2020 MEMBER SPOTLIGHTS

Quarter 4

 

Alex Levin

RSG

Airports reflect a beautifully messy confluence of activity. I love the challenge of untangling it all into useful insights for clients; COVID-19 reinforces and amplifies these feelings.

BIOGRAPHY

Alex is a consultant at RSG, where he conducts market research for aviation and other transportation clients. In his role, he develops surveys, modeling, and analytics to help clients understand their markets and plan for a rapidly evolving transportation landscape. He works primarily with airport and transit agencies and has contributed to multiple ACRP projects. Recently, Alex has worked on major ground transportation studies at BOS, EWR, and LGA Airports. He also contributed to ACRP Research Report 215: Transportation Network Companies (TNCs): Impacts to Airport Revenues and Operations—Reference Guide. Prior to his work at RSG, Alex had extensive experience in Sub-Saharan Africa, including as Managing Director of the social enterprise Camara Tanzania. Alex has a bachelor’s degree in geography and economics from McGill University and a master’s degree in sustainable urban development from DePaul University. He is a Chaddick Scholar and a StartingBloc Fellow.

HOW DID YOU GET INSPIRED TO WORK IN AVIATION?

 

My love of airports comes directly from my curiosity (read: nosiness) about other people’s lives and, particularly, how people get around. Airports are a vibrant, messy people-watching environment with so many unique journeys crossing paths. They are ripe for speculative “who, what, when, where, why, and how” inquiries. As a market researcher, I enjoy examining this confluence of different people from different places doing different things. The urban planner and geographer in me enjoy the convergence of so many different travel modes to/from the airport and at the facility itself. And as a research consultant, I love finding patterns in all that chaos and developing insights to support data-driven strategic planning at airports.

THE FUTURE OF THE INDUSTRY - WHERE DO YOU SEE IT?

 

COVID-19 has thrown everything and everyone for a loop. Aviation has been at the center of that change. I agree, as many analysts have projected, that air travel—particularly leisure travel—will bounce back significantly once the health situation is under control. At RSG, we’ve used our COVID-19 Transportation Insights Panel to track changes in travel behavior and attitudes since the early months of the pandemic. We can see that people want and need to travel and that basic fact will not change long term. But as travel does bounce back, the things I’m interested in exploring include the pandemic’s effect on business travel, competition between air and auto for regional travel, and how airport ground access options and decisions may be permanently reshaped by the pandemic. I believe we’ve developed useful tools and strategies to answer these questions as the situation evolves, and I’m excited to be part of that effort.
 

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST TAKEAWAY FOR OTHER YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN AVIATION?

 

It probably sounds comically cliché, but my biggest takeaway is that you need to be your own best advocate and push at every turn for things you want for yourself professionally. I’m not talking about being a pest or trampling those around you, but you should own your goals and advocate for things you want. My largest challenges have come when I curl up in passivity waiting for progress to materialize—which I’ve done plenty—and my largest successes have come when I just pushed and wedged my way into new opportunities. People will generally respond well to your initiative and will appreciate someone solving problems or taking tasks off their hands.

Quarter 3

 

Stephanie Atallah

WSP USA

& Corey Johnson

C&S Engineers, Inc.

Stephanie:

“Recent events reiterated the need for forward thinking in aviation leadership and the importance of national guidance in making air transportation systems much more resilient in the future.”

BIOGRAPHY

Stephanie Atallah works as an Aviation Consultant with the WSP US Advisory Services Team as part of the Aviation/Seaport Project Development & Finance service area. Stephanie worked previously at WSP as an aviation engineering intern and an aviation planning intern at AECOM. She is currently based in St. Louis, MO, supporting efforts for the St. Louis Lambert Airport Layout Plan (ALP) update. Stephanie graduated from Virginia Tech, where during her graduate studies she worked with the Office of Performance Analysis within the Federal Aviation Administration on a project assessing flight delay propagation in the United States. In 2018, she received the ACRP Graduate Research Award for analyzing contributing factors to air service loss in small communities. Her graduate research work focused on analyzing the operational performance and service continuity across different sized airports in the United States and looking at the competitive dynamics between major and low-cost carriers. Stephanie holds a Ph.D. and M.S. from Virginia Tech and a B.E. from the Lebanese American University in Civil Engineering.

HOW DID YOU GET INSPIRED TO WORK IN AVIATION?

 

There is a famous saying in aviation that goes, “If you have seen one airport, you have seen one airport.” This pretty much summarizes why I was inspired to work in aviation as there is a continuous learning curve in this field. Each airport is unique, and the knowledge acquired working on an aviation project is limitless. From working on various engineering and planning projects to looking into aviation project financing and rates assessment, I was fascinated by the complexity of the various building blocks that constitute an airport’s operations. Additionally, the decision-making and planning process is not restricted to one entity but has a much larger impact on the community as well.

WHAT ARE CHALLENGES AND SUCCESSES YOU HAVE ENCOUNTERED ALONG THE WAY?

 

As I mentioned earlier, aviation is a continuous learning curve; and perhaps the biggest challenge you encounter in this industry is staying up to date with technological advances such as aircraft electrification, blockchain technology, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and a multitude of digital solutions that can better refine the airport’s experience. You find yourself tirelessly working on elevating the passengers’ experience through brainstorming for innovative solutions and designing reliable infrastructure that complements the operations of the airport in the future.

THE FUTURE OF THE INDUSTRY - WHERE DO YOU SEE IT?

 

I believe the last couple of months following the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic across the world proved the importance of building and operating our airports to be more resilient to unexpected events.  Airports that were quick to react to the significant decline in air traffic activity and its impact on their revenue streams while considering CARES Act funds and implementing a multiple phased approach help set an example for better positioned airports for the projected recovery. Moving forward, as the aviation industry recovers, there is a need for national guidance to restore the public’s confidence in safe travel. The future of the industry will heavily depend on the proactive actions of airports in redefining the flying experience through launching recovery programs where partnership and consistency are critical.

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST TAKEAWAY FOR OTHER YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN AVIATION?

 

Forward-thinking is your biggest asset in this industry. Looking at lessons learned from the past and seeking to implement those lessons in future planning of our air transportation systems will help build a much stronger and resilient infrastructure. The future of aviation will also be shaped by future technological advances and acquiring knowledge in these fields will be an indispensable and crucial skill. 

Corey:

“Private pilot turned sustainability champion lands a career path to blend both worlds.”

BIOGRAPHY

Corey Johnson is a Principal Consultant at C&S Engineers, Inc., where he specializes in energy and sustainability within the aviation industry. His expertise includes airport renewable energy development, aircraft electrification, and data-driven approaches to sustainability management. Prior to joining C&S, Corey supported federal clients in the energy practice at Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington, DC. Corey holds a Master of Environmental Management from Yale University and a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of New Hampshire. Corey is an active private pilot.

HOW DID YOU GET INSPIRED TO WORK IN AVIATION?

 

Doesn’t every youngster design and construct LEGO airports on their bedroom floor? Maybe not, but I certainly did. Aviation captured my imagination at a young age. Although I had some family working in the airline industry, it was the sheer magic and romance of flight that drew me in. I started learning to fly airplanes at the age of 10 and completed my first solo flight on my 16th birthday. It wasn’t until I went to college and learned about climate change that I began understanding the environmental impact of aviation. Torn between pursuing my first love of flying and a newfound appreciation for sustainability, I set out to find a career path that blended both worlds. What I found was an amazing industry and network of professionals integrating sustainability into all facets of aviation. Today, I’m proud to work with airports across the country to help make aviation part of the solution – not the cause – of the environmental challenges we face as a nation and globe.

WHAT ARE CHALLENGES AND SUCCESSES YOU HAVE ENCOUNTERED ALONG THE WAY?

 

Selecting such a niche career path within the aviation industry required patience. Although airports and consultancies have dedicated positions working on sustainability, job openings are relatively few and far between. While waiting for positions to open, I took the opportunity to network extensively across the industry. I called just about anyone that was willing to talk to me (thank you, if you’re reading this!) – airports, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, nonprofits. What I learned during those discussions was invaluable and prepared me for the eventual interviews that I had.

THE FUTURE OF THE INDUSTRY - WHERE DO YOU SEE IT?

 

It goes without saying that COVID changed things. But there are some elements of aviation’s future that I believe remain unchanged. First, the world’s demand for air travel will (eventually) continue to grow. Second, climate change science tells us that we must address major sources of greenhouse gas emissions – of which aviation is a comparatively small but significant contributor. Third, travelers will increasingly demand sustainable options for air travel, driven by a growing awareness and shared societal commitment to tackle climate change. If we take those three concepts as fact, then the future of aviation sustainability is bright. Exciting technologies like electric aircraft and sustainable aviation fuels are literally on the horizon, and airports, airlines, and travelers alike all have a role to play.

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST TAKEAWAY FOR OTHER YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN AVIATION?

 

If you work in the airport world but have never sat behind the yoke of an airplane, you must! As airport professionals, we often talk in technical terms about “runway protection zones,” “aircraft design groups,” and other engineering focused topics. But sometimes it’s easy to lose the big picture about why we do what we do. Experiencing flight for yourself – literally advancing the throttle and pulling an airplane into the sky – changes the way you look at an airport and everything that goes on within it. Visit your local general aviation airport for an introductory flight lesson!

Quarter 2

 

Başak Keskin

Syracuse University

“We are now in an era in which we are talking about sectors without borders; therefore developing strategies to engineer convergent solutions for digitalization from a life cycle perspective is a major success.”

BIOGRAPHY

Basak Keskin is a Ph.D. candidate in Syracuse University’s Civil & Environmental Engineering Program with a concentration in infrastructure and construction management. Basak’s academic and professional interests are mainly centered on the orchestration of digital ecosystems for high-quality asset life cycle management and integrated project delivery for large infrastructure systems, especially airports. She has various peer-reviewed publications on Building Information Modeling (BIM)-enabled digital transformation for capital asset life cycle management. Basak has been doing cross-industry research and gaining professional experiences at varying sizes of organizations (start-up to a major client). She has experience with implementing and strategizing BIM implementation at Istanbul New Airport and Boston Logan Airport. She won an Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Graduate Research Award on Public-Sector Aviation Issues, sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration. She executed a research project, “Building Information Modeling Implementation for Smart Airport Life Cycle Management”, through a global collaboration including 25 airports.


She actively engages with buildingSMART International (bSI) Airport Room, Airport Consultants Council (ACC) BIM Working Group, Autodesk Forge, and Autodesk Developer Network towards facilitating an integrated, digital-driven, and open ecosystem for life cycle management of airports and other intermodal transportation systems.  

HOW DID YOU GET INSPIRED TO WORK IN AVIATION?

 

After completing my BSc. in Civil Engineering, I started my professional career as a BIM Engineer in the Istanbul New Airport Project where I had a chance to be part of a mega-scale aviation hub project (the world’s largest airport project at the time of its construction during 2015-2018). The project included a large spectrum of building, infrastructure, and business systems. I was fascinated by the complexity and how my problem solving and team collaboration skills developed over time. I have also realized how airports catalyze economic landscapes of regions by hosting high-value interactions between people, places, and things. My increasing interest in airport ecosystems has driven me to do research and learn more and more about global aviation and its impacts on societies.

WHAT ARE CHALLENGES AND SUCCESSES YOU HAVE ENCOUNTERED ALONG THE WAY?

 

It is always a great challenge to work in a niche field where you always need to drive cultural change within large enterprises like airports. I think long learning curves, organizational resistance, and insufficient resource allocation for digitalization are major challenges. However, once we define and use the right enablers and have the right leadership, we can see real impacts.  We are now in an era in which we are talking about sectors without borders; therefore, developing strategies to engineer convergent solutions for digitalization from a life cycle perspective is a major success.  

THE FUTURE OF THE INDUSTRY - WHERE DO YOU SEE IT?

 

I think we will see more cohesive operating models for aviation as more alignment between business and operations is achieved. More end-in-mind approaches and more connected operations for a more seamless passenger journey from curbside to airside are in the near-future of aviation.  

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST TAKEAWAY FOR OTHER YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN AVIATION?

 

Implementation of life cycle digital solutions - such as BIM - is currently a niche topic for airport ecosystems; and to lead to some real impacts, academia and industry collaboration is key. We need faster execution cycles in academia, and the industry’s “lessons learned” can drive it effectively. Overall, real insights, stories of success, and failure will catalyze research and provide a more dynamic, motivating environment for young generation researchers and practitioners like us. ACRP projects and initiatives are great examples of academic and industry collaboration. 

Quarter 1

 

George Valcarcel

The Ohio State University

McKinsey & Company

“Flying cars are doomed to remain flying science experiments without a plan for airspace integration, infrastructure, sustainable business models, and most importantly public acceptance”

BIOGRAPHY

George Valcarcel is completing his studies at The Ohio State University, where in May he will graduate with a B.S. in Industrial and Systems Engineering and minor in Business through the Honors Integrated Business and Engineering program. George has held several internship positions across engineering, management consulting, and aviation innovation, with GE Aviation (Dayton, OH), McKinsey & Company (Chicago, IL), and most recently Ascension Global (DC) - a boutique aviation consultancy brought in house by the Hyundai Motor Group Urban Air Mobility Division. After graduation, he will be joining McKinsey & Company’s Chicago Office as a Business Analyst and looks forward to diving deeper into UAM within McKinsey’s Center for Future Mobility and Aerospace & Defense practice. George is a diehard Buckeye sports fan, loyal Cincinnatian (Skyline Chili for the win), a long time history and geography buff, who enjoys hiking the National Parks, playing squash  and golf, and looks forward to eating plenty of Chicago deep dish pizza and racking up miles. 

George’s signature project during his time at Ohio State was founding and organizing the inaugural Ohio Urban Air Mobility Symposium in partnership with the Ohio Department of Transportation’s UAS Center, The Ohio State University, and the AIAA. His day-long event convened 200+ attendees from industry, government, and academia to consider what UAM will mean for Ohio, and to outline the steps Ohio must take to become a hub for R+D, testing, manufacturing, and early deployment of passenger and cargo use cases of low altitude airspace. Panels and keynotes spanned defining air mobility use cases, operational challenges, VTOL technologies and certification, infrastructure planning, and community integration with respect to Ohio’s unique needs.

HOW DID YOU GET INSPIRED TO WORK IN AVIATION?

 

From a young age I have been fascinated with all things flying. In the year after I was born, I spent a lot of my time in Pensacola, Florida where the Navy’s Blue Angels would fly over my grandparents’ house for training runs. I moved as a toddler to Southwest Ohio, just down the road from the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop, and soon found myself immersed in the Birthplace of Aviation. My dad and I would frequent the National Museum of the US Air Force at Wright Patterson Air Force Base (a true aviation mecca) and the Dayton Air Show each summer. It was a dream come true to get a job with GE Aviation, our hometown jet engine manufacturer for my first college engineering co-op, which solidified my professional interest to get further involved in the aviation industry. 

THE FUTURE OF THE INDUSTRY - WHERE DO YOU SEE IT?

I am betting my future on making Urban Air Mobility a reality that can work for everyone – and to not just create more “toys of the rich”. I believe air mobility really boils down to tapping into new missions that utilize low altitude airspace to move both passengers and cargo to better connect and benefit communities. For example, in my home state of Ohio there is not the same traffic gridlock to be solved like that in large metropolitan cities (e.g., Dallas, Los Angeles). However, I see significant potential in building out a regional air corridor model in Ohio to connect our distributed network of mid-sized cities (Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland), in addition to suburbs and rural regions. I applaud the Ohio DOT for taking the approach of embracing autonomy and electrification of transportation both on the ground and in the air. Ultimately, air mobility will constitute one component of an integrated multi-modal transportation network, so it is important to plan infrastructure with this broader system in mind and to put citizens’ needs at the center. Taking a step back from just UAM, I see a big opportunity for the electrification of regional aircraft to enable new routes which unlock latent demand from the vast network of regional airports which have been historically underutilized. 

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