Business aviation showcases commitment to sustainable fuels with multiple SAJF flights to industry show
Mon 27 May 2019 – Following the launch by the business aviation sector a year ago of a commitment towards the adoption of sustainable alternative jet fuel (SAJF), 23 aircraft arriving at the EBACE industry event in Geneva last week were fuelled from sustainable sources. Many of those aircraft arrived from London’s TAG Farnborough Airport, where industry leaders had hosted a demonstration day, called ‘Fuelling the Future’, which was officially designated a part of the EU Sustainable Energy Week. This followed another demonstration day held in January at Van Nuys Airport, California. Other flights arriving in Geneva were similarly fuelled with SAJF at airports in France, Sweden and the United States. The coalition of industry organisations behind the initiative have published a guide to using SAJF for business aircraft operators, who have needed assurance that SAJF is safe and does not impact aircraft performance.
The business aviation sector has committed to play its part in the wider aviation industry’s goals of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and to reduce net emissions by half by 2050 from a 2005 baseline, and a wide-scale uptake of SAJF is seen as key to achieving its ambitions.
“It is more evident than ever how unified our industry is in working towards the goal of continually reducing emissions through innovation,” said Ed Bolen, President of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), commenting on the number of aircraft fuelled by SAJF arriving at this year’s European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE). “Business aviation has always led the way in promoting technologies that advance the sustainability of flight, and it is appropriate that we highlight our focus in this area through this record-setting fly-in.”
At a premium of around three times that of conventional Jet A1, the cost of sustainable fuel remains a formidable barrier for uptake, although was decreasing, Athar Husain Khan, Secretary General of the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), told the Farnborough gathering, where participating business aircraft took on blended SAJF fuel. He said regulators were needed to step in and help, as was market pressure by operators on their fuel suppliers and fuel producers.
Business aircraft owners and corporate flight departments would be prepared to pay a premium because of the environmental benefits of SAJF but the cost needed to come down, he ventured.
A panel of business aviation and fuel experts told an Innovation Zone session on SAJF at EBACE that production could double over the next five years but that was from a very low base and the transition towards using SAJF by business aircraft operators would likely to be slow although, said one fuel producer, “the supply is there.”
Flight departments were now getting calls from aircraft owners, said Tim Obitts, COO of the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), who were conscious of their corporate responsibility and eager to use sustainable fuels whatever the cost.
A concern expressed by some operators is using SAJF in their aircraft. Charles Etter, Head of Environmental and Regulatory Affairs at Gulfstream Aerospace assured them: “We’re here to educate that the fuel is safe, meets the same fuel specifications and there’s no performance loss. It’s not like Jet A, it is Jet A.”
EBAA’s Chairman, Juergen Wiese, added: “SAJF is safe, does not impact aircraft performance, benefits airport communities [by reducing particulate matter] and reflects our industry’s determination to continually reduce business aircraft carbon emissions.”
Pete Bunce, President of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, said the flights to EBACE were intended to demonstrate to the industry that “SAJF is, quite simply, Jet A in every way: a drop-in fuel that has undergone exhaustive testing and meets all specifications and requirements.”
Speaking at the EBACE media luncheon, Flor Diaz Pulido, Head of Aviation Policy at the European Commission’s DG MOVE, said: “We need something disruptive to help the aviation industry decarbonise faster and in those terms, SAJF can be a game-changer.”
“While the industry had made great strides, we cannot sit on our past success,” she added. “We need to keep improving and in that sense, business aviation is among the leaders of the sector.”
SAJF for the 23 flights to EBACE was supplied by Gevo, World Fuel Services and Neste. Other fuel suppliers involved in the initiative included Air BP and Avfuel Corporation.
“Our industry’s ambitious carbon reduction targets will only be achieved with support from across the entire supply chain. Initiatives like this give operators direct exposure to sustainable aviation fuel, helping us to overcome obstacles to its adoption,” said Irene Lores, Global Sales & Marketing Director for General Aviation at Air BP. “At Air BP, we believe it is important to keep working with multiple suppliers, customers and partners, and using expertise from across BP’s global organisation, to support the commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuel.”
Looking to the future, NATA President Gary Dempsey said: “The focus now needs to be on making it easier for companies to produce SAJF to meet the demands of business jet owners. We urge our FBO and operator members worldwide to contact fuel suppliers and OEMs to answer any questions they may have regarding SAJF and to encourage its widespread use.”