Business Aviation Soaring to Sustainability
- Advanced Aircrew Academy
If the average American was an airplane, we'd be about as fuel efficient as an old Boeing 707. We consume roughly 76,646 pounds of food in a lifetime, which averages out to digesting six elephants. Because we balance that consumption over time and use the consumed energy as we go, we thankfully don't weigh what we consume. But also like an airplane, our environment is a giant weight and balance equation. We can take from our earth, but what we give back doesn't always balance the scales. There is imminent concern about each industry's role in the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, so business aviation is taking the issue head on, into the wind.
Business aviation pilots have a unique view of the world, literally and figuratively. They fly higher and faster than commercial aircraft and they've seen the subtle changes in our weather patterns and the intensity of Mother Nature's power. "The first time I was up at FL510 (51,000 ft above ground level) was in 1998. I was flying a Citation X from Las Vegas to New York (JFK). The winds aloft were relatively calm, and it was clear skies for most of our flight. It's the first time that I could distinctly see the plumes of pollution over major cities like Chicago, Detroit, and New York," recalls lifelong corporate pilot Jason Lundland. "It was the first moment when I could really see how people might be affecting our planet. I've noticed that thunderstorms build faster and higher, there are more wind shear areas in the pressure systems, and more extremes in daily temperatures—so now I always wonder if those pollution clouds I saw are changing our weather." The aviation industry hasn't waited to find out.
Improvements in Fuel Efficiency
Each new generation of aircraft has double-digit fuel efficiency improvements. Today's modern aircraft produce 80% less CO2 per seat than those in the 1950s, and the industry is just getting started on sustainability. There is a financial incentive to being more fuel efficient, so the byproduct of efficiency is the potential to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
Business aviation has long since had self-awareness about its role in the transportation sector. The weight and balance scale begins by providing enormous economic benefit. According to the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), business aviation supports over 1.2 million total jobs and contributes $150 billion to the U.S. economy. Contrary to popular belief, only about 3% of the approximately 15,000 U.S.-registered business aircraft are flown by Fortune 500 companies. The other 97% are operated by a variety of organizations and businesses.
While the industry gives many societal benefits, it also realizes that it needs to do more to achieve net-zero carbon emissions, so there is a new advocacy campaign to spotlight business aviation’s sustainability leadership. NBAA's new "Climbing. Fast." emphasizes business aviation's value, acknowledges the burning of fossil fuels is detrimental to the environment, and focuses on solutions to achieving a net-zero carbon emissions solution by 2050.
NBAA's press release includes these key points: "The Climbing. Fast. campaign will emphasize business aviation's value as an incubator for innovation. For example, thanks to investments in airplane winglets, light-weight airframe composites, satellite-based navigation systems and other carbon-cutting technologies, emissions from business aircraft have been slashed by 40% in just four decades, and new business aircraft are up to 35% more efficient than the previous generation.
"The Climbing. Fast. initiative will also highlight the pioneering work to make its net-zero carbon emissions goal a reality, including through: the development of eco-friendly aircraft that use ultra-efficient engines, including hybrid, electric and even hydrogen-powered propulsion; the production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), which can reduce net-carbon emissions by 80%; and, the use of smarter, faster, more efficient routing that requires less energy.
“The unified industry campaign already counts 10 stakeholder organizations in its ranks, whose leaders stated their enthusiastic support for the new initiative.
"'What business aviation contributes to society is immeasurable and its commitment to sustainability unmatched,' said Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) President and CEO Mark Baker. 'The Climbing. Fast. initiative will help showcase the industry's resolve toward positive change through sustainable programs, and AOPA is pleased to support this admirable campaign.'
"'As new technologies are developed, it opens more possibilities to incorporate sustainable energy innovations to maintain and expand the worldwide benefits of aviation,' said Jack J. Pelton, CEO and Chairman of the Board with the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). 'EAA members have always been at the forefront of imagination and innovation for flight, so we're excited for programs such as Climbing. Fast. and others to bring opportunities for aviation's future that were not even imagined just a short time ago.'"
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