The future of flight is evolving. From battery electric airplanes to hydrogen power to sustainable aviation fuels, new technologies are opening up new vistas of what is possible. As an industry, airlines and aircraft manufacturers are informally aiming to make aviation net zero by 2050. But decarbonizing how we fly people and goods isn’t just about new airplane technology; it requires new fueling and charging infrastructure and new business models. 

In Flying the Sustainable Skies, co-hosts Lisa Ann Pinkerton (former NPR reporter) and Christian Roselund (formerly of Rocky Mountain Institute, Pacifica) explore this new Golden Age of Aviation with three guests with different perspectives on how this new future will evolve. 

We start at 10,000 feet with Graham Warwick, Senior Editor of Aviation Week. He covers the basics of sustainable aviation fuels and synth fuels that today’s planes can burn to make their flights carbon-neutral without disrupting engine design or airline operations. 

Next, serial entrepreneur, pilot, founder and CEO of ZeroAvia Val Miftakhov outlines the potential for hydrogen-electric aviation, how it works, and his vision of green hydrogen hubs at airports to power the planes. 

Finally, Blain Newton, COO of Beta Technologies, demonstrates how battery-electric airplanes are running actual cargo missions today for real customers. He illustrates how the fuel independence of electric flight opens up new possibilities for flying that were previously unimaginable. 

Subjects Discussed: 

  • Sustainable Aviation Fuel or SAFs
  • The carbon accounting of SAFs 
  • Hydrogen fuel cell airplanes
  • Hydrogen combustion to power airplanes
  • Battery electric airplanes 
  • Electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) technologies 
  • The need for new aircraft designs 
  • The limits of different zero-emission technologies
  • Green hydrogen 
  • Why renewable power for zero-emission aviation is expected to be available at very low cost
  • Regulations necessary to certify new configurations and aircraft designs 
  • Airlines and large companies invested in and working to develop zero-emission aviation
  • The economic benefits of electric aviation for companies and the military