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Position & Hold


Sustainability – an important part of business aviation’s past, present, and post Covid-19 future

Ed Bolen
President & CEO, NBAA



Playing its part in this industry-wide commitment, Textron Aviation offers customers aircraft filled up with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on delivery of new Cessna turboprops, Citation jets, and Beechcraft TPs.
Among the many effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a noticeable reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions around the globe, as demand across all modes of air, land, and sea transport dwindled in the onset of the crisis.

This has not gone unnoticed, and, as travel demand inevitably rebounds, this places even greater emphasis on the need for environmental responsibility and sustainability in the worldwide aviation sector – including the business aviation community.

Although global business aviation operations represent but a tiny fraction of overall CO2 emissions, our industry has been committed to exploring ways to further improve on this figure for decades. That includes advances in aircraft design and aerodynamics, and new technologies driving more efficient propulsion methods.

One of the most promising and accessible means of lowering carbon emissions still further is sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). This cleaner-burning alternative to straight petroleum-based Jet-A can be derived from any number of renewable feedstocks, and offers the potential for reducing net lifecycle carbon emissions by at least 50%, while still meeting the standards defined in ASTM D1655 (Standard Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuels).

SAF is not new to our industry. In fact, it was recognized back in 2009 as a pathway toward our industry’s shared Business Aviation Commitment on Climate Change – an ambitious program led by the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) and endorsed by business aviation stakeholders worldwide.

Although we’ve made inroads to promote use of SAF in the decade since, it’s clear more work needs to be done, particularly in the post-Covid environment. This extends not only to increasing availability and access to SAF, but also to educating operators and other industry stakeholders about the fuel’s many benefits and its use as a true drop-in replacement for conventional Jet-A.

Earlier this year, the Business Aviation Coalition for Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF Coalition) released its updated and enhanced SAF guide for the industry. Titled Fueling the Future and available at futureofsustainablefuel.com, the resource details the practicalities of SAF development, industry adoption, and pending expansion of supply and use.

The guide builds upon other recent efforts by NBAA and other members of the SAF Coalition to build enthusiasm and support for sustainable fuels. That included a first-ever SAF-focused event in January 2019 at VNY (Van Nuys CA), followed 4 months later by a similar event at FAB (Farnborough, UK) ahead of the 2019 European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE).

At the 2019 NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) in Las Vegas, every refueling turbine aircraft on display departed from HSH (Henderson, Las Vegas NV) powered by SAF. The fuel was also made available earlier this year at ZRH (Zürich, Switzerland) for those traveling to the World Economic Forum in Davos, further emphasizing how sustainability is increasingly intertwined with the global economic community.

A virtual event, a vital dialogue

Plans were also under way for a new Business Aviation Sustainability Summit to be held in March 2020 in Washington DC before Covid-19 forced the event’s postponement. Even as so much in our world has changed, however, the importance of SAF as a key path toward ever greater sustainability across business aviation has not changed – and that’s a message that needs to be shared now more than ever.

During Sep 14–15, business aviation stakeholders around the world convened online for a first-of-its-kind Virtual Business Aviation Sustainability Summit that brought together business aviation OEMs, suppliers, industry leaders, and a host of other noted experts to discuss pathways to accelerate the market for SAF.

They were joined by key government officials, including US Representative Rick Larsen (D–WA), chair of the House Subcommittee on Aviation, and Kevin Welsh, FAA’s executive director for the Office of Environment & Energy.

We were also honored to have with us for the summit representatives with flight operations that are part of household-name brands, including Coca-Cola. Topics addressed during the 2-day event included the importance of SAF to business aviation and its performance in aircraft; insights on long-term solutions to encourage SAF adoption, including through tax credits and “book-and-claim” arrangements; and ways to expedite access to this innovative fuel once operators say, “I want my SAF!”

The summit showcased business aviation’s ongoing commitment to reducing GHG emissions, and the industry’s leadership in the overall global sustainability conversation.

The Virtual Business Aviation Global Sustainability Summit marked an important moment for our industry, and its work toward a more sustainable future. Thanks go to the hundreds of participants, including Professional Pilot readers with world-leading companies, for participating.