EBACE Convention News

Sustainable Fuel Powers Flights to Geneva

 - May 21, 2019, 3:03 AM
Twenty-three of the aircraft on static display here at EBACE arrived powered by sustainable alternative jet fuel (SAJF). The industry is uniting in support of developing and promoting “green” fuel, with expectations of increasing demand and lowering prices. (Photo: Embraer)

On Saturday, the business aviation world came together as it headed for EBACE in Geneva, demonstrating the benefits of sustainable alternative jet fuel (SAJF) during flights to participate in the show's static display. Thirteen business aircraft fueled up with SAJF at TAG Farnborough Airport in the UK, while others took on SAJF supplied by Avfuel in the U.S. at Republic Airport near New York City, and Air BP at Caen-Carpiquet Airport in France and Arlanda Airport in Stockholm. World Fuel Services supplied 75,000 liters of SAJF for the Farnborough event, but the biofuel made by Gevo had to be shipped to the UK from the U.S. 

Aircraft flying in from Farnborough included a Gulfstream G550, Bombardier Global 6000 and Challenger 350, Embraer Praetor 600, Cessna Citation Latitude, Piaggio Avanti, Cirrus Vision Jet, and others. Dassault’s Falcon 900LX picked up a load of SAJF from the Sheltair FBO at Republic Airport, and its Falcon 2000S filled up at Caen. More than half the airplanes on the EBACE static display burned SAJF flying into Geneva.

At the Farnborough SAJF event, UK Member of Parliament Grant Shapps offered the enthusiastic support of the General Aviation-All Party Parliament Group, the largest such group in Parliament, with 221 members who want general aviation in the UK to grow and succeed. “If we don’t start greening up this sector, it won’t have a future,” he said.

While at Farnborough, OEMs, industry associations, fuel companies, and Eurocontrol director general Eamonn Brennan participated in an event to highlight the benefits of SAJF, “Fueling the Future, The Sustainable Alternative Jet Fuel Initiative: Emissions Reduction through Investment, Innovation.” Forming part of the EU Sustainable Energy Week, the event was staged by the SAJF Coalition, which includes aviation organizations EBAA, NBAA, NATA, GAMA, and IBAC, and was sponsored by the OEMs, World Fuel Services, and TAG Farnborough Airport.

The goal of this effort is to encourage business aviation pilots and operators to ask for SAJF and thus stimulate demand for the new fuel. Participants at the event helped spread the word about the safety, improved performance, and environmental benefits of running SAJF in turbine business aircraft.

Ten years ago, the "Business Aviation Commitment to Climate Change" initiative set three goals: a 2 percent improvement in fuel efficiency from 2010 through 2020; carbon-neutral growth from 2020; and, relative to 2005, a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. “We need SAJF” to meet those goals, said EBAA secretary-general Athar Husain Khan. “It’s great to see the SAJF availability today at many airports. Uplifting this fuel is no easy task, and market availability leaves much to be desired. The cost is higher [than jet-A] but decreasing. We need dedicated regulation for SAJF and fiscal incentives. We stand ready to help.”

TAG Farnborough Airport is the first business aviation airport to achieve carbon neutrality, but airport CEO Brandon O’Reilly wants to do more by promoting more widespread use of SAJF. “People are asking for it, and the day we can offer it efficiently and cost effectively will come.”

Eurocontrol’s Brennan also wants SAJF to succeed, but he said, “Just at the moment, it’s fantasy. It’s difficult to get on a day-to-day basis. Policymakers need to incentivize [SAJF]. We have to make it cheaper and more available.” At the same time, Brennan warned that meeting the environmental goals for aviation is difficult given the constraints of the 41 separate Eurocontrol member-states, the lack of capacity in the European air traffic system, and frequent strikes that shut down airspace. He cited one recent example where a French ATC strike forced a TAP Air Portugal flight to route all the way around France to reach its destination, more than doubling the time and fuel needed. “Tell me how that benefits the environment,” he said.

David Coleal, president of Bombardier Aviation and chairman of the GAMA environmental committee, is both encouraged by the SAJF efforts but well aware of the challenges to produce and distribute the new fuel. The GAMA committee has been working on sustainability issues since 1996, and last year the SAJF Coalition published the “Business Aviation Guide to the Use of SAJF.” “The chemistry is fascinating,” Coleal said. “SAJF is viable and safe. This will be a long journey, but this is change that will have a real-time positive impact.”

Other speakers affirmed their commitment to the initiative. “We’re here today to raise the awareness of SAJF,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. “We want to [fly] more sustainably than anyone can imagine.” NATA president Gary Dempsey noted, “This is a significant event. The focus now needs to be on making it easier for companies to produce SAJF to meet the demands of business jet owners.”

“I”m extremely encouraged,” said Embraer Executive Jets CEO Michael Amalfitano. Sustainability, he added, “is a big part of Embraer’s DNA." Brazil has long invested in alternative fuels, with significant capacity for manufacturing ethanol for automobiles. Embraer’s piston-powered Ipanema agricultural airplane is ethanol-powered, and the company spends 10 percent of annual revenue on research and development and innovation, which includes sustainable alternative fuels. 

All of Embraer’s jets brought to EBACE carried SAJF, including the Praetor 600 that flew from Teterboro to Farnborough on Thursday with 3,000 pounds of SAJF. (AIN editor-in-chief Matt Thurber joined Embraer for the Teterboro-Farnborough leg.) Likewise, Gulfstream’s full line of aircraft at the EBACE static display flew to Geneva with SAJF in their fuel tanks. Manufacturers invited members of the media to fly on some of their SAJF-fueled aircraft from Farnborough to Geneva, including Bombardier (Global 6000), Gulfstream (G550), and Textron Aviation (Citation Latitude). 

“We were all very disappointed that we couldn’t get fuel from the European continent,” said EBAA communication manager Róman Kok. “This situation is part of the realities that we face, especially in business aviation, when it comes to sustainable alternative jet fuel and it is especially the reason we’re organizing these events, not only to educate, but also to bring to light to regulators and fuel providers that our industry is ready to jump on this fuel, but availability is still a huge problem.”