Dec. 4, 2020

As business aviation leaders and stakeholders reaffirm their commitment to greater environmental sustainability throughout the industry, an NBAA GO Virtual Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (VBACE) education session, sponsored by NBAA’s Business Aviation Insider magazine, focused on the steps many companies have already implemented to reaching that goal.

Engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce has committed to achieving net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. While the company is researching multiple paths to meet that goal, Rolls’ Director of Central Technology Dave Smith believes the best answer lies in widespread adoption of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) to power existing aircraft designs.

“We can keep the same planes, we can keep pretty much the same engines, and we can keep our industry moving as it is today,” he said. “We can decarbonize, and I think that’s the reality. Today, we are running an engine on 100% sustainable fuel … and we’re burning that to prove that not only can the engine run on that; it actually is better, the emissions are cleaner as well.”

Chad Doehring, chief operating officer for Duncan Aviation in Provo, UT, pointed to that location’s new 57,000-square-foot paint facility featuring a regenerative thermal oxidizer that “super cooks” paint booth emissions, removing 99.7% of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and resulting in filtered air that is “actually cleaner than the air we’re breathing right now.

“It’s quite the investment to handle this, but we’re committed to making sure that we are leaving as little trail as possible in the paint process,” he added. The facility also includes an on-site treatment center for pigment solids and solvent waste, recycles old seat foam and utilizes natural lighting and LEDs to reduce current draw.

Gary Jet Center near Chicago, IL is similarly focused on environmental sustainability, attaining Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for its energy-efficient new hangar and FBO in 2017. Such measures, said company president Lynn Eplawy, offer the “potential for achieving significant greenhouse gas emission reductions at the least cost.

“Prior to the pandemic, the aviation industry represented just under eight percent of oil consumption worldwide,” she explained. “But what’s interesting is that buildings themselves use 40% of global energy, 25% of global water and 40% of global resources, and they emit approximately a third of all greenhouse gas emissions.”

Improving the performance of existing aircraft can also increase their sustainability. Available for retrofit on several Cessna Citation models, Tamarack Aerospace’s active winglets raise the effective aspect ratio of the aircraft wing without the added structural weight of conventional winglets.

These modifications can help planes “fly for 33% farther on the same tank of fuel,” said company founder, CEO and sales director Nick Guida. “We’re all under the gun to make sure that we can have a sustainability focus as we move forward … Upcycling an existing product is not just smart; it’s really the core of sustainability.”

Learn more about the Business Aviation Coalition for Sustainable Aviation Fuel.