United Hosts Event for Startups

United Hosts Event for Startups
Michelle Kinman, senior vice president of market transformation for the L.A. Cleantech Incubator, speaks to startup executives at an event hosted by United Airlines at LAX.

United Airlines is helping startups learn how to do business with the airline. Eight companies participated in an event this month at Los Angeles International Airport that Betty Jurkowski, director of environmental sustainability for Chicago-based United, said was meant to show startups about the company’s processes on procurement, investing and sustainability.

The startups included Hawthorne-based Ampaire, which converts small fuel-powered planes to hybrid electric; downtown-based Automotus, which develops software for managing curb-side parking and deliveries; and Long Beach-based Evolectric, a startup that powers fleet operations with electrification products.

The event at LAX was conducted with the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, a nonprofit partner of the airline. Cleantech Incubator Chief Executive Matt Petersen said it was grateful to United for supporting its mission to create an inclusive green economy and was excited about its “How to Do Business with United Airlines” event.

“We are confident it will help prepare our startups for potential partnerships for pilot projects and technology deployment, while helping United scale zero emissions ground equipment solutions and other priorities,” Petersen said in a statement.

There are other ways that United is making moves to meet a 2050 goal of having a net-zero emissions airline.

For one, it took ownership of two towbarless electric tractors made by German manufacturer Goldhofer. United is the first company that it is aware of to have received that type of equipment, Jurkowski said.

“We are excited about seeing how they work out in L.A., and hopefully extend that elsewhere,” she added.

Second, the airline became the first major airline to use sustainable aviation fuel, having begun using it in 2016 at LAX. The fuel is made at the Paramount facility of World Energy, which is headquartered in Boston.

The feedstock used in making the fuel is what makes it different from traditional fossil fuel sources, Jurkowski said.

“The feedstock can be oil and greases as well as agricultural residues and other waste streams that can then be used for fuel,” she said.

Production facilities are currently far and few between, but to have one that was close to its Los Angeles facility was important to the airline, Jurkowski added.

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