Sustainable Aviation Fuel Offers Profound Opportunities for Business Aviation
Oct. 24, 2019
During a high-profile panel at the 2019 NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen summarized the game-changing potential of the industry’s newest fuel technology: “Sustainable aviation fuel seems too good to be true but it’s not – it’s here, it’s now.”
Attendees packed the Innovation Zone to hear panelists discuss the current outlook for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), which is now available and federally approved for use in all aircraft operations. The fundamental soundness of the technology was quickly established: SAF requires no aircraft modifications, has no negative impact on aircraft systems and can actually improve performance relative to standard Jet A.
These qualities were demonstrated earlier in the week when many manufacturers and exhibitors at the NBAA-BACE aircraft display at Henderson Executive Airport (HND) flew in fueled in part, or entirely, on SAF. The compelling display will continue after the lights go out at the Las Vegas Convention Center – all aircraft departing the aircraft display after the show will be using SAF.
With no doubt as to the capability of the product, the panel focused on a fundamental question: How can the business aviation industry increase its use of SAF?
“The industry has to work collectively but the opportunity is in front of us to make a real difference,” said Pete Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. Bunce pointed to the significant progress made since 2009 – the beginning of a formal adoption effort by the major aviation associations in U.S. and Europe – as proof that SAF is gaining industry acceptance.
All panelists identified lack of awareness and access to SAF as key remaining challenges to widespread acceptance, and encouraged attendees to communicate interest in the product to their FBOs and fuel suppliers.
John Hatfield, vice president of aviation for Cox Enterprises, explained that the current cost of SAF, which can be higher than traditional Jet A, is driven by lack of demand. He noted that fuel providers indicate supply will be stepped up as demand increases, thereby decreasing the overall cost.
Kevin Welsh, executive director of the FAA’s Office of Environment and Energy, credited the domestic aviation industry with a strong track record of sustainability, but said alternative fuels will need to play a larger role if the industry is to meet aggressive goals of 50% reduction in emissions by 2050.
Welsh asserted that operators of business aircraft have an important opportunity to send a demand signal that will trigger suppliers to increase production.
Despite the current market challenges, the panelists painted an optimistic picture of a technology that, with industry buy-in, has the potential to establish business aviation as a leading force in the field in environmental stewardship.
“Business aviation advances technology, creates jobs and powers the economy,” noted David Coleal, president of aviation at Bombardier Aviation. “We have a golden opportunity to make meaningful change.”
In addition to communicating interest to FBOs and fuel providers, proponents of the sustainable aviation fuel movement can use the hashtag #IWantMySAF and #SAFNOW to show their support on social media.
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