Big companies, UHNW consumers, better availablity of SAFs will spur private aviation sustainability

By Doug Gollan, December 6, 2020

A VBACE panel of executives from VistaJet, Bombardier and the National Business Aviation Association said customers, particularly big companies, can help drive private jet sustainability

A panel during VBACE, a virtual rendition of business aviation’s annual conference canceled due to COVID-19, concluded that the industry’s drive for sustainability has multiple facets. However, sustainable aviation fuel has the opportunity to make the biggest impact fastest.

Matteo Atti, head of marketing and innovation at VistaJet, told listeners even though aviation’s carbon emissions are just 2% of world totals, and private aviation is just 2% of the 2%, “The responsibility needs to sit with the business aviation industry.”

He said it is incumbent on sellers of private jet flight services not to wait for regulators and manufacturers. In launching a green push Davos earlier this year, VistaJet took a holistic approach that included all its business segments.

“It’s amazing by simply engaging your own company behind a common goal everyone is contributing a little bit,” he said.

Still, 90% of the company’s carbon footprint comes from CO2 emissions from the flights it operates.

VistaJet has been offering offsets for its members (80% have signed up). It also incorporates the expense in on-demand charter quotes.

Beyond that, the operator is investing in artificial intelligence-based flight planning tools. So far, they have cut emissions by six to eight percent. It will also take delivery of six new Bombardier Global 7500s next year. Each new jet is more fuel-efficient than older Global Express models. It is also educating customers by booking in advance it reduces empty leg repositioning flights.

Mark Masluch, director of public affairs at Bombardier, said, “The disproportionate amount of criticism (business aviation gets) is something we take to heart and gives us, even more, resolve to tackle these issues.”

He noted Bombardier has been working towards reducing carbon output of its private jets for more than a decade.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Masluch joined NBAA CEO Ed Bolen as pointing to sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). The trade group’s boss said it is the closest solution for the industry that will have the biggest impact.

SAF can decrease CO2 output by up to 80%. It also can work with older private jets as well as the newest models. He noted, “The big breakthrough is now that we know sustainable aviation fuel works…How do we make it more available, and how do we increase adoption?

He also noted that there had been a long-held objective towards reducing the carbon footprint across business aviation. He noted winglets, which reduce fuel consumption and are now widely part of airliners, started with private jets.

Bolen pointed to a variety of additional issues that impact sustainability. He cited the air traffic control system as needing upgrades. He also said operators need to review tankering. That means hauling extra fuel to reduce purchases away from the base.

Dan Hubbard, head of communications for the trade group, said incentives to make SAF more widely available would help. He pointed to California and Washington, where he said the legislation is spurring distribution.

NetJets announced that it would be making a major commitment to purchase SAF in October. It cited availability as the largest limiting factor.

Hubbard pointed to companies that own and use private aircraft as being an important driver. “A connection people sometimes miss…is the increasing number of corporations, starting with the larger ones, that are putting sustainability as a corporate objective,” he said. When coming from the top, the impact flows down to every department, including travel and aviation use, including private jets.

A recent survey by JetNet IQ of private jet operators revealed only two-tenths of one percent said sustainability was a key concern of their customers, with over 60% citing COVID-19 related health concerns and 21

The panel was moderated by aviation writer and reporter Christine Negroni.

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