By Rob Finfrock, Freelance Writer
Business aviation enables connectivity between cities and communities of all sizes and provides an important transportation alternative in areas where no commercial airline service is available. In fact, the presence of a general aviation (GA) airport is often a deciding factor when companies look to locate production facilities, or even corporate headquarters, in smaller communities.
For more than 75 years, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) has advocated on behalf of all those who use business aircraft to support their companies and grow their operations. The industry also serves as a vital lifeline to people in hard-to-reach communities across the nation and throughout the world, and regularly provides life-saving services to people in hard-to-reach communities around the globe.
That said, business aviation has also come under attack of late, ostensibly over concerns about the industry’s environmental impact. Increasingly, the methods of protest are highly questionable, often counterproductive and even dangerous, and have caused significant damage to aircraft and airport infrastructure.
In truth, companies utilizing business aviation – along with aircraft and engine manufacturers, fuel providers and other stakeholders – are continually working to improve their own environmental footprints and the efficiency of their products and operations.
In 2009, business aircraft operators represented by the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) joined with aircraft manufacturers and service providers to codify these efforts through the Business Aviation Commitment on Climate Change, an aggressive program to continually reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.
These stakeholders, including NBAA, identified a critical need for a globally recognized environmental policy that ensured safe, efficient and balanced operations. The result from that initial commitment was a pledge to halve business aviation carbon emissions by 2050.
It soon became clear that goal wasn’t far-reaching enough, however, and in 2021 our industry redoubled its sustainability pledge with the goal of achieving net-zero industry carbon emissions within the same timeframe – a commitment our industry is well on the way toward achieving, thanks to innovative new fuels, exciting new technologies and bold thinking.
In addition to making future generations of business aircraft more efficient and more sustainable, one of the most promising avenues toward fulfilling that commitment with today’s is through the use of sustainable alternative fuels (SAF) derived from renewable feed stocks.
Use of these fuels can achieve as much as an 80 percent reduction in lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over conventional Jet-A, and a new blender’s tax credit incentivizing SAF production ensures availability and use of these revolutionary fuels will markedly increase in the next few years.
At the same time, business aviation users and flight departments have also embraced a multitude of other sustainability initiatives, ranging from implementing companywide recycling efforts to building new hangars, offices and facilities in compliance with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification criteria.
Revolutionizing Aerial Transport
Our industry also continues to embrace new technologies offering the potential to not only increase the level of productivity that business aviation may provide, but also to perform these roles with an even greater emphasis on environmental sustainability and social responsibility.
Research continues into alternative fuels such as hydrogen, while developers are also making great strides toward hybrid and fully electric propulsion. Advanced air mobility (AAM) aims to revolutionize travel across large metroplexes, utilizing optionally piloted and even fully autonomous electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles to transport on-demand passengers and cargo.
Momentum continues to build not only among companies bringing AAM vehicles to market, but also among community planners, local officials and state and national lawmakers – including within Congress and the White House – all working to develop and fund the necessary infrastructure to support these vehicles.
Earlier this year, several AAM developers at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE) affirmed this new mode of air transport will soon become a reality. “We are fully on track for a type certification before the end of 2025 in Europe,” said Daniel Wiegand, co-founder and chief engineer for innovation and future programs at Lilium.
In fact, commercial operations for battery-powered eVTOL are expected to begin next summer, with Germany’s Volocopter offering commercial AAM passenger flights during the 2024 Paris Olympics. “We want first of all to bring advanced air mobility and a sustainable network to everyone,” said company CEO Dirk Hoke. “And we will not do it only for the Olympics, we will be there then for the years to come in Paris.”
A Sustainable Partnership
All these efforts also serve to align business aviation’s sustainability commitment with its economic, social and humanitarian benefits to companies and communities, while also complementing community programs fostering sustainable growth, responsible development and equitable access to necessary services.
As one example, leaders in Clark County and Las Vegas, NV, longtime host city of NBAA’s annual Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE), have repeatedly acknowledged not only the economic benefits of this partnership, but our common sustainability goals as well.
In 2019, Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft thanked NBAA for making SAF available to all exhibitors at the show’s outdoor aircraft display at Henderson Executive Airport (HND.) “I applaud this effort to reduce the aviation emissions footprint in Southern Nevada and look forward to the continued implementation of other sustainability initiatives throughout our Clark County Aviation System,” he noted.
NBAA’s return to Las Vegas in 2021 included several new sustainability initiatives, such as ensuring a growing supply of SAF available at HND and Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) for those attending the convention. The event also implemented a first-time carbon offset program, making NBAA-BACE one of the largest carbon-neutral trade shows in the country, and nearly one hundred exhibitors signed a ‘Green Pledge’ to implement ways to mitigate their environmental footprint for the convention.
A new Business Aviation Sustainability Summit highlighted multiple programs already in place for operators to realize the benefits of using SAF, including novel ‘book and claim’ programs allowing operators to make a purchase toward the production of SAF even if those fuels are not available from their departing airport.
“[NBAA-BACE] is proof that we can grow the economy at the same time we are taking new steps to reduce our environmental impact,” Naft said in 2021. “We appreciate NBAA’s leadership in this area and look forward to welcoming the convention back here for many years to come.”
The 2023 edition of NBAA-BACE, taking place Oct. 17-19 in Las Vegas, will build even more strongly atop this foundation. In addition to continuing and expanding the programs described above, the event will also spotlight new initiatives, new programs, new aircraft and new ways of thinking.
This is a very exciting time for our industry. To learn more about our industry’s efforts and on behalf of NBAA’s more than 11,000 member companies, I invite readers of Expansion Solutions to come to Las Vegas this October and learn more about all the ways that business aviation is working to ensure our industry’s exciting future is also a sustainable future.