By Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA)
Business aviation has long been a valuable tool for connecting companies and communities of all sizes across the nation and throughout the world. The 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 sustainability.
This is a very exciting time, and not only for the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and members that already utilize business aviation to increase their efficiency and competitiveness. Citizens, service providers and urban planners in communities large and small also stand to benefit, as these developments offer the promise to advance metropolitan transportation infrastructure, emergency response and quality of life considerations across the country and around the world. Urban Air Mobility May Revolutionize Intercity Transportation Over the past few years, a new transportation segment has emerged alongside more traditional business aircraft and rotorcraft seen at NBAA-sponsored events. Urban air mobility (UAM) 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.
This may seem within the realm of science fiction, but anyone who’s ever dreamed of traveling above congested city streets may soon have their dreams realized, and possibly much sooner than they may think. Earlier this year, the 2019 European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE2019) in Geneva, Switzerland hosted its first-ever EBACE Innovation Pavilion showcasing three different electric eVTOL aircraft and concepts. Next to this display, the EBACE Innovation Zone hosted a panel presentation on eVTOL and the UAM revolution.
These events built upon a packed, standing room only session at last year’s NBAA Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) that offered attendees several revelations about this emerging industry to the business aviation community. As one example, several presenters noted the biggest challenge isn’t necessarily creating pilotless eVTOL vehicles, but with creating a safe, reliable and secure infrastructure in which those aircraft will operate in already congested urban airspace.
One of the largest stakeholders in this segment is Uber Elevate, which is working with manufacturers, technology providers and others to bring pilotless eVTOL to fruition. The rideshare service has partnered with several aerospace companies to bring such vehicles to market as soon as 2023, emphasizing development of real-time, on-demand, global UAM networks as well as the necessary airspace considerations, landing pads and crowd control and passenger accommodations.
Earlier this year, the 2019 Uber Elevate Summit in Washington, DC featured a slew of eVTOL designs, not only from emerging players in this market, but also from established aircraft manufacturers including Bell, Embraer, Boeing and Airbus. NBAA sponsored this event as part our association’s ongoing effort to ensure safe integration of emerging technology and optimized utilization of new technology for business aviation purposes.
These hybrid gas-electric and, ultimately, fully electric designs offer the promise of safe and efficient travel within metropolitan areas around the globe, and even to the airport for longer-distance trips. NBAA also expects these designs to ultimately complement traditional business aviation aircraft that are also moving toward more efficient operations and reducing our industry’s already-low carbon footprint. Cleaner Emissions from Sustainable Fuels Available Now Companies utilizing business aviation – along with aircraft and engine manufacturers, fuel providers and other stakeholders – have long sought to improve their own environmental footprint, and the efficiency of their products and operations. One of the most promising avenues toward fulfilling that commitment with today’s business aircraft is through the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) derived from renewable feed stocks.
It may surprise you to know our industry’s commitment to SAF actually began more than 10 years ago, when business aircraft operators represented by the International Business Aviation Council joined with aircraft manufacturers and service providers to announce 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 harmonized environmental policy that ensured safe, efficient and balanced operations. Among the tenets of that commitment was a pledge to a two-percent improvement in efficiency per year from 2010 until 2020, with carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards and a 50-percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.
Our industry’s united support for SAF was first codified last year, as a coalition of international business aviation organizations joined government officials in Geneva for EBACE2018 to redouble their focus on advancing the development and adoption of SAF. At the heart of this initiative was a new resource, the Business Aviation Guide to the Use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF), focused on raising awareness that such fuels for business aviation are safe, approved and available now; that SAF offer myriad benefits, including those in support of the sustainability of business aviation, corporate responsibility and reduced emissions; and that such fuels are derived from several sustainable, renewable resources, and are therefore an environmental “win-win.”
With the Business Aviation Guide to the Use of SAF spurring industry-wide interest in sustainable aviation fuels, the next step in raising awareness and promoting education of its benefits came in January 2019, as IBAC joined with NBAA and a coalition of other industry groups to sponsor the first-ever SAF demonstration day at Van Nuys Airport (VNY) in Southern California to prove the fuels’ viability and safety.
During the daylong “Business Jets Fuel Green: A Step Toward Sustainability” event, VNY’s four fixed-based operators fueled aircraft throughout the day with SAF from suppliers World Fuel Services and Avfuel. Local officials expressed their support for this industry-wide, all-voluntary, private investment in research and innovation, and numerous demonstration flights were conducted by business aircraft powered by SAF. This impressive demonstration at Van Nuys paved the way toward the first European SAF demonstration day in May 2019, held at Tag Farnborough London Airport in England ahead of EBACE2019. Aircraft from Bombardier, Gulfstream, Cirrus, Embraer, Piaggio, Dassault and Textron Aviation fueled up on sustainable alternative fuels at Farnborough and other airports throughout Europe and the U.S. for demonstration flights showcasing the viability of SAF.
Learn More about Business Aviation’s Exciting Evolution at NBAA-BACE 2019
These examples highlight the important role of business aviation as an early adopter of technologies that have advanced transportation, improved fuel efficiency and reduced environmental impacts. The very latest developments in UAM technology and environmental sustainability will also be featured throughout NBAA’s annual Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE 2019), which will take place October 22-24 in Las Vegas, NV.
The world’s largest event dedicated to the business aviation community, NBAA-BACE 2019 will bring together about 25,000 attendees – including current and prospective business aircraft owners, manufacturers, and influential industry leaders – to one meeting place. The three-day event will feature esteemed international government and aviation officials, who will share their perspectives on these and other issues relevant to the industry’s ongoing development both in the United States, and across the globe.
NBAA-BACE will also feature dozens of education sessions that will both highlight the benefits of business aviation and address contemporary concerns and considerations for people using, or wanting to use, a business aircraft. More than 1,000 exhibitors will display their products and services, and approximately 100 business aircraft will be parked side-by-side, between two static display areas, for attendees to review and compare.
As we look ahead to the next five, 10 and even 20 years, those working in business aviation know their industry will continue to advance toward new transportation alternatives and an increasingly small environmental footprint. Business aviation is unquestionably well-suited to meet these challenges, and we look forward to continued advances along these fronts in the years ahead.
On behalf of NBAA’s more than 11,000 members, I also look forward to welcoming Expansion Solutions readers to Las Vegas later this year so you may learn more about these initiatives and other impressive examples of our industry’s significance in advancing the future of air transportation throughout our country, and around the globe. Bio: Ed Bolen has been president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) since September 2004.
About the Author: Prior to joining NBAA, Bolen was president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) for eight years. He has served on a U.S. Presidential Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry, and a Presidential Council that made recommendations to government on national aviation planning. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Flight Safety Foundation and the Board of Directors of the National Aeronautic Association. He also serves on the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board of The National Academies.