profitable too. As that is what we consider real impact investing. Do the right thing. With the right profit. As such, they are part of our 10 year strategy.

Kolibri 10-year outlook

So after 10 years, we don’t only save more than two gigatons CO2, per year that is by then, we will not just be a sustainability lighthouse, we will be not just profitable, but also disruptive. But only, if we get to #walkthetalk. Which means that we do find a real impact investor.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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Kolibri LinkedIn Posts and Images

Heresy. Aviation ain't profitable - and the world is FLAT

Having recently worked out new promotion images to attract investors for Kolibri and shared them on LinkedIn, the halftime for the attention about LinkedIn articles sure is very short. So Mike asked me why I wouldn’t put them in the blog. So here you go. I think you see the development from 14 to 16 October?

14 October: On Kolibri Profitability

Got asked about Kolibri profitability. We intend to start with min. 4 and up to 21 aircraft (higher initial investment = less overhead cost per aircraft, more routes = lower risk). More than 200 a/c year 10.

Roughly serving more than 65 million passengers a year, sustainably employing more than 20,000 people, creating more than 60,000 other jobs in Europe. A #highlyprofitable #billioneurobusiness if you avoid the common mistakes.

THAT is #industrialscale … and needed for a #holisticapproach to the #sustainabledevelopmentgoals (#noraisinpicking) and make #climateneutralflying a profitable reality!

Or as Aradhana Khowala says: Whatever you think. Think BIGGER!

And as I keep saying. If you want to be a #profitableairline manager, #thinkoutsidethebox. Way outside the box. The same if you want to launch a profitable lighthouse airline to fly climate-neutral within a decade.

If you know of #investors seeking to #kickstartfund the next highly profitable, sustainable #industrydisruptor and a #climategigacorn – we’re happy to help! #impactinvesting #impactinvestor #familyoffices #venturecapital #privateequity

15. October: Heresy!

Sit back and sulk. Or help us funding the set up Kolibri, a profitable, large airline to connect Europe climate-neutral within the decade!

Heresy. Aviation ain't profitable - and the world is FLAT

16. October: Kickstart

And all we need is a serious kickstart investment …
#walkthetalk #beyondlipservices #gigacorn #pleaseshare #climateneutralaviaiton #climateactionnow #impactinvestors #familyoffices #venturecapital #privateequity #unsdgs #agenda2030 #returnoninvestment #minimizedrisk #maximizedcrisisresilience #usps #disruptor #industrydisruptor #doingtherightthing

Kolibri 10-year outlook


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Is it all Greenwashing and Talk-the-Talk?

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

Go Carbon-Neutral This Decade

Looking at the past two years struggling to find investors for Kolibri, to change aviation and develop the proof-of-concept for carbon-neutral aviation, meeting with impact investors, family office principals, venture capitalists and others, European, Arabic, North American and even Asia resulted in quite some disillusioning.

Two lessons learned.

Lesson 1: It’s All About Energy

Primary Energy Demand vs. CO2If. If we really want to stop global warming, it boils down to reduce our energy demand. On a global level. But the reality is quite opposite.

While the current clash with Russia should be another wake-up call, it just proves that and how far we are from saving energy. From removing our energy footprint. Instead our leaders travel the world buying fracking-gas, crude oil and “natural” gas (from crude) to feed the ongoing hunger. We can’t expand “sustainable energy” fast enough, to reduce, less to replace all the oil, coal and gas we consume for our energy hunger. And building windparks, water-power-plants, solar parks also comes with a toll. One we have no idea yet on how to avoid the negative repercussions to our world. Which I i.e. addressed last year in my question about Wind Parks and the Butterfly Effect and the fixed page on The Sustainability-Energy Dilemma

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

If we use more energy to solve any of the famous United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, it’ll be a barrel burst! If we go for electric cars, is that more than putting a band aid on a purulent wound? Are the developments about electric flight or hydrogen aircraft anything more than delaying tactics by our industry to justify their lousy 2%-blending goal? Look at my whitepaper about #greenwashing if you want to find more examples.


Lesson 2: The Reality Behind Impact Investing

Now my litmus test to distinguish real sustainable investing from #greenwashing is simple: What is the Net Energy Impact? And yes. I’m kind’a sorry… But that includes many, if not most of those fancy “green tech solutions”. They are nothing but another distraction keeping us from the real challenge. And an excuse from governments and investors alike to avoid the real, industrial scale change we truly need!

ESGGreenwashing: Putting Lipsticks on Pigs

Also known as #talkthetalk …

Call for Action

Kolibri UNSDGPart I: To investors: We are slowly running out of money on our plans for Kolibri. We have succeeded due diligences. We have a holistic approach covering the U.N. SDGs. And we plan to reach break-even within one, be profitable in three years. And to benefit from the “new normal” enforced by Corona and the Invasion of the Ukraine. But to do this we need a sizeable launch-funding and our ideas to establish the technology to fly Carbon-neutral is even more expensive. It ain’t cheap to turn an airline carbon-neutral, but it is possible! So there are three steps. Step 1: Launch a profitable new regional airline with competitive cost-levels to stand out in the shark-pond. Step 2. Expand to lower the cost and generate the revenue to fund Step 3: Establish the infrastructure to turn carbon-neutral … and our ideas for a truly sustainable airline – beyond climate.

If it’s not you, we need commitment to help us secure the funding. Less #talkthetalk

Part II: To All: And for you personally? We as a family reduced our energy consumption by 10% last year. Despite all that modern household-tech, home-office and other energy consumers. What’s your saving?

Man in the Mirror [Michael Jackson]

Food for Thought
Help welcome!

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A (Fast Forward) Look Into 2022/23

In the recent weeks, there were some discussions about hopes and expectations for 2022. Related to aviation, tourism, Corona and politics… So let me share some expectations here in a (fast forward) look into 2022/23.

And sure, let’s start with

La Linea Corona 2022

The Pandemic …

MeaslesIn the first year of the pandemic, in the first wave in May, I voiced my expectation already of Corona CoVID-19 as the new Measles. It’s even less, it will be more like the Flu. Get vaccinated one year for the latest SARS-variants. And keep in mind that SARS is in the wild for almost 20 years, it ain’t new! So to take it with the former German Minister for Health Jens Spahn, we will (globally) have 3G; in German Geimpft (vaccinated), Genesen (recovered) or Gestorben (died).

Omicron being good, as it spreads aggressively with a focus on unvaccinated people, who will then be recovered (or dead). Yes, Yulia and I are boostered, the kids are “officially vaccinated”, got their second shot early January, about as quickly as it was possible for 5 to 11 year old’s. Both wanted it, both had friends suffering the infection with side effects.

But now a new variant hits from Portugal, that seems immune to the vaccines or body’s own defense from previous infection. And Germany is hit by another peak. Whereas the infection rates a mere year ago would have called for lock-downs…? But our airlines promote travel without masks… And what happens, if the next variant is a more hostile version again?

… Turning Endemic (in Europe and U.S.)

Endemic vs. Pandemic

There was a very good article on Al Jazeera about why the WHO refuses to turn Covid from a pandemic to an endemic state. Including the graph linked here on the impact of existing endemic diseases.

So given we have covered European and North American countries with enough vaccine for anyone who wants to be vaccinated, three, even four times, the times for lock-down will slowly be past. That will have impact to recovery of intra-European and North American air travel.

The only reasoning allowing for lifting air travel restrictions will then be the the hospitalization rates, though I expect those to go down to more manageable levels. Though we have ongoing reports of countries less privileged with vaccine access that report problems:


#vaccinationalism (Source: Deutsche Welle)The next big challenge is the look across borders and out of the “industry nations”. Over and again, news about vaccines that expired in the richer nations were met by the ones of i.e. African countries being delivered expiring vaccines or even ones that were not certified in the donor countries. At the same time, vaccines like the Russian Sputnik were still not “certified”. In turn, my own mother-in-law was denied entry into Europe as she got Sputnik, to visit to take care of my kids in my absence, while Yulia (my wife) works full time too.

Air Travel Industry #testingregime

“Principle Hope” and the Saint-Florian’s Principle dominate our industry: “Oh holy dear Saint Florian, don’t burn my house, take the neighbors one.”

During the recent handball European Championships, the German’s team played. With a mere four players from the core team, all others infected. Airlines and their lobbyists demand to end mask requirements and testing regimes in gross negligence and full knowledge that all those new variants can only spread that quickly globally by means of air travel.

It is my personal understanding that aviation needs to improve health rules and not hide behind the individual, political rules in place somewhere. How expensive would it be to have temperature scanners added into the check-in- and or security-process? And if someone has high temperature, to demand wearing of an FFP2-mask in flight. A mask that should then be provided if needed. They are no longer excessively expensive. A requirement shared by security with the airline, to ensure safety of the other passengers (and the flight crews). We must think beyond the current pandemic, as this is nothing new, just the worst case so far in “aviation history”.

Thermal ScreeningAirports would be well advised to have processes in place to ensure #testingregime for the current and future infections., demanding and assuring the ability for pre-flight testing.

Given the issue of #vaccinationalism, I expect a first “recovery” in the rich industry nations, but also future variants swapping across those countries like Tsunamis from the neglected countries. Again, what happened to #weareallinthistogether? Or #thenewnormal?

This week I got reminded that the next variant-rise in infections that the experts predict for coming fall (again) is so much like airline winter ops. It hits every year again. To the surprise of the airport and airline managers…? Why is it that the mask requirement is liftet in Germany and I still enter shops with a mask? With about 50% of the shop visitors doing likewise – while the others play Russian Roulette?

Airline Loads and Revenue

IATA Air Passenger Analysis 2022-04
IATA Air Passenger Analysis 2022-04

Also “again”, we had discussed load and revenue just recently. Whereas aviation experts report own experience with flights cancelled on short notice. Which is met by reports from many airports, that airlines register more flights than sensible, with a large number cancelled in advance due to lack of passengers/revenue.

I keep voicing my concerns that airline management must rethink. The KPI “load factor” is useless by itself, even dangerous. The KPI we must focus on is “revenue”. But in the recent IATA Regional Economic Briefs stopped reporting KPIs that reflect on revenue. Likely as they try to avoid “bad news”? Good-weather-mentality. Works well, when there is sunshine, but we are now in a thunderstorm. Even with some brief respite, we’re anywhere but “back to normal”.

Cabin Crew FFP2+GlovesReports I read fed hopes again about a summer recovery in Europe. A recovery now threatened by the new BA.5 variant spreading throughout Europe. And again, what is the airlines’ role in spreading those new variants so quickly across countries? And Lufthansa recently cancelled 600 flights (5%) for lack of staff. A main reason being the infection of their own. Mainly infected “at work”. What was that again about employee health protection? Naaaw, let’s not play it safe, let’s go back to old normal?

Personally, I’m a bit afraid, we are just in the eye of the storm…

Back to (the new) Normal?

Change Resistance (shutterstock_210479080 licensed)Speaking to airline and airport managers, they prioritize no “new normal” which they promoted in the beginning of the pandemic. But they focus to “renormalize” back to the old normal. Which bites them in the butt over and again. Demands are to lift mask and testing requirements. In an obvious ignorance of the pandemic development. In line with political developments, but not in line with the infection rates.

As I asked before: Why do the new variants spread globally in a matter of weeks, if not days. I am quite sure, they are not contracted that quickly by air. Nor by rail, bus of freight. This should have been a wake-up-call for aviation to understand their role in globalization, not only in commerce, but also in health, in the spread of diseases. How many pandemics does it need for us to start “new thinking” and take responsibility?

What about #weareallinthistogether and #thenewnormal? Ain’t this the “safest industry in the world”? Safety first? What happens if we stray from that priority towards maximized returns, we have learned all watching and commenting on Boeing and the Max (and the 787) disaster(s).

Flying Empty

Hibernating Aircraft at BRUThere can be reasons to fly an aircraft even empty.

One being to avoid aircraft hibernation. If an aircraft is not used for too long (and that time frame is rather short), the requirements to “reactivate” the aircraft explode the complexity and cost to do it. So it makes sense to consider which aircraft to take into hibernation, which ones may come soon back into service. And rotate the reserves to make sure they are ready to fly when needed.

Empty CabinAnother would be to rotate the pilots to make sure they all keep their “type rating”, their license to fly the aircraft. Which also expires just too quickly. And while airlines now recognize the shortfall on pilots that they had either “laid off” (fired) and (or) didn’t support in keeping their type rating, the current feedback from pilots is that airlines still fail to have programs in place to rotate the pilots as good as they could to keep the type-ratings.

The Role of IATA?

IATA mask mandatesI am very much missing the leadership I’d expect from IATA. Not a leadership towards the next disaster, but same rule for all. Like requirements to implement measures helping to identify sick passengers. Standards how to handle such. What if it’s not a single traveler, but a small child traveling with its family? But in the end, I believe if in doubt, a medical flight readiness certificate may be required. But also made available at airports offering commercial flights. Maybe demanding FFP2 mask. Maybe even plastic gloves or a hazmat-suit. What about the ticket? Will it be allowed to rebook. Airlines and/or travel insurances may need special rules for handling medically denied boarding? Maybe that we must add certain insurance as default to tickets?
But looking at the current line of communication by IATA, it does show a frightening ignorance, promoting future infection spread.

All things, the IATA could set up and require. Or ICAO if IATA doesn’t have the balls. #talkthetalk #discouragechange …

Side note: There was a nice article back in December ’20 from Simple Flying, Why You Shouldn’t Expect Masks To Disappear From Planes Soon… But who cares about the crap we thought reasonable yesterday?

War in the Ukraine

Donetsk Airport
Donetsk Airport – 2014 before and after

Being married to a Russian with close friends in the Ukraine, I would have never, never-ever believed an invasion of Ukraine. And while NATO-expansion threatened Russia – reminding of the political uproar when Khrushchev attempted to base nuclear missiles on the U.S. “doorstep”. Whereas NATO territory in fact is as close or closer to the Russian capital cities of Saint Petersburg and Moscow. That taken into account, there is no reasoning for an invasion of the Ukraine or the claims of a denazification. C’mon, I’m from Germany and Russia is the aggressor, too close to comfort following the propaganda and strategies of the Third Reich.

It became more obvious, when the “special operation” failed to achieve the Russian targets, when they invaded from Belarus towards Kiev and when they leave scorched earth (and hundred of massacred civilians) behind. The entire Donbass region now looks like Donetsk Airport, as does Mariupol.

The streamlining of the Russian media is totally in line with German propaganda. Control the media, promote your side, anyone voicing other opinion is taken to jail. Gestapo like. The next level being Stasi-methods jailing people already if there are unqualified claims of opposition. I am indeed afraid we will see that coming.

So with a focus on the impact of aviation? We are back into cold-war times. No overflying of the Russian territories is #thenewnormal for years to come. There will be exceptions – there are still flights between Russia and Turkey or Russia and China. How that will backfire on long-haul airlines though? There are discussions in the U.S. to ban those airlines from connecting to U.S. airlines. Which in turn would sure be followed by Europe. And then? This war has a big impact on our industry.

The Energy Crisis 2.0

Primary Energy Demand vs. CO2While the aviation industry and it’s Powers-That-Be (PTBs) argue that we must delay sustainable flight in face of the crisis, I am on a complete opposite belief. We must, but we failed, to take the crisis as a chance for overdue change. Instead of investing into sustainable fuels and developments, into optimizing the airspace, our PTB try to go back to old normal. Then finding reasons to delay the change further.

Power from the Plug Greenwashing
The Sustainability-Energy Dilemma

It’s the very same with the necessary transition on ground, in Germany, fuel is subsidized now, not forcing consumption to be reduced, but we keep using more and more energy. Which in turn does result in increasing demand for crude oil, not in a reduction.

All “sustainable investors” come up with is “green tech”. Demanding more power, not less. And we produce more plastic every year, even in this crisis and even knowing we hit the 1.5°C target by 2026 most likely, not even by 2030. As we consume more and more crude oil, wind, solar and even nuclear power being a drop on a hot stone. And while there are ideas aplenty out there, I know of too many projects that happen to fail triggering investor interest.

"Our Obsession with technology will slow down the green transition.” [Lubomila Jordanova]In my humble opinion, most “impact investors” are greenwashers. It’s beyond cognitive dissonance when they focus their investments on “green tech” but in turn increase the energy demand instead of focusing on solutions that safe and conserve energy. Yes, I can sing not just a song but an entire opera about “green investors” that either look for max-profit under a green umbrella or they look for the next “tech unicorn”. It’s what I said before. If you want to invest into sustainability, pick your industry. Pick your “brown” company and invest into solutions that change that industry. Or. Look at energy consumers and how you can improve their energy consumption. Or replace them. And yes, any of your investments should target a reduction of energy consumption. Which can be, to provide the same service in demand, but having a clear strategy on your energy source.

Kolibri SDGs7+13 - saving 2 Gigatons CO2 by 2030And we talk about leveling the energy to a sustainable level. Use as much energy as you return. Like Kolibri. Not just launching the airline, but having plans to develop your own sustainable fuel-source. Which can be Synfuel. Which still uses energy and creates CO2, but no more than it takes from the air to create it. A circular solution. Which we assume would trigger the use of SynFuel locally, which works better on a global scale than e-mobility, which has the worse life-cycle impact then. But so far, all “impact investors” we talked to expressed our idea to be very good and worthwhile, but they did not intend to invest themselves. Then they invest into money-graves like Uber or

The Fairy-Tale of Travel Recovery

LaLinea Corona 2023Just like last year (2021), we will have a careless “Corona summer”. We will very likely hit another infectious peak by fall – all the pandemic experts are warning of that, we better start listening. With BA.5 now spreading and aircraft full of mask-free travelers likely much faster. So here I go early this year with the update of LaLinea Corona extending into 2023.

While most our political and industry leaders lead us from the darkness into deception and back into the cold.

aircraft interceptThe war in the Ukraine will impact not just long-haul travel, like the reestablishing of the polar route avoiding Russian air space. And that we can not trust in “neutral air space” we learned when Belarus took down a civil aircraft from transit with the sole reason to jail a political opponent living in exile abroad.

We have rules. But I see too many of them “bent” to commercial or political benefit. Rules the international and aviation communities leave unpunished if broken or bent.

Greenwashing Demon (shutterstock_1170455851)

So my outlook 2022/23 is kind of bleak. Given our own and our leaders ignorance, the pandemic ain’t over, Putin will continue wreaking havoc (not just to the Ukraine) and the planet will continue warming. And the people who could make a change keep focusing on maximum financial ROI, wearing a cheap “green” mask.

#talkthetalk #greenwashing #cognitivedissonance #cheapexcuses #nochangeleadership etc.

Food for Thought
Comments Welcome

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Biofuel SynFuel SAF – What is it?

brown blue gray green SynFuel

Honored to be sharing my thoughts on sustainable aviation at ASTM, the Association of Swiss Travel Management (the Swiss successors of, at their Earth ’21 sustainability conference (their first, definitely not the last), the main question, not just in the Q&A but also in the following discussions and messages was the issue to understand the difference between BioFuels, SynFuels and Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF).

Greenwashing Demon (shutterstock_1170455851)

There is a lot of greenwashing and intentional abuse by using especially SAF for unsustainable fuels. So let me give you a short definition and help me and all others on the road to sustainable aviation to understand the greenwashing and using the proper wording for the proper thing!

Fuel Blending

At first, we started to blend biofuels into our car fuels. It is what you use in your car, blended as E5 (5%) or E10 (10%) into to fossil fuel. So it is lipstick on pigs, as in reality, it is still 90% or even 95% fossils! And may be very likely the reason, why fossils (and CO2) are still on the rise and growing.

Primary Energy Demand vs. CO2Anything not Zero-fossil such by definition is not “sustainable” in reality. At max it can be a step on the road to sustainability. Mostly an attempt for Greenwashing!


Rapeseed fieldsSo first we had biofuel. Which by definition is from a biological source, like rapeseed. With environmental activists for years complaining that valuable agricultural space (fields) are abused for biofuels instead of human food. And Amazon and other forests are being burned down to plant such seeds.

Biofuels to date comes always blended, engines are not able to operate on unblended biofuels without major modifications! There was another greenwashed development, where Lufthansa in cooperation with DB Schenker operated a 100% Carbon-Neutral cargo flight, offsetting the CO2 from unsustainable fossil fuels. As was openly discussed at and reported from COP26, offsetting is #greenwashing. It’s not in itself “green” but a sale of indulgences.

While we also planned with Biofuel when we developed the Kolibri business and financial plans, we back then already understood that as the only option then available and such the maximum step we could do to fly somewhat sustainable. But then I learned about

SynFuel (my choice)

Synkerosene, Powerkerosen, eKerosene, synfuel, powerfuel efuelJust about three years back, I stumbled across a report about, developing something they called SynFuel. I still use that word, whereas SynFuel is also called e-Fuel or PowerFuel. I do not like those two “modern” terms. As e-Fuel implies (I believe intentionally) “electric” (e-Mobility), which has nothing to do with it. And PowerFuel implies a higher power efficiency which as as missleading. So I file those namings under attemps for white- and greenwashing.

SynFuel by definition is Synthetic Fuel, refined by CO2 and Hydrogen. The name is program. So I encourage use of SynFuel and not those other names that are rather distractive.

Speaking to Sunfire back then, I triggered their understanding that aviation is a key target market for their SynFuel, which they originally envisioned as a Diesel-replacement. So I speak about SynFuel for the generic addressing of fuels, SynKerosene and SynDiesel for specific replacements.

SynFuel has been proven to be able to operate unblended, at 100%, both for cars, trucks, ships or aircraft. It might be noteworthy that the Hamburg SynFuel pilot facility at Hamburg Airport is said to not have been just opposed, but in fact boycotted by Lufthansa there. For the fear to be pushed towards it’s use, which they are not ready for. Unwilling. A clear sign about their real “sustainability interest”, which is pure greenwashing!

brown blue gray green SynFuelIn my opinion, SynFuel is the main, in fact the only candidate to replace fossil kerosene in aviation. At this time, the production of SynFuel requires quite some energy; 15.3kWh/liter. Energy that taken from the grid, especially in Germany with the worldwide highest grid cost, will make it very expensive. But.

But if you develop green energy sources and use those to refine SynFuel, you have several advantages. The energy cost drops drastically. You replace grid-power, which is not green, no matter what you “buy”. The demand for green grid power by far exceeds the supply today. So that’s just more greenwashing! Only green SynFuel is sustainable and Grid-Energy is not sustainable either!

It’s rather new, which might explain conservative politicians and industry leaders still holding on to the less sustainable e-mobility. Or wishful thinking like liquid hydrogen flying, which will not have any impact by 2030, realistically a lot later than 2050! And a meek excuse by most of our industry leaders to delay investment into real sustainability.

Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) – the Greenwashing Lie

When IATA commits to 2% blending of SAF into fossil fuels by 2030, that “SAF” is used to pretend sustainability. In IATAs definition, that includes both BioFuels, as well as any-colored SynFuel. If they would be honest, their commitment would require to amount for 2% net sustainability. Which in itself remains an embarrassment! Even on cars we have already E5 in most countries as a standard, E10 an option. And aviation commits to E2?

The only real SAF is 100% green SynFuel
meaning the source energy is green!

Even waste-to-liquid is not really SAF, as the waste often is not from sustainable sources. But experts agree so far that it is “circular” and helps to reduce the carbon-footprint. There it is more the waste-producing industry to replace i.e. fossil-based plastics with bio-degradable alternatives. Though I just had some lobbyist trying to convince me (seriously!) that plastic is good for climate…

Further Reading

I addressed this in The Road to Environmentally-Friendly Flying, which I work on to turn into a WhitePaper.

Where my WhitePapers are meant as articles I keep updating occasionally. Different from such posts, which reflect my knowledge, opinion and ideas at time of writing. They are also rather nice in review, seeing my head still being round, but my ideas mostly sound.

This all is

Food for Thought!
And as usual, comments, disagreement, discussion and ideas are welcome!

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The e-Mobility Lie

e-mobility Life Cycle Assessment Greenwashing Volkswagen AG

This weekend German ZDF’s planetⓔ released a documentary about the electric car myth subtitled revolution or barrel burst. In addition, there was an emphatic discussion about hydrogen and mobility on LinkedIn, with very noisy advocates for e-Mobility. So I just wanted to summarize from the documentary some findings that are quite in line with my understanding of the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma and the Road to Climate-Friendly Transportation (beyond flying). And why I consider e-Mobility a lie.

Don’t get me wrong. We need e-Mobility. No better solution for a household with  solar panels on the roof, a battery buffer and a range-demand that allows them to rely on the car. But.

Issue 1: The Batteries

Batterie Raw Materials

National Geographic - Lithium MiningAs you may remember, I keep referring to this article by National Geographic on the devastating cost of Lithium Mining. Lithium being to date the most important component for batteries. And the replacements ain’t any better! In addition, they need some rare minerals, the prices of which are exploding. Guess the “impact” if we replace not just some 100 thousands but millions of cars by electric. We talk about 56 million cars having been produced in 2019 world-wide.

Experts already worriedly question the viability of battery-powered cars and the overly optimistic believe that the battery prices will continue to fall. China is reported to secure world-wide Lithium deposits, European car makers demanding governments to do the same! It just got to public attention recently on the U.S.’s retreat from Afghanistan (source-sample).


Tesla on FireAnother issue that slowly reaches the public is the issue of batteries catching fire. First major reports were on the Samsung Galaxy 7 catching fire, forcing i.e. an entire airplane evacuation. But searching the Internet, you find also more recent reports aplenty. Also the Boeing 787 experienced a problem with it’s battery catching fire (fortunately on the ground). Attributed by experts to the attempts to miniaturize and push up the battery capacity beyond their “safe margins”. The scientific term used to distract the public attention is Thermal Runaway

Electric Car Fire - CoolingWorse, recently despite their relative low numbers, electric cars are increasingly reported to catch fire. Some at first loading at a standard, approved home loading facility, others while driving. Different from gasoline, a thermal runaway and the resulting battery explosions cause a much higher real danger to the cars passengers. And it does not help to distinguish the fire, but such car must be placed into a water tank for several days to cool down the batteries. And after a fire, such cars usually are beyond any recycling. The picture just one example of the many that can be found on the Internet.


eMobility Battery RecyclingIncorrect disposal of Li-ion batteries can have a devastating environmental impact on the environment, sparking the need for recycling (Source). But as the ZDF-report also questions, there is virtually no recycling yet and the recycling comes with a bunch of issues. Like non-standardized components and liability issues, that currently result in a very limited recycling. As mentioned in safety, those liability issues are expected to be quite an issue for anyone attempting recycling. And the missing standards resulting even in different battery packs within the model family of the car makers. Making it even harder to recycle them!

Issue 2: The Energy Consumption

Loading Infrastructure

Full eMobility Loading Stations
Oops. Sorry, all loading stations in use

Again, now today we have the loading stations for electric cars and they are not enough. With the family in “Car City” Braunschweig (Volkswagen), at our owned apartment, there neither are possibilities to load the cars, nor even nearby. Publicly accessible loading stations are usually for 1-2 cars. But what if all cars are electric. You simply got to be kidding, right?

I have personal reports from friends frustrated about their electric car about unavailable loading stations and long waiting times, but there are also many on the web, like this one. Now let’s imagine a parking house that must be equipped with electric vehicle charging stations for all cars? Then imagine, one of those cars catches fire from a thermal runaway…

And here we talk about an industry country like Germany. Now think about less privileged countries…?

Range and Refuel

The three biggest fears of our generationGerman Automotive Club ADAC just recently reported the average range of electric cars being about 350 km (220 miles), up from 250 km (150 miles) five years ago. Thinking about my role as an airline sales manager some years ago, for a road trip, I traveled frequently more than 500 km a day. Then I shall load the car after a half day, sitting around while waiting? Keep in mind, that corporate fleets and rental cars are the main buyers of new cars! And they don’t buy them because they park them most of the time…?

As mentioned before, then we talk about the loading infrastructure i.e. on highway truck stops. Just been stopping at one on one of the busiest German highways. With 8 lanes and 16 loading columns for fossil fuel, and two for electric cars. With two more already waiting in line.

It goes very much in line with the 3 biggest fears of our generation and the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma… Just in case you’re wondering why people still buy (and rent) mostly gasoline-powered cars.

Power Consumption

Power from the Plug GreenwashingThe new Volkswagen ID.4 uses 22.8 kWh per 100 km (Source ADAC). Considering a “typical” average range for a car of 10-15,000 km, we talk about 300 MWh/a. Given 48.2 million cars registered in Germany (German source), we would need about 15 Petawatthours (15,000 TWh/a) one year alone. Any green energy source for that? Germany used 545 TWh/a in 2020… In 2020, about 252 TWh/a were produced from “alternative sources” (aka. green). That would be enough for the power requirement for about 850,000  electric cars…? Reminder, there are 48 million cars roaming German streets.

And sure, all that power comes from the Jack. And sure, it’s all green? Just like German Rail.

The CO2-Saving Lie

Volkswagen ID.3 Life Cycle AssesmentLooking at Volkswagen’s own Life-Cycle Assessment, planetⓔ just compared the CO2 on a single car. And how they used a European basis to lower their CO2 impact, instead of using the German statistics, where the impact is worse than on a normal Diesel. So planetⓔ also understand that in order to reduce CO2 is an energy-challenge, we must reduce the energy consumption, all else is blissful ignorance, cognitive dissonance or simply an outright lie!

The e-Mobility Lie

Change Resistance (shutterstock_210479080 licensed)Like I found on the research for the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma, we must look at the complete picture. Taking a look at some 50 million cars, which is excluding trucks, at 30 tons CO2 on a 15 year life cycle we talk about 2 tons a year per car. Or 100 million tons of CO2 just in Germany. Make your own maths on Europe or the World.

So to make electric cars “sustainable”, green energy is needed. Which takes us back to the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma. And it confirms my opinion that while we must turn aviation climate friendly and start n.o.w.! There are a lot of other areas that all boil back to the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma. Good ideas mentioned by planetⓔ at the end of the report were needs to rethink transportation. The need to reduce the number of cars. Car sharing, better public mass transport systems, etc., etc. And to develop integrated transportation that works for both, the major cities everyone uses as the role model, but also the rural regions.

The Necessity for a Holistic View

outside-inAs I mentioned in my post about Flygskam, we have a very … strange? … view on aviation. As on sustainability. And I hope that journalists like planetⓔ, real impact investors and family office principals interested in real impact start more questioning those views. Stop “airline bashing” as addressed in Flygskam, stop worshipping the golden calf of e-Mobility and understand that we don’t have the luxury to do this or that, but that we need this and that!

Ready Player OneReady Player One? I love SciFi. There’s a lot really good ideas how we could merge individual transportation needs with “public” transportation. But that’s SciFi. We need to take the best ideas and evolve our transportation to sustainable ways in the real world. We must reduce energy. Integrate transport modes. Why does it remind me of the question why the big train stations are not at the airports? The “new” Berlin Airport being a perfectly bad example on this!

Greenwashing Demon (shutterstock_1170455851)
The Greeenwashing-Demon – it’s all about Electricity

But if we don’t solve the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma, if we don’t focus on ways to reduce energy, it’s all lip-services and greenwashing! And if you know investors who are interested to address this on an industrial scale and make real impact while making profit, I have a lot of ideas. Including profitable plans for myself and my industry, turning aviation environmentally friendly. But that’s only my part of the big picture. Though it covers already many complementary ideas we want to realize in other areas.

Food for Thought!
Comments welcome…

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Compulsive Narrative Syndrome – SciFi or Reality?

Shepherd, Joel - 23 Years on Fire

Reading another, new SciFi (my way to relax my brain) triggered with an idea (not scientifically proven) of the Compulsive Narrative Syndrome. Intriguing. And yes, quite in line with my own “experience”. So is it really “Science Fiction”?

Ain’t that how it works? An assumption, then the scientific proof (or disqualification)? And how much that started in SciFi do we see in action today?

If you like SciFi, maybe you find Joel Shepherd an interesting addition to your books collection. If you read German, the first part of the series is currently on sale (i.e. And no, no profit from such recommendation.

The Concept

Here’s the way the concept is described in the novel:

Shepherd, Joel - 23 Years on Fire introducing the Compulsive Narrative Syndrome.The human brain is trained to look for and identify patterns, but in abstract concepts, fixed and unarguable facts are hard to find. So the brain looks for narratives instead, stories that can tie together various ideas and facts in a way that seems to make sense, to make a pattern. And the human brain, always seeking a pattern as a basic cognitive function, will latch onto a narrative pattern compulsively, and use that pattern as a framework within which to store new information, like a tradesman honing his skill, or someone learning a new language.

That’s why religions tell such great stories, the story makes a pattern within which everything makes sense. A synchronicity of apparent facts. Political ideologies, too. Humans are suckers for a great story because we can’t resist the logical pattern it contains.

When you’re learning a new skill, discarding irrelevant information and organizing the relevant stuff within that framework is good. But in ideologies, it means any information that doesn’t fit the ideological narrative is literally discarded, and won’t be remembered . . . which is why you can argue facts with ideologues and they’ll just ignore you. They’re not just being stubborn, their brains are literally structurally incapable of processing what they perceive as pattern-anomalous data.

That’s why some ideologues get so upset when you offer facts that don’t match their pattern, it’s like you’re assaulting them.

From SciFi to Reality

Most my “novel” ideas ain’t mine. I just try to find practical applications.

The concept of the Hyperlook has long ago been visualized by Roger Leloup.1971 (yes, 40 years ago and as a kid) I became a fan of Roger Leloup, spending my pocket money on comics. And when Hyperloop became a buzz, I couldn’t help it to remember Leloup’s Vinean transport system.

We all know the Star Trek communicator. Ain’t that surprising similar to our today’s smart phones? With Google Translate, we can even talk to it, translating on the fly – and as far as I can tell, even German or English to Albanian works rather well. Not (yet) on previously unknown languages, but I believe we will get there.

ASRA 2008 brainnodes vs. internet equals AIAnd the buzz-topic A.I.? Aside the fact that all A.I. I learn of still is just I.A. – more or mostly less sophisticated Intelligent Algorithms. Back in 2008 I used that image of global nodes next to human brain synapses to question if we’re sure there’s no real A.I. yet. And if we’d recognize if there would be? By now, we talk about highly complex processors behind all of those nodes, the sheer computing power making it more likely by the day that our mighty Internet “wakes up”. Then we talk about i.e. Heinlein and Malcolm Croft or Athena?

And now comes a new, quite intriguing concept of the Compulsive Narrative Syndrome. Just SciFi? Or quite realistic in fact?

And Kolibri?

Go Carbon-Neutral This DecadeI just recently discussed our ideas for sustainable aviation. They are not new either. And more like a logical development from my first ideas about a hydrogen-powered WIG in 2008 as a n example to senior airline managers to think about sustainability. Then making use of current developments and understanding the merits of SynFuel. And thanks to discussions with Sustainable Aero Lab (thanks Mario!) leading to my understanding of the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma. But it’s in line with Ndrec and my believe in “social responsibility” and “sustainability” … beyond climate!

But while yes, our ideas could be “copied”, it took us more than a year and a joined effort incorporating the help of global subject matter experts, to make this a viable business plan. Yes, it can be copied, but with a steep and expensive learning curve. And we found “classic aviation managers” to be mostly blind on real “sustainability”. Having no idea about their Road to Environment-Friendly Flying, not even bothering about Social Responsibility or Sustainability. It’s a reason we plan with a team of open minded subject matter experts and not some famous names, except as advisors. And why we don’t plan taken over an existing airline with their expensive and inflexible and traditional process and thinking heritage.

Industry Scale Impact Investing

Kolibri - disrupt aviationTo make a real change, you need a team of entrepreneurs thinking outside the box. Way outside the box. But with an experience on pioneering work, overcoming the Bumps on the Road to Sustainability, making things happen. Because to change an industry, to change aviation, we also need investors with the might and the interest to support us doing the change.

It’s a sorry fact that mostly we hear lip-services and excuses, those investors sticking to their modus operandi, just adding ESGs for their own little greenwashing projects and playing things “safe” (known), else still focusing on quick financial returns. Invest in a bit *tech, add to the energy-dilemma, but ignore any industrial-scale change? Ain’t that what the Compulsive Narrative Syndrome addresses?

While Impact Investment is about making an impact first, while also making money, we talk about turning industries climate-friendly and socially responsible. While our plans sure secure the (risk-adjusted) ROI, the plans are long-term, bold and the startup investment is to start the journey (launch the airline) but we plan on a realistic decade for our goal of carbon-neutral (climate-friendly) flying. With sustainable and social responsible milestones and investments from the outset.

Cognitive Dissonance and the Compulsive Narrative Syndrome

So is the Compulsive Narrative Syndrome a source for Cognitive Dissonance? In my opinion it’s tightly linked. The Compulsive Narrative Syndrome the source for Cognitive Dissonance?

Food for Thought!
comments welcome…—

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And the #Greenwashing Continues

The Myth about Green German Rail

While we have sound plans to establish a profitable airline, planning to operate carbon-neutral, #greenwashing and lip-services dominate responses we get from “impact” investors, why our model cannot be supported. And the same what is heard and seen from politicians and public funds.

Now the last weeks, the “green strategy” is a big issue in the media. European Investment Bank claiming to be be the “Sustainability Bank”. The Mission Hydrogen 24 hour workshop. The reality check on to German Rail’s sustainability. Or the facts about the “global recycling champion” Germany. So let me summarize these reports. And call for any serious investors interested to make a true impact, to talk to us and learn the big impact we want to make. While establishing a profitable, future-focused airline.

German Rail & 100% Sustainable Power?

The Myth about Green German RailDon’t get me wrong, this ain’t new. There have been reports about this ever since they started their fake promotion about 100% sustainable power. But just this week, German Television did a reality check, with rather devastating results!

Just 61% of German Rail’s power comes from renewable energy. 28% come from coal and natural gas, where German Rail partly owns the latest built coal power plant, built against all public opposition. German Rail has long-year delivery contracts for atomic power. And only 33 out of 5,679 railway stations are powered from renewable energies, 0.5 % … And by 2038 (17 years from now) German Rail wants to increase the use of sustainable power to only 80%, targeting 100% only for 2050.

That excludes non-rail business, like Schenker logistics, clearly focusing on Dieseltrucks. Where container transport by rail is more than six times more ecofriendly than trucks. But having demolished most of the industrial accesses, parallel tracks and being delayed on major infrastructure projects like the European North-South rail axis, now backfires and cannot be remedied quickly.

ECB & EIB – the Sustainability Banks?

While we talk with impact investors, we do also understand the European Central and the European Investment Bank claiming to be “Sustainability Banks”. Talking with the very same investors being “naturally” and clearly interested in sustainable projects, we asked why they would not make use of those funds to complement an investment into Kolibri or other impact investments.

The feedback I get is painfully clear. They do not work with the EIB (or other government fund programs) for the bureaucratic process required to be “approved” as an investor. I have multiple statements that attempts to support the investment failed. Assumption being voiced that those funds again go to the big players and into unqualified “green projects” that are mostly about #greenwashing. That includes a claim that EIB funds new aircraft for the dinosaurs – without any requirement(s) for those aircraft or the airline to develop a strategy to reduce their carbon footprint.

I also reached out to one of the experts in my network, working closely with those banks and doing studies on their sustainability, asking why venture capital or family offices don’t work closer with such government funds: “But what you report from your interactions with public investors is true even for smaller and less ambitious projects and companies in that public VC funds invest only if the concept is validated by the market in one way or the other. In other words, only if someone else confirmed the commercial success elsewhere.

Germany – the Global Recycling Champion?

Reality is, that Germany is the global champion in export of plastic trash. Instead of a strict recycling regime, 80% of the trash collected from the recycling bins is being either exported or burned.

The drop in export results directly from China having stopped and banned the import of plastic trash. So now, the pictures of plastic from African countries dominate the respective stories about German “recycling”.

At the same time, the plastics industry is booming. And instead of developing sustainable packaging, the trend is clearly towards mixed-use, the known bad example being “Tetra Pak®“; a packaging made of several layers that make it exceptionally difficult to recycle. And the few recycling factories being more for greenwashing than for recycling any meaningful amounts of that stuff.

There was also a report on TV this week on Coca Cola and how they changed from the recycling glass bottles to throw-away plastic bottles and Aluminum cans. Which was the beginning of the end of bottle recycling. And how their lobbyists ever since fight any recycling requirements…

Aviation – the Scapegoat?

ContrailNow, how about “my industry”, how about aviation? And why is it constantly the scapegoat and blamed for global warming?

When the aviation industry claims that it’s only responsible for 2% of the CO2-emissions, this is also green-washing. As aircraft engines exhaust contains also other “greenhouse emissions” and many if not most not on ground level, but at high altitude. The “contrails” being a visual reflection that people “know” and can identify. Experts in a report about Airbus this week accounted the greenhouse emissions by aviation to 6%. Not much, but only 4% of the world population flies. And 6% is substantial.

So aside our plans to use to establish the infrastructure and certify the use of 100% synkerosene to fly carbon-neutral, we also understand the issue of the aircraft-engine exhaust will require further research into greenhouse-effects of the remaining exhaust. But which only can start, once we start flying “carbon-neutral”! And yesterday, I was challenged twice about synfuel and that we’d need to look at use of battery, hydrogen and fuel cells. Referring to a very academic presentation by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Josef Kallo of the German Aerospace Agency (DLR) about How to fly with Hydrogen, addressing fuel cells at the European Hydrogen Workshop by Mission Hydrogen GmbH (Ltd.).

See my recent blog about The Road to Environmentally Friendly Flying

Electric, Fuel Cells and other Aviation #greenwashing

Cheop's Principle: Nothing is ever finished on time and/or on budgetSpeaking with one of those “challengers”, he argued that in 10 years the first regional aircraft will fly on fuel-cells. Being “project planning”, I’d say better add 50% reserve to that, then we talk about 15 years. And personally I still doubt that time line. And then we will have aircraft with 10, 20 or maybe 30 seats. With a range of one to two hours. When we will have aircraft that transports 100 seat? Or ones that can replace the 150-250 seats used by the low cost airlines? When do we expect aircraft to transport 250-350 passengers long haul? Hiding behind “Research”? Science Fiction…

The argument given was that batteries and fuel cells will become more effective. Which I file under “cognitive dissonance“. What excess in miniaturization results in, we all experienced with the B787 batteries self-enflaming. Or the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 “fiasco”. Trying to mend the rules of physics is a true challenge. And that does not even cover the devastating ecological footprint not only of Lithium. If you want to wait for that to be resolved, we talk about “dirty” kerosene still in use in 20, 30 years!

And if that happens, our industry is worth being used as a scapegoat…

Change Happens – NOW!

Salzgitter AG ElektrolyzerSustainable economy and global warming are big issues today, but most that we see is lip services. An investor group just recently checked impact investments for the “real” impact. They reported about 4% of all investments having a quantifiable impact or quantifiable targets. Only 4%. All others to be #greenwashing. On the “impact programs” of the 100 largest companies in Europe they found not a single one having more than one or two percent impact to global warming. Most of them being “lighthouse projects” that are being developed inside a “bubble” that does not immediately impact the company. Mostly lip-services addressing already established programs, but don’t really change the existing processes.

One example mentioned being the Electrolyzer delivered to Salzgitter AG for delivering hydrogen to be used in their steel-making process. A “research project”, largely funded by the hydrogen program. And now, being still in research phase, trialing it’s impact, it’s a “lighthouse project”?

The Fight against #Greenwashing + Lip-Services

We choose to fly Carbon-Neutral in this decade
We choose to fly Carbon-Neutral in this decade

And today I was confronted again with “avoid flying” as the first and foremost advise to stop global warming. While people will fly, economy needs flight connections as well. What we need is to stop blaming aviation, but start changing it. And the governments and public funds won’t help, so we need bold investors with a mission to help establishing the environment that allows us to work together on the common goal. Clean flying. Flying without remorse. Flying with a conscious mind.

We choose to fly Carbon-Neutral in this decade. And do the other things. Not because they are fashionable and easy, but because they must be done. But we can’t do it alone, we need investors that are interested in more than greenwashing their conscience, but the ones supporting the real thing. Investors that understand this is a big deal, it’s disruptive, it’s a journey. A journey that needs conviction, founders with the commitment and vision to make it happen…

Food for Thought
Investors welcome!


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