Oct. 17, 2023

Business aviation’s young professionals (YoPros) are leading the industry to a more sustainable future. In today’s kickoff of the 2023 Business Aviation Sustainability Summit, a panel of young professionals shared their efforts to drive change within their organizations and in the industry.

The summit is taking place during the 2023 NBAA business Aviation Convention & Exhibition. (NBAA-BACE).

Importance of Commitment to Sustainability

Panelists spoke to sustainability efforts as an important legacy to leave to later generations. Erik Lindbergh, of the Lindbergh Foundation, explained that his grandparents flew across the earth from the 1920s and on, and saw how this form of transportation could negatively impact our planet. The Lindbergh Foundation seeks balance between advancing technology and protecting the environment.

“This freedom we have to fly is an incredible asset. If we lose that freedom, we lose something incredible,” said Lindbergh. “It’s not just the next generation or our kids. It’s right now. If we’re going to be successful, we’ll have to work on the same front.”

“We want to leave the world a better place than we found it,” said Grace Toale, of Textron Aviation, who sees an opportunity in this industry to bring sustainability to the forefront.

“It’s all about the legacy we leave for future generations, particularly when we talk about sustainable aviation fuel,” said Dr. Stafford Sheehan of Air Company. “If you look at implementation of climate change solutions, we have to start now, but it’s not something we will see the benefit of in our lifetime. It’s something our children and grandchildren will benefit from.”

Sustainability Efforts and Challenges

“Business aviation is expected to fail in this arena, but we have an opportunity to react faster than airlines. We have to look at sustainability from all angles – electric, hydrogen, aerodynamics, ground infrastructure, the whole picture,” Kennedy Ricci of 4Air said.

While sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is a critical piece of sustainability, it’s not a simple solution.

“One challenge of SAF is building new plants and infrastructure and it’s an expensive challenge,” Sheehan said.

Changing Passengers – and Professionals

Moderator Maureen Gautier, of the European Business Aviation Association, asked how the changing – younger – face of business aircraft passengers is impacting sustainability efforts. Toale shared how manufacturers are working to address the demands of a younger passenger and owner demographic.

Ricci explained passengers are now asking about their carbon footprint for a particular flight and consider these factors in their decision making. Meanwhile, younger people joining the industry are placing higher importance on sustainability efforts and the environmental impact of their career choices.

“We have to change the story,” said Ricci, who noted many sustainable technologies were first adopted in business aviation though the industry accounts for less than 1% of global man-made carbon emissions. “Tell the story of aviation as a leader to push all forms of transportation forward in sustainability. While we address our sliver of the pie, we can help other industries learn.”

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