Steuart Walton sees two things coming together that will benefit advanced air mobility (AAM) — advances in technology and the amount of capital moving into the space.
AAM is a new concept of air transportation that moves cargo and people between places using innovative aircraft. Morgan Stanley predicts it will become a $1.4 trillion market by 2040, and Arkansas intends to be a leader in the advancement.
“People see the opportunity,” said Walton, a pilot and the founder and chairman of Game Composites, a Bentonville company that designs and builds small composite aircraft.
Walton was one of the dozens of speakers who participated in the invitation-only Heartland Summit in Bentonville on May 11-12. More than 300 people attended the flagship event of Bentonville think tank Heartland Forward, spearheaded by Walton family members and led by CEO Ross DeVol.
Walton, aviation entrepreneur Cyrus Sigari and Walmart executive Tom Ward had an hour-long panel discussion at the Bentonville Municipal Airport titled “Jet Packs, Drones and Flying Cars.”
“The title is a lot sexier than a lot of the activity today might indicate,” Walton joked. “But to be fair, people are flying around in what is, essentially, a George Jetson-looking flying car. A guy is flying around in jet packs — two on his feet and one on each arm.
“That stuff is happening. What is interesting is seeing the technology grow and develop and then become widely commercially available. Where Northwest Arkansas can become a player is thinking about scale. This region is really good at scaling [companies] up.”
Summit organizers said their goal was to promote action by convening people playing a role in the success stories of thriving areas of America’s heartland. Steuart Walton’s younger brother, Tom Walton, said that’s what is happening.
“When you start something like this, [you think] what are we measuring as the tangible result,” said Walton, a Walton Family Foundation board member. “What we actually hear is that the interactions happening here lead to other things and people getting together to solve different problems.”
The Walton brothers are the principals behind Runway Group, a diversified holding company in Bentonville that invests in real estate, hospitality and outdoor recreation in Northwest Arkansas.