In 2021 and beyond, we should see an increase in demand for and the distribution of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), and both innovations in and the commercialization of other alternative fuel products, including zero-emission hydrogen products
As part of our series about “The Future Of Air Travel”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Fisher.
Jessica Fisher is the founder and CEO of FLYJETS, an innovative aviation marketplace and travel planning system. She is a lifetime aviation enthusiast and began training as a student pilot in 2012. Jessica also works as a principal at Monroe Capital, a family investment vehicle, where she focuses on impact investments.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always loved planes and aviation. When I turned 16, I told my dad that I hoped to one day live in an airplane hangar at Westchester County Airport. He rolled his eyes and said good luck.
In all seriousness, after I first started taking flying lessons when I was 26, I was hooked. Almost everyone I know who flies gets the “flying bug” — after getting up in the air on day one, I wanted to be in a plane every day. I finally had days off during my second semester at Columbia Business School, and I couldn’t wait to get out to Republic Airport to take private pilot lessons — there’s nothing more incredible than being at the wheel in the sky!
I’ve also always been really interested in both renewable energy and information systems, which are of course a huge part of what FLYJETS does.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
FLYJETS was born from my class project during an Introduction to Venturing summer course at Columbia. At that time, my project group called it Unnamed Jet Project. Back then, I had zero coding knowledge, and I spent a tremendous amount of time throughout 2012 and 2013 trying to figure out how to build what is today the FLYJETS system, before realizing that without having a true education in computer science, I would never be able to develop the product I envisioned.
In 2017, I was accepted into the Web Development Immersive course at General Assembly and I went back to school to learn how to code. I learned a good deal myself, and I was lucky to meet some amazing, very smart people — many of my current partners and teammates! — along the way.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I made so many mistakes when first starting that it would take a book to share. I’d start with the following:
- I started an aviation company with very little flight education experience. I quickly learned that this education would be instrumental to the company’s success — prior to, and not ahead of, launch! — and spent several months after graduating in 2014 taking lessons, focusing on passing my private pilot exam and completing my first solo flight.
- I attempted to start an aviation technology company with very little computer science education. While I had the good fortune of working with and learning a great deal from some extremely talented web developers and designers along the way, I wasn’t truly able to execute on the concept or the actual FLYJETS system until after completing the Web Development Immersive course at General Assembly.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?
How to thrive and not “burn out”…without sounding completely cliché, do what you love to do and work with it. Take breaks that allow you to do your thing. I’m now on a schedule that allows me to take flying lessons once or twice a week — sometimes during the Monday to Friday work week. It’s a reminder that I get to do the best thing in the world as part of my real job. : )
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am grateful to my MOM, who is my number one hero, number one supporter and the best person I know. My mom is an advisor to FLYJETS, and I am so thankful for her advice, her tremendously insightful perspective and her consistently positive attitude throughout this journey. And for picking up my phone calls at all hours of the day and night!
I’m also extremely grateful to the amazing flight instructors at Danny Waizman Flight School. In addition to giving the gift of flight (I always say, the all-time greatest gift!) they’ve taught me so much about leadership, perseverance and always giving 170 percent.
Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’m hoping that in addition to making a positive impact by enabling increased aircraft utilization — and the cost efficiencies that go along with utilization — FLYJETS will make a positive contribution toward the future of aviation education.
Hopefully, with our upcoming launch will come the success of The FLY Foundation. I truly believe that the gift of flight will change the world and bring serious happiness to aspiring pilots.
I also believe that the world is ready for an enlarged troupe of pilots to fly what I’ve coined “vehicles of the future” — the very light jets, electric vehicles and flying cars that will accommodate pilots and passengers alike.
We absolutely need to figure out the mechanics of a structured education system that will train the pilots we need to support an anticipated influx of new vehicles.
Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the Aviation and Air Travel industries?
The primary goal of FLYJETS is to connect Flyers and Aircraft Providers, and to effectively enable access to aviation in a transparent — and very green! — way. FLYJETS is the first completely open aviation marketplace for both business-to-consumer and business-to-business transactions; memberships and usage of the app are free. The application utilizes proprietary aircraft data, dynamic location sourcing, distance and time to automate non-scheduled flights anywhere in the world.
The FLYJETS system utilizes the benefits of automation and technology-enabled network effects to guarantee the lowest point-to-point charter rates available and enable travelers to take full advantage of “empty leg” discounts.
“Empty legs,” or, as we have coined them, “Charter Flights,” are flights that need to move in specific directions with or without passengers, and are therefore often priced at significant discounts. For instance, oftentimes, when a charter aircraft is booked for a round-trip flight, the plane does not stay at the destination airport; rather, it flies to and from its “home base” location after passengers are dropped off. Thus, a “two leg” trip is often, in reality, a “four leg” trip, with the risk of two empty legs priced in to the initial charter price. With the goal of splitting the “four legs” between two sets of Flyers, FLYJETS seeks to enable cost saves for both Flyer parties while increasing aircraft utilization for Aircraft Providers.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing these innovations?
First and foremost, I’m hoping that FLYJETS’ (FLY I Corporation) benefit corporation structure will help to set a formal standard of doing well by doing good within the aviation industry — an industry that already — irrespective of official corporate structures — does a tremendous amount of good.
With a focus on information technology and establishing a true marketplace structure, FLYJETS is primarily focused on improving accessibility to and transparency within the aviation industry — and, in turn, enabling cost saves of up to 50 percent or more on optimized charter routes.
With respect to our forthcoming auction platform for charter, FLYJETS’ goal is to further improve industry economics and opportunities for both Flyers and Aircraft Providers alike.
As for environmental outcomes, the goal of our FLYGreen program is to effectively establish the world’s first carbon offset and green fuel subsidy, and thereby encourage users to opt in to environmentally-friendly initiatives and alternatives. The system will enable those FLYJETS members who choose to offset their flight — and, in the future, fly with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and green fuel alternatives — to earn additional currency-equivalent points toward future bookings, above the number of FLYRewards they ordinarily achieve with each flight booking.
Lastly, as for The FLY Foundation, our goal is to have a significant impact on the future of aviation education. A minimum of five percent of FLYJETS’ revenue from each flight booked is directed to The FLY Foundation, which is currently in the process of obtaining 501c3 status.
I’m hoping that the gift of flight will have a hugely positive impact on all those involved in the program in the future, just as it did for me.
How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
Ultimately, FLYJETS intends to streamline and facilitate the process of flying, owning, operating, storing and maintaining aircraft, and to pave the way for the future of flight.
As for shorter term goals, FLYJETS maintains three primary objectives:
- To make the air charter industry more accessible: less expensive, more efficient, more transparent and more easily navigable for Flyers and Aircraft Providers alike;
- To effectively contribute to increased aircraft utilization rates, and
- To improve technology-based communication and minimize manual efforts among industry participants.
Are there exciting new technologies that are coming out in the next few years that will improve the Air Travel experience? We’d love to learn about what you have heard.
The aviation industry has really committed to and taken viable action toward utilizing sustainable and alternative sources of fuel. For background, within business aviation specifically, an industry-wide commitment toward the meaningful reduction of CO2 emissions was officially codified in 2009, when the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) announced their Business Aviation Commitment on Climate Change. This commitment specifically involved a pledge of a two percent improvement in fuel efficiency per year from 2010 until 2020, with carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onward and a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 relative to 2005.
In 2019 — at the last in-person National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition — the predominant theme in Las Vegas was a serious commitment to SAF and fuel alternatives, and to the materialization of a green aviation future. Gulfstream, Embraer and a number of other manufacturers fueled their fleets with Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) for the flight to Las Vegas, and the cornerstone of the conference was a Sustainable Aviation Fuel panel among industry leaders (including Bombardier Aviation President David Coleal, General Aviation Manufacturers Association President and CEO Pete Bunce, and Aerion Supersonic Chief Sustainability Officer Gene Holloway).
Since that time, a number of initiatives and test flights run by major manufacturers have focused on incorporating SAF. I anticipate that as environmentally-friendly alternative products become more widely understood and developed, consumer demand for these products will increase in a way that is significant enough to drive commercial supplies.
As you know, the Pandemic changed the world as we know it. For the benefit of our readers, can you help spell out a few examples of how the Pandemic has specifically impacted Air Travel?
The most paramount trend we saw in 2020 was one toward safety and responsible travel first and foremost, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This will continue as consumers opt for forms of transportation that provide more space and enable a reduction in potential “touch points.”
Can you share three examples of how the Air Travel experience might change over the next few years to address the new realities brought by the Pandemic? If you can, please give an example for each.
- We are seeing the beginnings of — and real infrastructure for — a very exciting worldwide eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) network. This will help to accommodate new and increasingly stringent post-pandemic aviation standards: requirements for more space and fewer touch points, and the ability to effectively enable in-person connections among a larger population living in relatively remote, non-urban areas.
- In 2021 and beyond, we should see an increase in demand for and the distribution of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), and both innovations in and the commercialization of other alternative fuel products, including zero-emission hydrogen products
- We are seeing flying cars come to life every day. AIRCAR, Honda, and the major players in this space have provided us with significant evidence of a future filled with personal planes.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would enable more people to fly — both as pilots and as passengers — and teach new pilots to fly! Moreover, I’d make flight lessons more attainable from an economic standpoint and contribute to flight safety and advanced technology; specifically, I’d enable the widespread utilization of technologically-advanced flight training vehicles, and the inception of an organized, programmatic flight education system (think “Drivers Ed” in the sky). This is a real goal of FLYJETS and The FLY Foundation, and I’m personally hoping to complete my flight training in one of these vehicles of the future!
How can our readers further follow your work online?