20 years back. I just got reminded by a friend, I had already missed it.
Before, it was always “co-located” space. Thanks to Jens (a good friend ever since) and support by Yves Weisselberger, CEO of KDS (my employer back then), I took control of my Internet.
Does make me wonder, who remembers that milestone… And that first logo. Where I painted a “calligraphy”-like computer with a digital airplane, reflecting my conviction that aviation goes digital. Learning Logo-Design rules: Color. Font. Scalability. Too often confronted with logos failing on one of those at least. i.e. dark background? Browser-bar icon (favicon)?
First Webpage 1994 (thanks to Oliver Dietzel). First own domain (CheckIn.com) 1995. First commercial Internet travel bookings (ab)using Amadeus 1996 (Siemens Travel Net/Cytric). Honorary Member of the Editorial Board for ITB Travel Technology Congress 1999-2002. Exclusive speaker at the first ever ACTE event (a three-city roadshow) in Germany 2001.
First work on climate-neutral aviation 2008. Airport Ops, disruption and deicing management 2012.
Working on Regional Aviation Startups, due diligences, learning the faults, developing an idea that ultimately lead to Kolibri.
Discussing about the individual impact we make, the topic gains interest. What is your own, personal net-impact to our planet? So I decided to summarize some of the posts and comments I had on the topic on LinkedIn.
In line with previous posts about #lipservices, #cognitivedissonance and #wishfulthinking. And a #realitycheck for others, claiming “sustainability” that they do not deliver upon.
Self-Esteem over Sustainability
A clear article on it was today’s post by SEDO-founder Tim Schumacher Search: “People should only be classed as billionaires when they remove a billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.” referring to the CNBC article questioning the sustainability investments of Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX) and Bill Gates (Microsoft founder).
In my comment, I emphasized that we need no ESG, but #sustainabilityaccounting. And much of what I see from these and other investors is showing their response to their conscience, focusing their activities on things they understand, but also things that have an impact to their self-esteem. And there was also this Open Letter to Bill Gates, reflecting on his #cognitivedissonance or #lipservices. I believe it’s simply cognitive dissonance. Keep in mind, these people also live in their social (media) bubble.
Yesterday, there was a report about industry leader/face James Hogan, former CEO of Etihad, caught in the act, trying to circumvent the Corona rules in place. It underlined my post two weeks ago, that we have airlines skipping pre-flight corona-testing regime. A disservice to an industry trying very hard to make flying safe! I’m sure he regrets that idea now, not having considered the repercussions of being caught.
#cognitivedissonance: While flying itself may be safe, passengers aren’t! Anyone claiming flying to be “safe” shall better keep in mind that the virus spreads and new variants keep spreading by travelers. Also and a lot pre-tested passengers are infected but not yet positive, they then spread the virus in their destination.
Then, let me talk about the decision makers at European Investment Bank (EIB). Claiming to be the European Sustainability Bank. In a conference by Geneva Macro Labs, I asked their head of climate office Elina Kamenitzer on her claim that they do green investments: Are there any success stories that proof the impact, the “impact” targets achieved ever since? Well, no. They “have to look into that now.” It’s about time.
I also reached out to my now ex-point of contact in EIB, about a co-investment into our impact plans. With (a cheap) reference to their Roadmap and the decision there to not finance conventionally fueled aircraft (page 102), he disqualified any investments into aviation. In utter ignorance of what I believe he understood (I did remind him), that we have plans that are not aircraft-funding related. But i.e. development into a synfuel-ecosphere. Our plans cover all of the 17 SDGs, mostly with quantifiable targets that we sure plan to exceed on. If you’re convinced to do the right thing, that comes as a natural.
But that ain’t what the bureaucrats at EIB look at, is it?
So back to the article topic:
What is Your Impact?
There is a petition against greenwashing on Change.org I urge you to sign! Discussing on that one, we had several discussions on how to define greenwashing. Whereas family office principals told me ESG would be the role model for greenwashing. A good idea, meanwhile abused. There may be some investors who understand the meaning of it. But not many.
It is the same about claims to be “sustainable”. Another family office principal told me, that out of the 2020 impact investments, only 4% were having clear impact to improve on SDGs. 96% were disqualified as they just claimed without goals and targets but simple claims misreading the causes. Nice if you plan SDG5 Gender Equality on your hiring process, but without clear targets on how to improve. Or if you abuse SDG9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure for your “innovative IT project”.
Only Net Impact is Real Impact
We came to the conclusion that real impact is about net impact. And that “impact” is about reduction of the strain we put on the planet. To reduce power consumption by 10% but planning to increase the total power needs by 30% is intentional abuse of the sustainability claim.
There are many good examples out there, beyond what we plan at Kolibri. But we speak a lot with investors that want to cash-in on us before we launched. And investors, investing little money into small projects, more like a philanthropy, but an impact investment. Paying for a clean conscience, paying for their other daily sins. I just told one of the family office principals. We are looking not for those classic investors. We are targeting the family office space, as there are more investors than elsewhere wo take sustainability to heart. Who focus on it. Who are understanding that an impact investment might not be as profitable as i.e. Bitcoin. But it’s the right thing to do. And
Impact Investment ain’t philanthropy. Do good and make money!
So this time, not just Food for Thought, but a clear question:
Following impact investing, I am recently flooded with information about wind parks. Examples from today reporting on South Korea, Ukraine, the United States. With examples aplenty from Germany and other regions flooding in. Now what triggers my concern on this is that early on, I learned the butterfly example in Chaos Theory:
If we build all those super-scale windfarms, how will that impact. We didn’t mind about the little impact our local tinkering with nature would have, starting use of crude oil, plastics, herbicides, etc., etc. – someone has a great idea how to improve our lives… Are we ever having “the bill” in mind?
Thinking about Kolibri, I already think about the contrail of synfuel. While improving the situation compared to crude-oil-kerosene, to shift towards synkerosene is just a first step. Must be a first step only. And as my network emphasized that blockchain is good and only bitcoin uses tons of CO2-resources to be mined, those supporters fail to have read about the increasing impact of “data centers” and discussion on how much CO2 a mere e-Mail we keep stored produces.
The other issue I see on “classic” impact investment is the focus on quick solutions. Is it better to “delist” entire industries or is it better to invest into disruptors and changemakers?
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?
Don’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?
Now, 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 Kolibri.aero 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.).
Electric, Fuel Cells and other Aviation #greenwashing
Speaking 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!
Sustainable 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
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…
Electric? Hydrogen? All the aviation associations promote going “green” 2040. Or beyond. Whereas the technology for the first step is here.
Being asked on my baby KOLIBRI.aero on why we don’t wait for electric planes or hydrogen planes, my answer is simple. They are fog-screens, intentional distractions allowing the airline to hold on to them to avoid really addressing the issue! To avoid Change. This can be brought down to very easy to understand examples.
The Fairy Tale of Electric Passenger Flights
Boeing dropped out of funding Zunum, having the plans to develop an electric air plane. Because there is a simple, physical challenge that they cannot overcome. The battery size. Reducing the battery size, Boeing learned the lesson with the 787 Dreamliner. Where internal batteries caught fire. Would that have happened inflight, you can imagine the catastrophic impact. They had reduced the size vs. capacity to the point where batteries happen overheat. Especially rechargeable ones that we talk about it here. It is rumored and I heard it from Boeing, that their engineers disqualified electric passenger planes beyond 35, maximum 50 seats. The max size Zunum targeted, but with a range of one flight hour, maximum 90 minutes.
There may be developments that may one day increase battery capacity while reducing the size, but they are wishful thinking as of today.
The Fairy Tale of Hydrogen Powered Passenger Flights
The very same issue is it about hydrogen powered passenger flights, Airbus recently promoted as their “Zero-Emission Aircraft”. Again, the physical challenge.
To put into those aircraft cooled hydrogen tanks with the related cooling makes those tanks very bulky. In fact, sources inside Airbus have been cited assuming 50% or more of the fuselage (cabin and freight compartment) to be needed to build in the hydrogen needed to operate the aircraft 60 to maximum of 90 minutes. Unpressured (uncooled) Hydrogen does not have the needed energy.
That is, why those airplanes Airbus showed in the picture are also small aircraft, with about 50% less seating of a comparable aircraft those sizes today. Another wishful thinking and fog screen if you ask me.
Electric + Hydrogen Electric – a Summary
There is a very interesting summary on electric (and hydrogen-electric) flight in a 45-minute YouTube video:
Generally it confirms my opinion, that we won’t have any substantial development in time for any meaningful impact on the climate goals. With first liquid-hydrogen prototypes expected by the research experts by 2035 to 2040 and first commercial operations likely 10 years faster. See my summary from an expert panel in the comments. A bit late for a 2050 impact?
And electric will start with small air taxi-type services of 15-20 passengers. And while that is a good development, it will only replace (and enable) very small regional routes. Can you imagine 5-10 slots an hour at any of the larger airports to be burned by such small planes?
It will very likely take beyond 2050 until we will see any of the 100 or 200 seat aircraft flying commercially on either technology. Bullocks. Just more #greenwashing …?!
The Road to Carbon Neutral
Developing Kolibri, from the outset we thought about using contemporary aircraft allowing us to use bio-fuel. Though bio-kerosene must be “blended”. Must be mixed at least one to one with the classic, dirty kerosene. Often, it is mixed like “E10” gasoline, only 10% “bio”. It’s not uncommon to have a 10-20% blend only, using 80-90% classic Jet-A1. Whereas the “bio” comes mostly from rape seed monocultures (picture), having already it’s own negative impact on bioversity. That ain’t “clean”, nor “sustainable”.
Hydrogen – a volatile gas
From my work on a solar powered WIG 2008, replacing it’s diesel-engine with an hydrogen-engine, I understood hydrogen as the future. Clean electrolysis using solar power (and wind, bio mass and other sustainable energy sources) and salted water, whereas desalination facilities produce the surplus salt to augment seawater to the level needed for the electrolysis. So sunny regions with access to seawater have a “natural advantage” to develop the infrastructure to create hydrogen.
Now hydrogen is exceptionally volatile, even in special tanks, the losses are substantial, so it’s not easy to transport. Now…
Two years ago Sunfire’s Synfuel triggered my attention, from a National Geographic report – not reported in Germany, but in the U.S. … I instantly understood synfuel a perfect solution to replace our plans to invest in expensive electric and hydrogen powered ground fleet, still with the need to have Diesel-powered trucks and emergency generators in an airline, with syndiesel. And to develop into synkerosene to replace biokerosene.
Developed since, Sunfire with partners started a construction of a synkerosene facility in Oslo, Norway. No, not in their home-country Germany, but in Norway. Norway is not full member of the EU, “only” an associated country. Make your guess, why not inside the EU… Maybe Ursula von der Leyen’s implied quote below gives you a hint.
Aside, synfuel can be used quite easily as a buffer technology, using excess power to create synfuel during peak times and using it in common and tried power generators to recreate energy in low times. Until we have something better, Syngas is a clean energy source that can make us independent of crude-oil for power generation. a technology that can create a future for many “poor countries” in the “tropical belt”, the tropic (red) and subtropical zones (yellow), as their surplus of solar energy is way higher than what the northern hemisphere has in the temperate to polar zones.
The Fairy Tale of the End of the Combustion Engine
And while German transport minister Andreas Scheuer demands the end of the combustion engine by 2035, I can only interpret this as another short-sighted publicity stunt. A distraction and a fog screen! By a minister who’s not known for his realism. Combustion technology will still be around a while, cars having a lifetime of minimum 10 years. Other technologies like aviation, simply lack an alternative for now. And while privileged nations can likely afford the switch, less privileged regions will rely on combustion engines for a great number of reasons and even more years.
Making the Change
So while we make again big plans in Northwestern Europe, developing synfuel facilities in the “poor South” makes a lot of sense. Developing synfuel facilities at airports will be an incubator for the regional conversion from classic gasoline to synfuel. Developing a new “regional” airline with the large demand of synfuel, will make the development a profitable venture. A classic win-win.
So anyone believing in electric passenger planes is daydreaming, or whitewashing why they don’t invest to become clean. A distraction, a fog screen. The same is true for purely hydrogen-powered planes.
But anyone who wants to make a change, can do so today. Modern aircraft engines are ready to apply 100% synfuel. Or so Sunfire, Norsk-e-Fuel and an engine maker assure me. Synfuel created from hydrogen and carbon-dioxide. Not carbon-positive, but yes, carbon-neutral. Proven tech. Today.
And we have a business plan, and we have the interest to make this happen. Starting today and being carbon-neutral within this decade. If not faster.
I’ve started to write this as a part of my post on Impact Investing vs. Whitewashing, but I decided to take this into it’s own article and only summarize and refer to it. This article addresses the known ideas about clean flying and why I believe there is a lot of whitewashing and intentional delaying. But if you want to go carbon-neutral for a start, the technology is there. Even with the bureaucratic hurdles, we can start flying carbon-neutral within a matter of three to five years. The challenge is the speed we can secure the funding to build the necessary facilities.
Investors interested to turn aviation carbon-neutral, here is our reasoning which technology you should look at. And why helping us making this happen will be disruptive. Not because noone else could do it, but because to succeed you need the right people who want to do it, not the ones considering it disrupting their plans…
“But how about electric flying?” you might ask? Yes, how about it? In December 2013, a battery on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner caught fire. It was later attributed to a “design flaw”. Yes, Boeing had quite some trouble even before the MAX-disaster.
In 2016, the Samsung Galaxy S7 batteries happened to explode. It was found that a manufacturing defect in the phones’ batteries had caused some of them to generate excessive heat, resulting in fires and explosions. And as much as they research possibilities, there are no ideas yet how you can “minimize” batteries (size and weight) further without risking them overheating. But given existing battery size and weight, the battery will only allow for very short flights with relatively few passengers. Commercial flying over two, three hours? You got to be kidding…
I find Zunum’s story (their jet pictured here) quite interesting. From Wikipedia: “In November 2020, Zunum Aero filed a lawsuit against Boeing alleging that Boeing tried “to gain access to proprietary information, intellectual property” and then used its dominance “to delay and then foreclose” Zunum’s operation, “in order to maintain its dominant position in commercial aviation by stifling competition”, using this proprietary information “to provide a hybrid-electric propulsion system for a different aircraft design” with Safran. Zunum said that Boeing tried to poach Zunum’s engineers.”
Electric Flight is a nice idea, but without a breakthrough in batteries, in my opinion it’ll be too inflexible a niche market and in best case need 10-20 years of active development to come up with a sizeable aircraft for mass transportation. And then there is the devastating ecological footprint of the mining of the needed Lithium, Nickel, “rare earths”, that experts expect to become a likely killer issue for Tesla – now thinking about battery-powered flying?
Many of you remember that back in 2008 I worked with investors and potential climate-sensitive customer we worked on a hydrogen-powered WIG (wing in ground). Combining the then existing research platform SeaFalcon with a common hydrogen-engine and refining hydrogen from solar power. Back in the days, we got a viability study funded to work out the business case based on Maldivian Air Taxi. Very successful business case in fact. Then came Lehman and we never further followed up on it, something I regret to date. Back 2009/10, we could have proved the business case for carbon-free flying.
But I also learned the downsides of Hydrogen, disabling it for large aircraft. Say what? Didn’t Airbus not just promote their vision of hydrogen-powered planes? Just the required cooling and/or pressure tanks for any sizeable aircraft sure is a challenge.
On the picture I found it interesting to see the focus on small aircraft and how much of that they already assume to be used for the hydrogen-tanks… Given Corona, I doubt they will give this the focus to keep the development timeline at 2030 (ten years). And I believe this is just another case like Boeing on e-flight, a means to proof failure to justify continuation of “dirty flying”. I doubt their managements real interest in clean flying!
Synkerosene – Hydrogen reloaded
Since I learned about Synfuel in early 2019, I understood that quickly as true impact, a disruptive technology. Given it’s “circular” nature, it will not provide “clean flying as quickly. But carbon-neutral flying and substantially less side products in the exhaust. Then I was surprised recently that Sunfire had secured a joint venture as Norsk e-Fuel, building an “industrial-sized facility” in Oslo. Okay, their annual output I learned is rather small, only 25% of what we assume as need for an all-synkerosene fleet at our bases, enough for seven regional aircraft.
But yes, we believe that given Synkerosene can transform all existing fleets in a matter of years. Starting with Synfuel for company cars, energy generators beyond emergency, but also as a buffer for the solar power needed for a 24/7 operation will require a large sized facility at our headquarters. Developing the plans and securing the funding for the large-sized facilities needed at the bases, we expect first bases to be 100% carbon neutral realistically within three to five years. But only, if we get it started. If we overcome lip-services, white- and greenwashing but join forces with investors interested doing the real deal.
Now back to the investor who told us this week that we’d not be innovative enough. I don’t care to be innovative. I want to use innovation available to make a change. A real one.
Challenge: Three years to the first carbon-free base. Ten years for all bases to be carbon-free. And looking at 10 years, this will be profitable development! Real IMPACT INVESTING.
The Truth About ZERO-Emission
Synkerosene is not emission-free. But even Airbus “Zero-Emission” is a lie! Sure there will be emissions, though using hydrogen, it will mostly by H2O, simple water.
Synkerosene is refined from hydrogen and carbondioxide (CO2 + H2). The chemical components of the engine exhaust must be researched and we expect a journey to further optimize the exhaust. Amateurish ideas are a catalyzer. I was also introduced to a team working on a contrail-free engine. If I understood that right, they use ammonia (NH3), but how that then impacts the high altitude atmosphere?
Yes, there are questions that will demand answering. But Synfuel is an answer available now. And it is definitely much better than the crude-oil product. Not only for aviation, but also for all those used cars with combustion engines around the world! And be real, the number of e-powered cars is rather limited, both e- and hydrogen-powered cars are quite a bit more expensive if you don’t build your own infrastructure.
There is a very strong force of inertia in aviation about turning “green”. Like other problems in aviation management, such as their disbelieve in branding, the resulting focus on “cheap” as the sole difference and a missing loyalty for partners and employees alike. that, plus missing USPs made airlines a running gag about ROI. But as in all other industries, you cannot expect change and disruptions with blind managers. You need vision.
A real impact investment, with managers that breath “impact” and commit themselves “naturally” to the U.N. SDGs will be countering the greed-driven likes of Ryanair or others, saving on the backs of their employees, their customers, the airports and regions they serve to maximize their evil impact. And their profits. Especially their senior managers’ profits. Everyone complains about Ryanair, then why do people fly them? Why do airports and regions fund their “semi-legal” (illegal) subsidy schemes? Why does no-one divest to stand up to them? Why don’t they name and shame them? Why still investing in them?
Or look at Lufthansa, securing for the group more than 10 billion bailout, grounding Germanwings as they’re too expensive, firing their staff aplenty, grounding airplanes. The bailouts multiple their worth before the crisis, what is left of the formerly proud crane? And guess, one day they have to repay all those debts. At least they use those with professional care. Will they invest into anything “sustainable”? Their government did not bother to require something like that. And accusing the pandemic, I was told they oppose the development of the Synkerosene-pilot in Hamburg. That being likely the reason the German-lead Joint-Venture to develop a first industrial-sized facility chose Oslo instead…?
But yes, at KOLIBRI.aero we have the understanding of the necessity to make an impact. To disrupt aviation to force them to become “green” and sustainable. And keep in mind that for decades, aviation was a growth market. And will be. The demand is there.
Impact Investment or Whitewashing – What is it?
I do believe that we will find family offices and may even trigger the interest of some of the institutional investors. Maybe even EU monetary bodies might understand the impact we can make. And different from existing players, we neither have Corona debts, nor do we have “hidden agendas” or different plans. We want to do this. Do you?
And if you’re no (real) impact investor reading this, but one of my many friends and followers, please share this.
I am very, very happy that I started speaking to Family Offices and regret that the Pandemic forced a reschedule of one event and kept me from attending another this week. But I am grateful to be allowed attending the first Family Office virtual conferences. It’s a rather steep learning curve. I am grateful for any event reference or invitation that I got and hopefully will still get.
Given today’s jabbering by the EU Commission (Mme. von der Leyen) that they – wow – will reduce the CO2 to 55% of the 1990-level … Oh wow? Shall I be impressed? Or cry? EU parliament would have been okay with 60% the news say. But even as is, this “deal” is full of small-print and not really worth the paper it’s written on.
We must be better to make an impact. And we better stop lip-services, white- and greenwashing but address the issues we can address today. Or this expert saying we’re way too late is right.
Though this is totally in line with my initial experience about “impact investing”. Lots of talk and lip services, with little substance too. Hard to find the ones that believe that this is something real.
And what industry is more in desperate need for a sustainability makeover. And having the chance for it?
Aviation Impact Investment
… a Barrel Burst?
While we have clear plans to become Carbon-Neutral in realistically in three to five years, you got to start. And an “impact investor” told me this week that we are too little innovative. Really?
The EU plans give airlines 15 more years to fly dirty. Yes, that is a barrel burst! You got to be kidding me. But sure, it’s completely in line with German and European aviation lobbying, managed well by Lufthansa, Ryanair and the likes. Lufthansa, the airline with the single-largest bailout package in Europe but with virtually no ties attached, especially none about job saving or evolution into turning “green” and flying clean(er). And in Hamburg I heard the synkerosene pilot suffered from disinterest by Lufthansa, aside of a single carbon-neutral flight by Lufthansa Cargo. A nice example of greenwashing!
I’ve summarized the possibilities to turn aviation carbon-neutral for a start (and what comes then) into another article Clean Aviation Whitewashing and the Real Deal, which I publish simultaneously with this article. But the Future of Clean Aviation is Now. It just needs someone with a real interest to start the process. No talking, no lip-services, no whitewashing, but the real deal! With a real ROI.
Impact Investment in IT & AI … What Impact?
There is a lot of buzz ongoing about Impact Investment in IT and AI. Whereas I just wrote about Big Data & AI, feedback from family offices principals recently confirm my assumption. Of one emphasizing that ESG “tools” are usually a means to white- and greenwash family offices’ IT investments. And as I posted that on LinkedIn, got a lot of feedback from other family office principals that IT hardly makes a real impact by itself. It’s simply a profit-focused investment, mostly just improving existing processes or digitalizing them.
There also was a discussion this week about “decision making AI” or “decision support IT”. From my aviation background, I see IT as an important support tool. One that improves productivity, but more important safety. I do not see an IA-tool taking more than a supportive role at the time being. But I see a lot of claims that direction, which I can only consider white- and greenwashing.
It’s a Trust Thing
In my opinion, there is no “impact investing” if you don’t find the right managers with a mindset to leave the beaten path and find profitable developments in the industry. For KOLIBRI.aero we don’t just think about carbon-neutral aviation. Or some solar parks. We think beyond! We understand it’s our duty to make an impact. Investing into our people and the regions we serve. To foster gender equality, diversity and to develop a future beyond our own. In turn, KOLIBRI.aero addresses not two or three, but all 17 of the U.N. Sustainability Development Goals.
In the overall plans, there is one issue being in the U.N. SDGs and EU’s TEN-T, regional connectivity at affordable price. Going carbon-neutral is more important on that in our opinion, but there are obstacles that must be overcome, that is a journey. Decently paid, qualified jobs and ongoing, structured training to fight against poverty. Ideas aplenty on how to establish a disruptive airline, that shows how sustainable aviation can be. If you look outside the box. If you embrace “sustainability”, even the notoriously loss-making scapegoat aviation can change.
The Quick and Dirty
On the other side – and back to the topic of my previous article, Big Data and AI provide quick success stories. So much easier to use those for white- and greenwashing. But real impact investment may not be so sexy, it may take a longer breath. To turn around our world is a journey, no sprint. It’s why even UBS recently confirmed in a webinar that family offices are more likely the ones truly investing into impact. Because they think long-term. About family impact across generations. Not as politicos or banks or “institutional investors” and venture capitalists in quick, maximized returns, happily overlooking the negative impacts for an improved profitability.
… or The Neverending Story
A German investor this week told me: “There is too little change in what you’re doing.” That investor referred to either air taxi or hyperloop. Whereas I’ve often enough expressed my concerns about air traffic control taking individual mobility into the third dimension and into potential conflict with commercial (and military) aviation. Just thinking about the increasing drone-warnings disrupting airport operations the past year. That is a very long way to go.
The same for hyperloop, which may connect high-density routes, similar to (German) Transrapid in China. Will this be more successful? The concept is around for more than half a century. And I don’t like the pipes over ground, even Roger Leloup planned them underground. I’ve written more than a year ago in the #flygskam Reality Check about it and about the so much smaller footprint an airport has.
… Academic Thinking – Research Forever
Global CO2 emissions dropped by 7%, with 11% in Europe due to Corona. Especially aviation reduced due to the lockdown by 22% global, some regions by 30%. But those are expected to come back quickly (Source).
Now the EU says it turns the European Investment Bank into a Climate Bank. And they will focus on research. Or to give the dinosaurs a facelift. Maybe it makes more sense to look for ideas to apply the research results to the real world? Why is it that German Transrapid only runs in China, European Skype is now U.S. Microsoft, the first industrial Synkerosene-facility is being build in Norway (EU associated)? Examples aplenty. We research but we’re utterly incompetent turning research into practical products.
People should take rail the politicos wrote. Yeah, I can see Merkel spending a day to travel from Berlin to Brussels. An interesting LinkedIn post, and German Tagesschau reports “Strategy falls short of what is possible and necessary”. A carbon-neutral aviation we plan on existing technological solutions for 2025, latest 2027 for Kolibri and by 2030 operating +200 aircraft carbon-neutral.
It’s embarrassing! Why does everyone find reasons not to invest in large-scale change? No, it is not quick, requires industrial site funding, but it’s about real change! Which in turn would apply pressure on the “establishment” to get their butts up and move. Get out of your comfort zone and make a change.
And whoops again. But they work with Black Rock, a company with a very bad reputation, funding most of the dirty stocks in the world. But on the other side, Black Rock may have started their journey to change? Maybe the money divested may be well invested into those change makers?
Corona is a testing time for about everybody. But also an opportunity for new methods and thinking to rise.
Impact Investment for better ROI!
Though also notable, there is a bad misinterpretation that impact investment would mean low ROI. I think our business concept for Kolibri is looking at very competitive ROI at a residual risk below other investments. But it is so much easier to accuse impact investment to justify one owns look the other direction, right?
Impact Investment ain’t Philanthropy. Invest into the future and benefit from it!
And as real impact investment gains support and more and more investors look at their investment portfolio and clear out the dirt, suddenly your “max-ROI”-investment in crude oil, guns or other “bad investments” will turn foul on you. Investment into the main investor in “bad business”, namely Black Rock will backfire on your own reputation. So Black Rock will likely recognize the headwinds and start divesting too? Not to be caught in the fray.
Funds, Indices, Shares or what?
Well, it’s always easy to invest into existing business. Buying in on indices or major shares, you don’t need to understand anything beyond their “performance” and “marketing message”. If they wash well enough, they might appear shining green or white, right?
As if we did not learn the very recent lessons from German Property Group, Wirecard? On a report that week, a Shortseller mentioned that the higher the interests and dividends, the likelier they are on a rush against the wall. So they look at those stocks first. As do greedy investors…
My very personal experience includes working for a company that became one of the “New Market winners” when they entered the stock market. Happened, after a short flash in the pan, they ended up a penny stock.
The “typical” aviation investment is aircraft funds. Whereas KPMG valued them at an average 4% return in 2019, look at all those assets now. Liabilities in most cases, because they had and have no USP. And even back in 2019, the big aircraft lessors being well established with the airlines made good returns, but many funds also underperformed or failed completely.
Shareholder value got a very bad reputation, didn’t it? As if all shareholders would believe in Max-ROI? How about some long-term benefits, how about impact, sustainability and a return that is above the inflation rate and what your bank pays? But that is to my experience and observations the normal “manager type” our world suffers from. Maximizing the own short-term remuneration and bonuses, leaving a wreck behind. Back to IT-investments?
… or what?
Especially thinking about impact investment, we need long-term thinking. Something bank managers, institutional investors and venture capitalists fail to provide. We need people thinking in decades, in generations. We need Family Offices, private investors. And we need company managers, entrepreneurs, founders thinking not in three years at max ROI, but in 10 years and a real ROI, including but beyond monetary. Maybe at a much better ROI than those straw-fire-startups burn up?
What Impact Do You Target?
What’s the “Impact” you want to make? Is Tesla truly the future? Or is it more hydrogen? How about impact on poverty? Why not investing in “developing countries”, poor countries? Giving them the infrastructure and tools to develop themselves. Another German history lesson. While the leading industry nations cannibalized German technology, machines, entire factories, it left a void in it’s wake. A void that was filled with the help of the Marshall Plan leading Germany into the Wirtschaftswunder.
The investments back in those days did nottarget the surviving companies, but enabled startups. The remains of those funds are known as KfW, Germany’s Bank for Reconstruction.
Impact vs. Whitewashing
My final topic today is to take a look at the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or U.N. SDGs.
Good Health & Wellbeing = biotech, right? Every biotech something claims to be SDG3, even the pharma-giants o chem-giant BASF.
Or Decent work and economic growth also used a lot for good argument to be “sustainable”. The Real Estate industry talks a lot about their focus on 9 and 11. Those are just the ones I see a lot “abused”. But also tech companies claiming sustainable under 3 ,4, 5 and 10… Be careful if someone tells you they’d be “sustainable” under consideration of the SDGs.
I like the approach of some family offices very much, that they qualify the real impact. Over time, what is the change. Targets, Milestones. And understanding that real change takes real efforts.
This is a slide from a presentation by Dan Ariely from 2013, which I used first time 2016. Though I wrote also in 2013 my article about Big Data. I used it by chance in a video conference call and it triggered that there is enough new developments again to readdress big data and AI and what’s cooking for 2021 again.
Big Data is Still Like Teenage Sex
Searching for the phrase again, there is a lot of controversy about that slide. Claims that Big Data no longer would be like teenage sex, but serious business. Reading some of the controversies, I can put them all under #wishfulthinking and #cognitivedissonance. Because in most cases Big Data remains a “sales issue”, with little substance.
Aviation + Big Data
Working in aviation, the industry was the leader in “big data management”. SABRE managed inventory and fares from the late 60s, more than half a century now and for the younger ones, that was before the World Wide Web saw the light of the day in 1994.
Developing CheckIn.com and compiling the statistical aviation data needed, I wrote about The Numbers Game and other articles, addressing the lack of contemporary data quality in aviation. The current crisis did proof the points. While we have a lot of “flown data”, passenger data triples in with a delay of two months. For CheckIn.com the updates are done on the annual numbers (most on monthly levels). They dribble in slowly until April, very few late-comers in May. Quite a few airports to date have (lame) excuses why they don’t publish monthly figures.
Looking at the different sources, the numbers still differ between airports, ACI, OAG, government statistics (i.e. DESTATIS, EuroStats), you name them. The published monthly numbers oftendo not sum up to the published total. And we talk about the KPI in the industry, the passenger numbers…? IT’s embarassing that SITA, ACI and others can’t come up with a live availability.
SITA + A-CDM
Looking at A-CDM, SITA keeps talking about the Source of the Most Common Truth. They decide, who knows best. And it often ain’t Mama. My friends at Dubai Technology Partners have a tool to manage the messages that are not standard compliant and also to manage the data discrepancies resulting from those. Excuse me? We have industry players spending time, money and people to manage the airports, airlines and other players not working with consistent data today? Even within the airport, airport operations centers are necessary to make sure the players are working on the same information?
Amazon, Google, Facebook & Co.
The only ones I see that manage their big data are actually Amazon, Google, Facebook. Recently learned that for any click on Amazon, they collect some 150 variables on their user. It’s frightening. Then they put you in boxes. Me? In a box? Me, an advocate for #thinkoutsidethebox …
Back in their early days I remember the Google boss said their goal to be not to wait for you to look for a job, but to offer you the right job proactively based on their knowledge of your interests and abilities. Yes, I happen to find that frightening. And by the way, since I cancelled my Prime membership, while I still use it to look for the available selection, but then look on the web for other sources and guess what, so far, there is very little that I needed to buy at Amazon, most I could buy elsewhere, usually with substantial cost savings.
It’s a Trust Thing
In the early 2000s, I was actively supporting e-Mail SSL-encryption, using a service by SSL-provider Thawte. Their motto has settled in me: It’s a Trust Thing. Which is a human thing. And from years of experience I don’t trust “data”. Data does not look you in the eye, it does not understand grayscale, data is Zero or One. Black or White.
I use Ecosia as my search engine, doing something good and didn’t regret that yet. I use Tor Browser a lot, not because I have something to hide, but why should I tell companies I don’t know about my preferences? I have an Android phone, but it’s not linked to my PC’s Google and I don’t use the Google Drive – no, I do not trust U.S. companies to keep my data secret. So we use Nextcloud (with OnlyOffice for document sharing). I use LinkedIn still for lack of better option(s), but not just Russia is an example this link is useless. I don’t use Facebook any more, except for linking to friends I might want to inform once we get KOLIBRI.aero running. And you won’t see “Google Analytics” on any of my websites, but Matomo on-premise. Overall, I see the big data giants more hostile than helpful, more for the lazy users, there are better solutions out there having less impact on my privacy.
And then they promote data security, but how comes that we read about the law enforcement officials identifying criminals from WhatsApp feeds? I thought that would be secure? There is very little public discussion how far governments are allowed in their surveillance.
So is Big Data a Good Thing?
Is Big Data really something good? Or is it like the saying from the early 1980s: 1984 was already back in ’77. Just no-one realized it. And yes, that was Pre-Internet.
There are discussions about big data usage in China or in autocratic countries. But didn’t we just learn the past four years how quickly the role-model of Democracy could turn Autocratic, bending all rules? I would really like to replace Putin in the image with Trump. And keep in mind, there were many Americans who voted for Trump for another four years. Yes, we might historically be a bit sensitive on the issue in Germany. At least the ones that don’t deny history.
I keep reminding. I have not seen “Artificial Intelligence” out there yet, just IA: Intelligent Algorithms. It’s why I don’t bother about “AI”-developments much. While IA is good and can improve life. But get me right. IT by itself does not improve sustainability, it’s mostly a profit-driven investing.
The funny back-story, that back in 2004, I’ve used that slide to show that the Internet has more nodes with mostly highly sophisticated processors behind, than the human brain has ganglia. So I keep wondering if there will be a “spontaneous” wake-up of “the Internet” without us realizing. All the while the “experts” work to develop their ideas about it.
And then we come to the question again, if a real AI would become a friend (Heinlein) or a foe (Terminator). Given the parents, a foe would be more likely, though my hopes are that our children always outsmart but respect us. Thinking about the normal human behavior in humans shown in about any of the movies on the net, I strongly advise any waking giant to be very careful about strategically revealing itself.
“Here I am, a brain the size of a planet. And all they ask me is to take you to the bridge”…
“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.” [John F. Kennedy, 1962] “We choose to fly Carbon-Neutral in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too. For there is no Plan[et] B.” [Jürgen Barthel, 2020]
This week and last I attended two aviation financing conferences by Airfinance Journal, one in Japan, one in Latin America. Then I read an article by National Geographic, demanding that travel should be considered an essential human activity. But that is something I find so very often. Thinking Outside the Box and understanding psychologically different mindsets is Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea.
Whereas a conference for me is a place we do networking, for which I am immensely grateful for Airfinance Journal (AFJ) to allow me attending the event. I sure couldn’t have afforded travel to Japan and Latin America. And thanks to their added focus on networking, it turned out some very promising new contacts to discuss KOLIBRI.aero with.
Let us have a look at the Latin America event which ended yesterday.
The Great Pretender
Whereas AFJ added a virtual networking lounge, there were the same, I’d say ten, people in there, only once the (too small) window showing the delegates forced me to scroll with more than four delegates in the networking lounge.
Saving the delegate list and not counting the dupes I came up with 720 delegates. An awesome conference. 42 of which “filled out” their profile. Only. The others failed to use a free way to promote who they are and what they, respectively their companies do.
I happen to believe from what I have seen that most of the delegates of the online conference were obviously pretenders, signing up, but not showing up. Not even taking the time to log in and fill out their profile. Do they know there are such?
Then there was a “dedicated networking”, where more than 50 registered for (I think the host said 64). We were seven (plus AFJ moderator, plus one totally unresponsive), so roughly 9 out of 10 having registered for it did not show up. For some reason, being in aviation so long, “no shows” is something I consider exceptionally rude. Not just careless, but outright rude. Because there are people, taking the effort to organize something good and then people simply don’t show? It is extremely frustrating for whoever works this out to provide you a service!
For the few being there, I believe it was better than if it would have been crowded. I just hope I didn’t talk too much!
Overall, it just confirms my assumption that less than 10% of the registered delegates showed up at all. Of which again, how many have been speakers? 21?
Not My Cup of Tea?
Again, these two events showed that there are different mindsets at play and it should be worthwhile to understand the motivation behind it.
I’ve seen that before, 20-odd years ago, when I organized the Airline Industry Stammtisch in Frankfurt. Many sign up for the event, to show their bosses, never intending to go there and spend their “valuable” time off elsewhere. Others, like me at AFJ do see the opportunity and value in networking.
A very good and valuable event, especially in Corona times. But it seems, at least from the outside, that most of the “delegates” were pretenders and never showed up on the website, never “participated”. Those people missed out on supporting a good event and torpedoed a valuable effort. From my side, I can only thank AFJ. The next step to improve the events in my opinion will be to automatically add the delegates to the networking lounge to enable messaging. Let them “opt-out”… There’s no e-Mail or other personal information shared, beyond the attendee list that delegates have access to anyway.
And they might want to promote to the delegates to fill out their profile… That’s free marketing and free networking!
The next event coming up in two weeks as Airfinance Journal China, then followed by Asia Pacific. Hopefully the “delegates” are motivated to not only register to show-off to their bosses, but to really attend? And use the networking opportunities AFJ provides?
Because else, such virtual conferences turn to be a barrel burst. And that would not value AFJ but do them a big disservice! Did I mention? Aside failing on your job (or why would you sign up?), it backfires; no-one really likes “Dateileichen” (file corpses).
Which is another example of people focusing on their own life style, ignorant to others’ needs, motivation, life style. As I commented right away on LinkedIn:
A dozen years ago, I spoke with a friend/student, trying to convince her to join the aviation industry. There’s three types of people.
Nestlings, staying all their life in one place, except for the one or other vacation. A flight of more than two hours takes them to the unknown they fear.
Precocials, leaving home to move elsewhere and get settled. They travel for vacation and VFR.
Birds of Passage. They go, where live takes them, are open to the new and for them travel is a reward and each destination an adventure they embrace.
If you talk to nestlings, they will oppose your notion that travel would be “essential”. At the same time, they tend to be nationalistic and protective about their local environment. And the first to shut-down borders and travel. It’s those, “thinking different” being “in power” we have to catch and convince. To do that, we must understand their different “gut feeling”.
That said, if you talk crisis these days, it showed (most of) us, what privilege it is to be able to travel. And how quickly such privileges can be taken from us by forces beyond our control. And the lousy standing of travel lobbyists and lobbies with the decision makers.
A Lesson for the Crisis
Convincing the People to Fly Again
In all the discussions, it seems to be common opinion that we must regain the travelers’ faith to fly again. Given the (painfully) slowly sinking-in fact that we never might have “the” super vaccine, we better adjust our communications. We must understand that there are us “birds of passage”, looking forward to new experiences and adventures, but also the ones that are afraid of the new, the conservatives, the nestlings. And some of them being politicos, in my humble experience a lot of them narrow-minded, cover-your-ass-types that do not make a move unless they have to. As seen at the beginning of the crisis. Then they overreact out of fear, understanding they made a mistake, trying to cover up hysterically to distract from the mistake. Or like Trump now was caught in the act, lying to the U.S. people to “not spread panic”. Whereas a healthy panic is good! It keeps us alert. And then we must adapt. It’s called evolution. But that’s something many people are mortally afraid of.
Think Outside the Box
There are a lot of posts and speakers emphasizing that we must adapt to the crisis, think outside the box, then in the next minute turning back on why them keeping the status quo and doing as they always did would be the right thing. As they obviously fail to understand the thinking of their customers, shutting down the crisis, falling back to “safe thinking”. Just as most investors do.
As painful as it was, in fact it was truly funny. A speaker at Airfinance Journal Japan, an aircraft lessor, emphasized the time being right for new airlines. When I approached him, he retreated to the fact that they neverlease to start-ups and would never invest in a start-up airline. Oh yes: Cognitive Dissonance at it’s best, right? This is a quite common stance when we talk to “aviation investors”, failing to understand that “aircraft investor” is not “aviation”, but just one piece of the puzzle. We represent an opportunity to place 200 aircraft in 10 years. Which is big business. Once we get the launch funding secured.
Me too … Or doing things different?
While many still focusing “blindly” on “Airbus/Boeing” aircraft investments, they lost and loose money. It’s been a shark pond before the crisis, now that bubble imploded. At Airfinance Journal Latin America event, the best speaker was Walter Valarezo of DAE (Dubai Aerospace Capital), outlining the “abnormal normal” in the market pre-crisis. Now most investors curl up into a ball falling back to “old habits”.
USP is about “unique”. You don’t have a USP if you only copy what the others did. And stick to your modus operandi.
Fortunately there are some – very few but some – who do understand the opportunity, the need to think outside the box. Those are the ones we talk with. Will they help us launch the Kolibris? I guess they will. Let’s see how quickly we can convince them and their PTBs that change is good and our business plans are safe and sound. And benefits a great deal from this crisis.
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