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Sustainable mobility transitions and the challenge of countervailing trends: The case of personal aeromobility

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Research on sustainable mobility transitions has focused on battery-electric vehicles, urban ‘smart’ cars, fuel-cell powered transport modes and power-assisted bicycles. While these studies have usefully exposed some of the dynamics governing sociotechnical change, developments outside the purview of sustainability have been largely ignored. A critical area of neglect concerns the growing popularity of personal aeromobility. Passenger dissatisfaction with commercial airlines, public concerns about terrorism, increasing affluence and creative marketing have expanded interest in private aviation. In parts of the USA, customised air travel is becoming a straightforward and affordable transport alternative. This article describes the mounting popularity of four segments of this trend: business/personal airplane acquisition, fractional aircraft ownership, flight-time cards and air taxis. It also highlights the role that the federal government is currently playing to overcome the technological obstacles to more pervasive personal aeromobility. A concluding section considers the ramifications of these activities on contemporary efforts to foster sustainable mobility and to conceptualise viable transition pathways.
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