Revolution.Aero 2019

The 2019 San Francisco event showed how different technologies are travelling through the famous Gartner Hype Cycle. Words: Hannah Burton and Alasdair Whyte

KIRSTEN BARTOK-TOUW founder of AirFinance, opened Revolution.Aero 2019 reminding attendees of the Gartner Hype Cycle. The consultancy’s simple chart shows how new industries go from the Innovation Trigger to the peak of Inflated Expectations (reaching peak hype); and then quickly slip into the Trough of Disillusionment, before regaining the Slope of Enlightenment and then finally reaching the Plateau of Productivity.

Revolution.Aero covers all parts of the business, general and commercial aviation industries together with different sectors and technologies at very different stages. The opening panel, featuring Andrew Collins CEO of Sentient Jet, Greg Johnson, chief technical officer of One Sky Flight, Per Marthinsson, co-founder of Avinode Group, and Dan Crowe, chief information officer of Wheels Up, was very upbeat about business aviation systems and software. “I think we’re coming out the Trough of Disillusionment into the Era of Enlightenment,” said Crowe.

Kirsten Bartok-Touw, managing partner of AirFinance, invited delegates to survey the Plateau of Productivity.

The conference focused attention on the opportunities and challenges ahead in business aviation.

Crowe’s enthusiasm was not surprising, as he followed Kenny Dichter, founder and CEO of Wheels Up, who announced at the conference that the company was buying Avianis – a successful flight management company. Wheels Up wants to use Avianis to allow it to sell charter with other operators to its members.

The Urban Air Mobility market has not yet slipped into the Trough of Disillusionment. But it was noticeable that this year there was a lot more talk about tough times coming. No one attending the conference thinks all of the more than 250 new aircraft designs will be successful. “Start-ups are experiments in the market,” said Jim Adler, founding managing director of Toyota AI Ventures and an investor in Joby Aviation – one of the sector’s pioneers.

“Our goal is to power the electric flight revolution”

Erik Lindbergh, President, VerdeGo Aero

“RaaS is the next SaaS”. Successful aviation investor Paul Willard believes that robotics, as a service, is the next software..


Ryan Pulliam, Specular Theory (Virtual reality): “We can create new ways of learning: It’s expansive, it’s experiential and it’s game-changing. It’s turning bottlenecks into learning opportunities”. .

Blockchain is the new Basel III for Ford von Weise of Citi Private Bank.


Starr Ginn from NASA moderates on ‘How to manage an ever more crowded airspace’. Ginn started working for NASA at 17 as an intern.

Michele Merkle is dedicated to keeping people safe in the skies in her role as director for US Air Traffic Services, Operations, Planning & Integration at the FAA.

Ben Marcus, owner and co-founder of AirMap, returned to the Revolution.Aero stage after his debut solo presentation at last year’s inaugural event.

Parimal Kopardekar is always looking for new trends in aviation, as director of NASA’s Aeronautics Research Institute.

Peter Sachs, safety and risk architect from Airbus UTM, designs critical infrastructure for new aircraft, such as air taxis.

The conference covered a wide range of topics, but two key themes dominated: safety and finding talent.

As you would expect, almost every speaker referenced how safety is always the number-one priority and it is worth stressing how regulators are keen to work with disruptors. “We want to accommodate,” said Tim Arel, deputy chief operating officer of the Federal Aviation Administration. “Our job is to try to make it work and provide the safety of everyone flying in the airspace – those who are flying and those we’re flying over.”

David Norton, head of Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton’s aviation law practice (and former US Air Force KC-10A, airline transport pilot, commercial pilot and flight instructor) makes his first virtual take-off with Specular Theory.

Delegates enjoyed the opportunity to network between sessions.

Joseph Rios, chief engineer, UTM Project at NASA, highlighted the value of the industry coming together to define the issues. The other issue everyone agreed on was the need to encourage more people into the industry. Two exciting start-ups showed ways of attracting more pilots. Ryan Pulliam, co-founder of Specular Theory, is using virtual reality. George Bye, founder of Bye Aerospace, is using electric training aircraft. As many of the speakers showed, aviation is also about to look very different. Ryan Doss, head of product development Karem Aircraft, added: “Finding talent is an issue, but the good news is that aerospace is cool again.”

Session Highlights:

Reaching the Plateau of Productivity

How aviation businesses can navigate the Gartner Hype Cycle to boost productivity.

Welcome to the Era of Enlightenment

Private aviation systems and software continue to make rapid progress.

Urban Air Mobility – Not all the 250 new aircraft designs are likely to be successful. “Start-ups are experiments in the market.”

Regulators and disruptors plan the future

Working together is paying off.

Pilots and technicians wanted – Attracting the new generation will be critically important.

Virtual reality – Putting prospective pilots in a cockpit without using an actual aircraft.

It’s electric – Electric flight, virtual reality and other developing technologies are making “aerospace cool again”.

Delegates take their seats in the Ballroom.

George Bye, Bye Aerospace talks about future flight training being cheaper with electric planes.

Audience Votes:

Hannah Burton and Alasdair Whyte, Event manager and Editor-in-chief, Corporate Jet Investor