Jul 21, 2020 / Sustainability
Q&A with Boom’s Sustainability Advisor, Dr. Lourdes Maurice
Dr. Lourdes Maurice committed her life to defending the environment. Today she drives sustainability initiatives for supersonic travel at Boom.
“In my experience, organizations implement sustainability through several phases: Denial. Lip service. Eventual adaptation. Boom embraced sustainability at its foundation. That’s amazing to see and has set them up for success.” — Dr. Lourdes Maurice.
Dr. Lourdes Maurice committed her life to defending the environment. After a distinguished career including roles as FAA’s Executive Director of the Office of Environment and Energy, U.S. representative to ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection, CAAFI co-founder, and key contributor to the IPCC’s Nobel Peace Prize, she fully intended to retire from the regulatory scene. But a supersonic aircraft manufacturing company caught her eye. “Boom,” Dr. Maurice says, “is very well positioned to become a leader in supersonic sustainability.”
Today, Dr. Maurice serves as Boom’s sustainability advisor, where she provides support and guidance for national and global environmental policy, regulation, and sustainability. We sat down with her to learn more about her approach, experience, and expectations for the supersonic future.
After serving in so many high profile roles, why did you choose to work with Boom?
I accomplished many things during my career, but I always wanted to build a regulatory framework for supersonic commercial aviation. I had flown on Concorde with my late husband and then 8 year-old son and didn’t want my son to be among the last humans on earth to fly aboard a supersonic airliner.
Through my work, I’ve experienced both the importance of interpersonal connections and of experiencing places and cultures apart from my own. Supersonic commercial aviation has the potential to revolutionize travel and make far away places more accessible.
Some say that leading sustainability for a supersonic manufacturer is a paradox. What are your thoughts?
Development is a critical component of sustainability in its largest sense. When societies have more resources, they focus more on sustainability. We’ve seen this in practice in places like Uganda and Rwanda, where Mountain Gorilla populations have flourished in part because of protection afforded by tourism. That’s just one example of how aviation drives eco-tourism.
What better place to advance the principles of sustainability than a supersonic aircraft company? The incorporation of sustainability in aircraft design from the ground up may be precisely what enables the global acceptance and successful return of supersonic transportation. Leaders at Boom share this belief, and so sustainability is an inherent driver in everything Boom does. From design principles, to sustainable alternative fuels, to being a champion for global policies such as CORSIA (ICAO’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) and ensuring sustainability is embedded in manufacturing and operations, Boom has become a leader in sustainability. Because Boom is a new company, I believe they have been able to do a lot of the things I often told myself: “If I were starting from a fresh sheet, this is what I would do.”
The incorporation of sustainability in aircraft design from the ground up may be precisely what enables the global acceptance and successful return of supersonic transportation.
What role do you play at Boom?
I primarily support Boom’s policy team in areas of regulatory implications and sustainability. Along with the company’s own drive toward sustainability, environmental regulation is a big focus for the Overture program. I’m pleased that I was able to help Boom engage at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and establish the relationships that will help Boom engage productively with the global industry.
Specifically, I’ve used my background in Sustainable Alternative Fuels (SAF) to support Boom in building effective sustainability initiatives and identifying challenges early on. SAF is a key component of any sustainability strategy, as it allows the industry to move closer to carbon neutrality.
An additional role that I’ve taken on is to mentor Boom staff who are building the company’s research partnerships, which is helping to shorten the learning curves and establishing the right foundation for success.
What are the most important sustainability decisions Boom has made to date?
In my experience, organizations implement sustainability through several phases: Denial. Lip service. Eventual adaptation. Boom embraced sustainability at its foundation. That’s amazing to see and has set them up for success
We’ve seen Boom make decisions through sustainability many times already. For example, Boom recognized the importance of noise for acceptance of supersonic by regulators and communities and aimed to meet the latest standards. The company used SAF in its supersonic demonstrator test program very early on, committed to a carbon neutral program, and established a Head of Sustainability at the start.
There are many challenges to what Boom is trying to do, but the company is not putting off sustainability until tomorrow. They embraced it right away and jumped into adapting aircraft development to a new sustainability ethos.
From a policy perspective, how can Boom become a leader in supersonic sustainability?
As a new company, Boom has the ability to build in sustainability from the ground up, and is doing just that. I see this every day from the CEO to every employee on the shop floor. Their present carbon neutral test program is an incredible first step. As the company shifts its focus to making the passenger airliner, Overture, a reality, I see them emulating that strategy.
I also think that supersonics as a sector is incredibly well poised to adopt SAF. Overture is a totally new design airplane and is unburdened by legacy systems. Therefore, Boom can take on more ambition when it comes to the percentage of SAF that could be blended with Jet-A. Also, as a startup with roots in Silicon Valley, Boom has connections with a totally different network than the usual aerospace company. I find that when new players enter a field, they can really innovate and come up with solutions no one has even considered. I see an amazing future for Boom as a sustainability leader.