“You can have a vision, but if you don’t act now, you stay a dreamer.” With that comment, EBAA chairman Juergen Wiese summed up business aviation’s sustainability aspirations thus far. Kicking off EBACE’s Sustainability Luncheon on Monday, Wiese who is also head of BMW’s flight department, described the goals previously stated by the industry in 2009, which included the 50 percent reduction of CO2 emissions by 2050 relative to 2005 levels. Last year, that was stepped up to carbon neutrality by 2050. “It was a great vision,” Wiese told the audience, “but how do we get to it?”
The industry has long pinned its hopes on four pillars: technological advances in airframes and propulsion, air traffic control improvements, market-based measures such as carbon offsets, and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). While considered to play a major role in achieving those goals, SAF is still a nascent industry supplying less than 1 percent of aviation’s needs. “SAF is the big element that we have to jump on which we have to scale up production and uptake,” Wiese said. “It has to become cheaper and more available.”
One of the ways being considered to spur innovation is to define and establish some sort of prize, similar to those that in the past have paved the way for major step changes in the industry. It was Charles Lindbergh’s pursuit of the Orteig prize that led to his nonstop crossing of the Atlantic 95 years ago, and during the luncheon, his grandson Erik Lindbergh, who had to cancel his appearance at the event due to Covid, announced via video the launch of the Forever Flight Alliance to offer such an incentive. Under the Forever Flight Alliance, the Lindbergh Foundation and the XPrize Foundation—with the support of The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, NBAA, and others—will explore ways to accelerate the decarbonization of aviation using prizes.
Moderating a panel discussion, award-winning journalist Lisa Stark noted that while aviation currently accounts for only 3.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, it is the fastest-growing source of them. “The industry knows it has to move forward, and it knows for two reasons,” she told the audience. “One is quite frankly to save the planet but also really to save the industry. This is a make or break issue.”
The panel featured experts in the various technologies that will play roles in the future of aviation sustainability including Tine Tomažič, chief technology officer for electric airplane manufacturer Pipistrel; Anita Sengupta, founder and CEO of aviation hydrogen propulsion pioneer Hydroplane; Brian Sherbacow, president, CEO, and chairman of SAF feedstock developer Alder Fuels; and Kennedy Ricci, president of aviation sustainability solutions provider 4Air.