Imagining The Future Of Aviation


The aviation industry is facing a challenging moment – air travel has been particularly hard hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our teams are hard at work, helping airports continue innovating and delivering capital improvements to improve the travel experience for when people are ready to board again. Tom Topolski, executive vice president for our Connected Communities market, sat down with Catherine Cronin, our new aviation sector lead, to talk about what’s next for aviation.

Tom: Catherine, what are you most excited about when you think about the state of aviation today?

Catherine: At its base, our industry uses technology to facilitate travel. But we also use technology to make travel better – faster, easier, and hopefully less stressful. By integrating and connecting services with an eye toward the end-user, we can make air travel even better. From our perspective, the end user might be the passenger, owner, airline, or facility manager – but each has an important role to play in the industry, and it’s critical to improve the experience for everyone.

Tom: We all know that the aviation industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. As air travel slowly resumes, how are airports and airlines adapting?

Catherine: Airports and airlines have worked hard to understand the concerns of the employees and passengers and then quickly adapt, implement, and communicate changes that can address those concerns. Technology has played an important role – how can we use technology to help bring people back to the airport and get them comfortable with air travel again? Air travel will pick back up also, albeit with new patterns and challenges.

Tom: What are some of the biggest challenges facing the aviation industry?

Catherine: To the point of the last question – volatility is always a challenge, and COVID has certainly added to it. Beyond that, labor shortages are also a continuing issue; whether a shortage of pilots, engineers, architects, or skilled trades, there are not enough people going into the aviation industry in these types of careers. We need to do more to help feed the pipeline. Getting into schools early and helping plant the seed of interest in these types of careers is important. Joining together with our colleagues in public agencies is also important – neither public agencies nor private companies can face this challenge alone

Tom: What are you looking forward to digging into with the Parsons aviation team?

Catherine: Parsons has so much to offer, in aviation and beyond. I’m looking forward to working across the company to find unique solutions that can be applied in our industry help provide a full-service offering to airports, airlines, and agencies to help deliver a great passenger experience.

Tom: I saved the fun question for last – as an aviation industry expert, what’s your favorite airport? And why?

Catherine: As both a Jersey girl and former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey employee, I might be a bit biased, but I would say Newark (EWR). It’s steeped in aviation history, and they make so much happen on such a small parcel of land – moving 45 million passengers each year is no small feat. As a civil engineer, I tend to like airports that are very functional and close-knit. When you can get from point A to point B very quickly, it improves the travel experience.

About The Author

Catherine Cronin is the Aviation sector lead for Parsons. She has over 25 years of experience in planning, designing, and implementing capital improvement projects in the transportation industry. Previously, she was Project Executive for Aviation Redevelopment Plans with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, responsible for the John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), and AirTrain LaGuardia (LGA) redevelopment programs, valued at over $23 billion. Catherine holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in civil engineering and a Master of Business Administration degree from Rutgers.

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