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New Horizons

We Must Embrace AAM, UAS or Risk Getting Left Behind

Kirsten Bartok Touw says the time is now to lead the advanced air mobility revolution.

Kirsten Bartok Touw has some strong opinions about the future of business aviation and how it will be affected by the deployment of large numbers of advanced air mobility (AAM) aircraft and drones.

“We need to embrace the fact that aviation will change more rapidly in the next 20 years than it has in the past 80 years,” she avers. “If we can’t, we will be left behind.”

Her vantage point as managing partner of AirFinance – which specializes in structured finance, leasing and financing of aircraft and aviation assets, with an emphasis on emerging markets – gives her a unique perspective on the entire aviation market. She also is a technology investor with a focus on AAM.

“We have the opportunity to be the leaders in this coming transformation, as these aircraft will be operated under Part 135.”

Kirsten Bartok Touw Managing Partner, AirFinance

Business aviation, which is typically used as a tool for supporting businesses, but not necessarily as a revenue-generating asset, has never had adequate access to non-recourse financing, which has hampered the growth of Part 135, according to Bartok Touw. Yet because AAM and UAS are expected to be revenue generating – more akin to commercial aircraft and with unit volumes more like the auto industry, versus the approximately 800 business jet delivered each year – those assets should be more attractive to the diverse and deep set of banks and lessors that finance commercial aviation, she says.

“These [AAM and UAS] aircraft are relatively inexpensive when compared to regional infrastructure and are set to replace the traditional infrastructure that we currently have on the ground and on the roads,” she said. “They will be in the air for vastly longer periods of time than traditional business aircraft and, especially on the logistics side, will be working with end users with high credit ratings [such as Amazon, Walmart, etc.]. All this will contribute to their ability to procure traditional commercial financing.”

Her advice for business aviation is unequivocal:

“We have the opportunity to be the leaders in this coming transformation, as these aircraft will be operated under Part 135. If we don’t demonstrate flexibility and lead the revolution, others will take over that space.”

KIRSTEN BARTOK TOUW is a member of NBAA’s Advisory Council. Prior to co-founding AirFinance, she was vice president, structured finance & corporate development at Hawker Beechcraft. She also was a co-founder, board member and CFO of XOJET.

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