Sustainability is the central concern when it comes to securing the future of the aviation industry, driving rapid change as airlines commit to sustainable aviation fuel initiatives to meet the industry’s net-zero commitments by 2050. OEMs are also responding by electrifying ground support equipment.

While these are important steps, more needs to be done. It is clear that, in order to realise aviation’s environmental commitments, all parts of the industry will need to take crucial action to decarbonise flight. However, a lack of infrastructure currently poses a significant challenge to widespread adoption of cleaner aircraft.

A catch-22 situation is partly to blame: airports are reluctant to install electric chargers until there is widespread electric aircraft activity, but this demand is unlikely to grow without readily available charging points.

The good news is we have seen this challenge overcome before by the electric car sector, which can offer lessons to aviation.

EV charging

Source: Sungsu Han/Shutterstock

Electric car sector can offer lessons to aviation

Back when there were very few electric car charging stations available, consumers were naturally hesitant to buy these vehicles. Then the installation of domestic chargers became possible and the ability to leave home in the morning with a fully-charged car meant a paradigm shift in perception – electric mobility suddenly became practical, despite the evident shortcoming in vehicle ranges.

With this change prompting wider adoption, businesses soon began responding to the opportunity this offered by creating electric car charging stations. The result was that the owners of these vehicles were no longer forced to rely solely on their own charging solutions but could make use of publicly available infrastructure as well, especially when covering longer distances.

We need aviation to undergo the same process, which has begun to take place as attitudes shift.

Operators are used to airports, fuel and fixed-base operators being in place and serving the needs of traditional aircraft, whereas electrification and hydrogen pose new challenges, with almost zero pre-existing infrastructure present.

Tine Tomazic

Source: Pipistrel Aircraft

Tomazic wants co-ordinated action on enabling aviation’s ‘third age’

Overcoming this shortfall relies on airport authorities properly equipping themselves for new technologies. This involves a radical redesign of transport infrastructure – as opposed to simply adapting existing infrastructure in response to new developments.

The new and bold thinking required will involve everything from identifying secure locations for storing hydrogen to creating solar farms to generate enough electricity.

Promisingly, some level of change is already under way, with companies increasingly equipping airports with charging infrastructure – not in response to the size of the current electric aircraft fleet, but rather to support the future potential.

As this trend gathers pace, infrastructure could be installed at airports to support electric aviation sooner than many have predicted, regardless of whether these aircraft routinely fly from these facilities.


And, given that electric charging infrastructure, when done right, will not only be compatible with aircraft but also ground vehicles, we can expect significant progress over the next five years as airports begin to recognise the return their investment can deliver.

Government support can also play an important role in accelerating this process, creating incentives to encourage further development of infrastructure that supports the electrification of aviation.

This requires co-ordinated action, which is currently difficult given airport infrastructure development sits within different ministries throughout EU countries.

However, with the will to embrace a holistic approach, governments could act to encourage OEMs to ensure delivery of the infrastructure that supports the electrification of both aircraft and ground support equipment.

This approach – with different countries, agencies and departments willing to work together – is key to the ‘third age’ of aviation taking off.

Tine Tomazic is director of engineering and programmes at Pipistrel Aircraft, part of Textron eAviation.