June 20, 2008

By Ed Bolen

As NBAA Members know, business aviation has long led the way in promoting advances aimed at reducing the industry’s environmental footprint.

While aviation emissions are only a tiny fraction of all transportation emissions, and business aircraft emissions are a small portion of those, the industry has continually leveraged technology to minimize emissions, while improving safety and efficiency.

For example, our industry pioneered winglets for aircraft, which optimize aircraft performance and flight range, and contribute to a more efficient fuel burn, thereby reducing emissions. This equipment is now in place on a large number of general aviation and commercial aircraft.

In addition, the industry continues to reduce engine emissions by applying new technologies, which means that today’s aircraft engines are cleaner, quieter and more fuel-efficient than ever.

Operational improvements advanced by business aviation also have resulted in National Airspace System efficiencies that help the environment. Over two years ago, NBAA Members began equipping aircraft, at their own cost, with cockpit technology that enabled reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSM), effectively doubling the system’s airspace capacity.

Also, general aviation was at the forefront of the development of automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) – considered the cornerstone for air traffic control system modernization and capacity expansion, because it allows for optimal efficiencies in routing, approaches and other uses of the aviation system.

NBAA also continues to support further development of area navigation (RNAV) and required navigation performance (RNP) procedures, which produces efficiencies by enabling operators to custom-tailor flight paths, thereby minimizing fuel burn and noise, while preserving operational safety.

In spite of this impressive record on reducing emissions, the role of aviation emissions in the overall environmental debate has begun in earnest in the Washington policymaking arena. (European policymakers have debated this issue for a number of years, as detailed in this International Focus article.)

NBAA will continue to advocate on behalf of business aviation as we work to promote reductions in our industry’s environmental impact. But as with all of our advocacy efforts, we cannot do it alone. As we move forward on these important issues, we will need the involvement of NBAA Members to ensure business aviation’s vital interests and contributions to the solution are taken into account by policymakers.