4 minutes with…Rich Altman, Executive Director Emeritus, Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative, CAAFI

November 20, 2014 |

richardaltmanTell us about your organization and it’s role in the advanced bioeconomy.

CAAFI represents Commercial Aviation Supply chain end customers seeking to support their goals in establishing a sustainable supply of jet fuel to meet its carbon neutral growth 2020 goals. In partnership with the U.S. Military we represent the cutting edge of sustainable transportation fuel demand in advancing its position as a lead customer

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

To complement the efforts of our Sponsors and CAAFI Executive Director Steve Csonka my focus is on implementing State initiatives on the East Coast in partnership with USDA / DOE and our highly focused an energetic “farm to fly 2.0: State focals, local feedstock providers, advanced biofuel companies and State and Local government. As all biofuel supply chain development is local I believe that progress on development and deployment is increasingly focused on utilizing “bottoms up” state cases as templates to achieve our national goals.

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?

We are totally focused in aviation at achieving our goal of Carbon Neutral growth 2020. In the U.S. under “Farm to Fly” we are seeking to have projects in place to achieve 1 Billion gallons by 2018 via the development of success models in as many states and muncipalities as possible.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change?

The critical path for biofuels implementation that we now encounter is uncertainty in regulatory policy and specifically the slow pace of feedstock approvals. Qualification for safe aviation use and the absence of investors major issues in past years are no longer critical path.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?  

As I work with states and municipalities critical needs in their communities, beyond our goal in aviation have come to the fore. It can be jobs in the I-95 corridor in South Carolina, replacing the dying citrus crop in Florida with energy crops, or finding solutions in Vermont that prevent pollution of Lake Champlain these causes inspire me.

Where are you from? 

I was born in Brooklyn, NY the agricultural heartland of America. We had a tree there and it is where I became acquainted with forestry. I worked for 39 years in the aviation industry for United Technologies, Pratt & Whitney before founding CAAFI with my FAA, Airline, Airport and manufacturer colleagues

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway? 

Undergraduate in Aerospace Engineering at Brooklyn Polytech (now NY Polytech). It was a commuter school…where I could live at home. I loved airplanes…. now I love cows, garbage, and rural communities as much as airplanes.

Who do you consider your mentors. What have you learned from them?

The dedication of my father to his family and the development of his small business in Brooklyn starting from scratch with the support of his brothers always has inspired me. Even in a big company at UTC I was encouraged to be entrepreneural by several great mentor / bosses.

In making the move to CAAFI the imagination and willingness to think about what could be for aviation…particularly from FAA (Marion Blakey (at that time), Carl Burleson, Lourdes Maurice), A4A (John Heimlich and Nancy Young) and our outstanding and talented team leaders at CAAFI. Have been key.

CAAFI’s success has been built upon the willingness of government agencies to work across agency lines to achieve great things. Starting from Marion Blakey when at FAA and building through the vision of steadfast support of Secretary Vilsack, Secretary Maybus,and their teams have inspired me to continue in what has been the most rewarding part of my nearly 50 year career.

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?

Stay true to yourself and never give up on the passion in what you believe in to take what seems is an easier route to happiness or professional success.

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry? 

Our Aussie Shepard (Chloe) and Border Collie (Percy) take my wife Carole and I on long walks near our Stowe Vermont vacation home.

Reading, Photography, theater, jazz music and sharing good times with our sons and precious grandchildren make for a full life.

What 3 books would you take to read, if stranded on a desert island?

Robinson Crusoe of course… a “users guide for the stranded” would be first.
Unbroken…what a story about perserverence! Looking forward to the movie.
“The Renewal Factor” by Bob Waterman, issued in the 1980’s by this co-author of In search of Excellence has been the single biggest influence to guide how I approach challenges.

What books or articles are on your reading list right now, or you just completed and really enjoyed?

I enjoy historical novels.
Most recently read Unbroken, Killer Angels (civil war) and Winter of World (Ken Follett wwII).
Next on the list is what inspires me when roaming around Barnes and Noble… no real list.

What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?

Sydney, San Francisco, Charleston, Savannah, New York, Boston, Paris all great for me depending on the season or occasion. …can’t just pick one.

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Category: Million Minds

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