High achievement, breakthrough technology, diversity, and advances in sustainability took center stage in the inspiring keynote opener of EBACE 2023 on Tuesday featuring motorsports legends Toto and Susie Wolff and entrepreneur and solar power innovator Raphaël Domjan.
After EBAA chairman Juergen Wiese welcomed attendees to “Europe's greatest and largest and most exciting business aviation gathering,” Giovanni Russo, COO of Geneva Airport, a partner in the annual EBAA/NBAA gathering, reported that business aviation comprises 20 percent of the airport’s traffic. The airport is aiming to be net-zero carbon emissions by 2037, he said, recounting investments in sustainability the airport has made that will make that possible.
“For business aviation, it's essential to adhere to sustainability,” he added. “This will convince people that you are an essential element of the global economy.”
Weiss also noted the recent, unexpected passing of EBAA secretary general Athar Hussain Khan, to whose memory this year’s EBACE is dedicated.
NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen took the stage to welcome Toto and Susie Wolff, whose remarks reflected the close connection between aviation and auto racing, as well as the challenges both industries face in seeking sustainability and a new generation of professionals in their quests for success.
Toto heads the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 team, which with eight consecutive world championships is literally a case study (Harvard Business School) of excellence and team performance in any business or endeavor.
“Perfection is not something that you can ever achieve—it doesn't exist, but it's something that you can work toward,” Toto said. “And that has motivated us every single year.”
Susie, one of the first women to race on the Formula circuit, described herself as “passionate about trying to promote diversity” and is currently leading Formula 1 Academy, a startup endeavor that aims to bring more women to the racing circuit.
“Formula 1 has never been as big as it is right now in the global awareness, and the biggest growing fan base is young females,” she noted.
The Mercedes team is also promoting inclusivity. “Diversity is going to increase performance,” Toto said. “We are a white male-dominated team, but we have given ourselves the goal of at least 25 percent of all new hires need to come from underrepresented groups. I think that's something that is very important for us in order to stay competitive.” He noted that the team’s star driver, Louis Hamilton, is Black.
Toto also pointed out the similarities between Formula 1 and aviation, such as the high-performance, 100 percent sustainable fuel being developed for auto racing.
“We are going to show a road toward a more sustainable future, but with the high-performance aspect,” Toto said, noting that Formula 1 would switch to hybrid-electric engines in 2026. “The most efficient hybrid engines,” Toto added, “Because it's all about weight in Formula 1,” as it is in aviation.
Also exemplifying the quest for efficiency, performance, and sustainability, Wiese introduced Raphaël Domjan, Swiss founder and pilot of SolarStratos, a solar-powered, two-place aircraft intended to be capable of reaching the stratosphere. Domjan has already used solar power to become the first person to circumnavigate the earth in an all-electric-powered boat and was the first to parachute from an electric-powered aircraft.
“If we can be the leader of this [sustainability] challenge, we can demonstrate to the other businesses—the houses, cars, boats—everybody can do it,” said Damjan. “This is what we’re trying to do with SolarStratos.”
A three-axis simulator of SolarStratus is on display at Booth D19.