Climate Action

Business aviation’s path toward a net zero CO2 future

Business aviation has fully embraced the need to become more sustainable and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Our industry’s multifaceted approach to these goals was recently showcased throughout the 2023 European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE2023) that took place 23-25 May at Geneva’s Palexpo convention centre and adjoining Geneva Airport (GVA).

Co-hosted by the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), EBACE highlighted the game-changing technologies, ground-breaking solutions for sustainable flight and exciting market opportunities propelling our industry forward.

The show also featured engaging speakers – including a candid and inspiring keynote discussion with Formula One powerhouse duo Toto and Susie Wolff – along with a bustling exhibit hall, a sold-out aircraft display and packed sessions on the show floor. This year’s edition of EBACE also hosted the unveiling of Textron Aviation’s new Cessna Citation Ascend, and the EBACE debut of Airbus Corporate Jets’ ACJ TwoTwenty, Bombardier’s Challenger 3500 and Gulfstream’s G800 aircraft.

Perhaps most importantly in this global moment, however, EBACE2023 presented a powerful embodiment of business aviation’s commitment to environmental stewardship and the use of sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF. Made from renewable feedstocks instead of petroleum, these drop-in fuels are driving business aviation’s net zero goal; in its purest form, SAF can cut total lifecycle emissions by as much as 80%.

Through partnership with Jet Aviation, SAF was made available at GVA throughout EBACE2023, allowing operators to reduce CO2 emissions when departing the show. Avfuel Corporation also added its supply of Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel to airports for Geneva-bound flights from airports in Arkansas, Kansas and Florida.

Additionally, ‘book-and-claim’ credits were made available at New York’s White Plains Airport (HPN) through a partnership between Avfuel and Atlantic Aviation. Book-and-claim allows operators to purchase SAF to be used to fuel jets elsewhere at airports where SAF is available, allowing operators to claim the environmental benefits from SAF without actually using it directly.

Tools like book-and-claim are vital to sustainability, as the production, distribution and availability of SAF continue to be an issue in the business aviation sector. This has prompted business aviation operators in Europe to call for regulations mandating a SAF book-and-claim system.

Despite fevered protests against our industry, and concerning movements across Europe to ban business aircraft and short-haul flights, our industry’s focus on sustainability remains steadfast

The three-day EBACE Sustainability Summit also examined other important tools available now to business aviation operators. One session examined the use of carbon offset credits, which allow operators to write off their CO2 emissions through funding specific, approved projects that remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

In fact, CO2 emissions from all attendee travel to and from the show, and from the 22 hotels and the shuttle buses used for EBACE, were offset by such carbon credits through a partnership with 4AIR.

While another important tool toward achieving net zero, however, “carbon offsetting is not a passport for business as usual,” noted Maureen Gautier, Manager for Sustainability and Future Workforce at EBAA. “We really have to reduce first.”

Business aviation continues to innovate in this regard. We are leading the way in designing lighter and more efficient airframes, cleaner-burning engines and utilizing direct routing to reduce travel times and fuel burn.

“Technology leads to sustainability,” said Michael Amalfitano, President and CEO of Embraer Executive Jets, in an EBACE newsmakers panel discussion featuring leaders of six leading business aircraft OEMs. “As we continue to advance our products and our services to support those advancements, it’s a really strong commitment by all the OEMs to continue to create a more efficient aircraft and a more efficient manufacturing operation.”

EBACE also highlighted the technologies leading our industry beyond petroleum-based propulsion, with ongoing development of electric-powered advanced air mobility (AAM) aircraft tracking toward commercial introduction as soon as two years from now.

With leaders promising certification and the first commercial flights by 2024 – and several AAM aircraft displayed on the show floor – 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.

These certified AAM will be usable vehicles. Mark Henning, Managing Director for AutoFlight, noted the company recently set a world record flying its full-scale prototype a distance of 250 km (155 miles.) “It was important to show to the world out there that eVTOL [electric vertical takeoff and landing] isn’t science fiction anymore,” he said.

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.”

The message from EBACE2023 was clear: despite fevered protests against our industry, and concerning movements across Europe to ban business aircraft and short-haul flights, our industry’s focus on sustainability remains steadfast. I invite readers of World Commerce Review to continue following these and other exciting developments guiding us toward business aviation’s bright, innovative and sustainable future.