We had the good fortune of connecting with Petra Janney and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Petra, what are you inspired by?
Nature is my biggest inspiration. I grew up surrounded by trees and wilderness and have always marveled at how no material is wasted, each life depends on the other, and endless inventions evolve and coexist in the natural world. In modern society, people tend to see nature as an afterthought, a threat, or worse, a relic. But our interconnected ecosphere is the most incredible machine that exists, and we have so much to learn if we’re conscious enough to try. In our environment, I see endless lessons to improve the human condition and that of other species, and I’ve dedicated my life to realizing these opportunities.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Animals were my first teachers and the gateway to my fascination with the natural world. It probably comes as no surprise that my first entrepreneurial venture was launching an animal rescue nonprofit with my friend and mentor, Dean Heistad. Our charity was inspired by his Great Dane Amelia, who suffered extreme neglect until Dean and his wife Katy rescued her in a Cessna. Dean wanted to leverage the power of aviation to help other at-risk animals, so we started Amelia Air in 2019 to fly shelter pets off death row and into new families.
At its core, Amelia Air is a load-balancing operation that alleviates overcrowding in rural shelters by flying pets to urban areas with more resources and adopters. We are fortunate to work with amazing rescues on both coasts of the US who find each pet the perfect home once we’ve flown them to safety, and we just completed our first international rescue from Mexico in May. My favorite thing to do is give freedom flights to pets who otherwise would languish or perish in shelters through no fault of their own. Amelia Air continues to prove every day that a small, creative, and extremely dedicated team can have a massive impact on difficult issues that many people do not want to face.
This same mentality led to the creation of Hatcher, a hybrid sustainability consultancy and venture builder that I founded in 2021 with another mentor of mine, Peter Presley. After spending years building advanced technologies in design firms and prototyping studios, Peter and I questioned why sustainability is still considered an inconvenience – if it’s even considered at all. We see environmental responsibility as the driving force of future innovation, and the determinant of tomorrow’s winners in the corporate world. So we work with companies every day to create business benefits through leadership on technology, strategy, and services that put the earth first. Whether developing the technical infrastructure to electrify vehicle fleets, or accelerating the adoption of circular products, Hatcher’s purpose is to prove that sustainability drives innovation and differentiation for the organizations brave enough to do the right thing.
As a pilot who cares deeply about the planet, I know that flying contributes to the emissions warming our world. At Amelia Air, we plan our missions to maximize the number of pets we rescue per flight, and to emit less than the long truck routes that would otherwise be required to save these animals. Through Amelia Air’s work to protect the charismatic creatures that enrich our lives, I believe we can develop the mindset and skillset we need to safeguard the natural world around us. Because when I spend a moment simply watching the birds, it’s plain to see that flying is not the problem: fossil fuels are. I know my advocacy for change is more powerful from my vantage point within the aviation community.
At Hatcher, we work with innovators who are developing new propulsion systems to decarbonize aerospace, and it’s the privilege of my career to help accelerate their impact. And yes, I dream of the day when I can fly green hydrogen-powered aircraft to rescue pets. Taking a step back, I believe that flying broadens all our horizons by fostering empathy for faraway communities and ecosystems we would never experience otherwise. Underneath all my work is the fundamental belief that compassion is the conduit for improving life on this planet for all the people and species who share it.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
First off, anyone who comes to visit me in LA is going on my (not so) famous vegan food tour. There were hardly any vegan options around when I was growing up, so to me, LA is like a paradise where everyone can discover the joy of delicious plant-based food. We start at Just What I Kneaded in Frogtown for life-changing tomato galettes; soak up the vintage vibes and cashew burrata at Jewel in Silverlake; make the pilgrimage to Pura Vita in West Hollywood for absurdly luxurious pasta; and if anyone somehow has room for dessert, Creamo dishes up incredible concoctions of donuts, ice cream and milkshakes. For a fun evening, I love ordering Shojin’s Party Platter – which comes artfully arranged with inventive vegan sushi – and bringing it to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery to see a Cinespia movie screening.
Besides trying a cornucopia of vegan food, I also love showing visitors how nature is integrated into the LA lifestyle. The Wisdom Tree is probably my favorite hike – it’s short and steep and delivers amazing views from a perch in between major metropolitan areas. Everyone who comes to LA deserves a beach trip, and El Matador in Malibu never disappoints as long as you time it right. For a quiet moment, try standing at the edge of the earth at Point Dume, which is surrounded by 270 degrees of ocean.
Finally, I love flying friends to Catalina Island (assuming they are comfortable in a small airplane). Catalina’s Airport in the Sky is one of the most beautiful in the world, and it’s the first place I flew after becoming a pilot. The whole island is a nature conservancy so you can see all kinds of endemic wildlife, like the tiny Catalina Island Fox. You do have to keep an eye out for the free-roaming bison, who are actually descendants of a group that was brought to the island to film a movie almost a hundred years ago. From the airport, you can hike down to a stunning campground by the ocean and stay overnight, though I can tell you first-hand the trek back up is no joke!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
In the world of animal rescue, many hardworking people collaborate to get at-risk pets to safety, and their dedication makes me believe we can accomplish anything together. I’m grateful for the entire Amelia Air Force and all of our incredible rescue partners, especially Priceless Pet Rescue in Chino Hills, and Rescue from the Hart, Rescue Train, and The Labelle Foundation right here in Los Angeles.
You don’t co-found a nonprofit and start a sustainability consultancy during a pandemic unless you have a pretty remarkable support system. So the other people who deserve a shoutout are my family. We hail from the east coast but one by one, we each made LA our home. My mom Esmé McTighe supported me when I wanted to stop eating meat around age 7, and she’s been my biggest cheerleader and advocate ever since. Today she spends her time giving back to her adopted LA community by helping kids learn to love reading. My older brother Niall Janney has always been my greatest role model, and today he puts his visionary communication skills to work for social action causes. Finally, my aunt Allison Janney shares my love of animals, amplifies my work to rescue them, believes in everything I do, and just so happens to be one of the coolest people on the planet.
Other: Amelia Air Website: www.ameliaair.org