P3 Airport Summit: The fight to remain relevant

Whether it’s Peter, Paul and Mary leaving on a jet plane or George Jetson in an eVTOL, airports will need private sector innovation to remain relevant as technology transforms the way we move, writes Sandra McQuain

Credit: P3 Summit

From the first mile to the last, the way we travel will change dramatically over the next decade. Whether we arrive via an autonomous vehicle or depart in a hydrogen-powered aircraft or rented EV, airports will be at the epicenter of this travel transformation. 

During the P3 Airport Summit in San Diego this week, panelists and attendees alike were frequently discussing the growing sustainability and reliability needs of airport electrical systems and the speed with which new technology is driving airport owners to rethink the future of their aviation infrastructure. Kevin Cox, the CEO of Ferrovial Vertiports, stated he believes we are “literally two years away or less from the first commercial operation of a Vertiport and eVTOL [electric vertical take-off and landing]”. He encouraged airport owners and local governments to join with the private sector and “lean forward” in adopting this new paradigm or risk being left behind.

If all this holds true, a rewrite of one of my favorite songs might be in order…“I’m leaving on an eVTOL. Don’t know when I’ll be back y’all.” 

There was nearly uniform agreement that government entities, including the FAA, lack the financial resources and expertise to adapt to these market forces in a timely manner and that the next generation of airport P3s will likely come from energy-related projects and the commercialization of an ecosystem to support Advanced Air Mobility.    

Footnote:  A quick follow-up to yesterday’s article about economic development and infrastructure planning:  In Louisiana, a bill making its way through the legislature would move the Office of Multimodal Commerce from the Louisiana Department of Transportation Development to the Louisiana Department of Commerce.  The growing influence of economic development departments in infrastructure decision-making is a trend to watch closely in the coming months.