With the business aviation field focused increasingly on sustainability, NBAA is formally launching its Sustainable Flight Operations Accreditation Program this week at NBAA-BACE. Under development for three years, the audit-based program will provide a standardized way for NBAA members to demonstrate measures they are taking to reduce their environmental footprints.
It is designed to promote sustainability best practices for flight departments and is being supported by the organization’s newly established environmental subcommittee, which offers real-life operational input from its members while as serving as a sounding board for future development of the accreditation goals.
A trial sustainable flight operations program announced by NBAA in April—on Earth Day—recently concluded. It featured Adobe, Starbucks, and four other member companies and used their 2019 data as a baseline. “The feedback that we’ve heard from the membership is that this is really great—that they finally have a single source to go to for all this,” said Stewart D’Leon, NBAA’s director of environmental and technical operations. “Even if they are doing these piecemeal items, this is going to allow them to structure everything.”
Accreditation by the program will last for an initial three years before renewal and involves four areas of action: flight, which deals with the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and aircraft efficiencies; operations, focusing on recycling and minimizing the use of resources; ground support, including the use of sustainable strategies and vendors who employ such strategies; and infrastructure, including the application of sustainable practices in hangars and other facilities.
“The industry rightfully has been focused on what we can do with the aircraft, and so we’ve been focused on things like SAF and aircraft technologies," D’Leon told AIN. "But I think what we are going to see is that everyone’s mindset really starts to expand. This program is going to grow over time and as there are new technologies, as we see more vendors with environmental sustainability products for the hangars and the buildings come into our space, we have a place to put them and we can continually develop those requirements for our program.”
Prospective members will apply for enrollment in the program, which requires an administrative fee that covers all associated costs. NBAA will provide web-based educational and training content to assist in the process. Applicants will then submit documentation to support their adherence to the stringent requirements in one or more of the action categories and will then undergo a paperwork and virtual review or be randomly selected for a live audit.
“I see the timeline being six to eight months from application to accreditation,” said D’Leon, adding that since NBAA announced the program in April, the response has been “overwhelming.” He predicted that "by BACE 2022, we’ll have a long list of participants that will have received accreditation."
Among those responding positively are some well-known companies. “They recognize that their customers are very focused on sustainability, that it’s the right thing to do, and they want to have a place here,” D’Leon said. “Especially the larger organizations. They have sustainability departments within their parent organization, and I think what we’ve seen is that the flight departments are stepping up and saying we can do something, too, we can be part of this, and this [program] gives them that tool.”