Both government spokespeople and international aviation business organizations have committed themselves to the search for cleaner, more sustainable jet fuel options. Because of concerns about the harmful effects of emissions, these aviation leaders are proactively taking steps to reduce the business jet industry’s carbon footprint and find alternative sources for jet fuel. But what strides are they making, and how soon could they affect you?
The first industry to reach an international agreement
The business aviation industry is the first in the world to develop internationally accepted carbon emission reduction standards. In November of 2009, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) released a joint resolution, including three major goals:
- Carbon-neutral growth by 2020
- 2% average growth in fuel efficiency annually until 2020
- A 50% reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 to 2050
In May of this year, industry leaders renewed their commitments to the project at a media luncheon held in conjunction with the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE). At the luncheon, stakeholders publicly signed a Declaration of Commitment to developing and adopting Sustainable Alternative Jet Fuel (SAJF).
The Business Aviation Guide to the Use of SAJF
In addition to the Declaration, the coalition of aviation organizations released a new report: the Business Aviation Guide To the Use of Sustainable Alternative Fuel (SAJF). The purpose of the report is to educate those in the industry about the importance of SAJF as well as encouraging adoption of the already available alternative fuels. The guide emphasizes three aspects of SAJF for business jets: It is safe, approved, and already available for purchase. It also lists many alternative fuel benefits and encourages readers to support innovation.
A look at SAJF
Many different SAJF and other alternative energy sources for aircraft are in development. Some companies, such as Gulfstream, are regularly running their jets on 50/50 biofuel with great results. Unfortunately, due to lack of availability, these companies often have to truck the biofuel across the country, which clearly offsets the carbon emissions the fuel itself saves. These forerunners hope this will improve over time as demand increases.
In addition to SAJF interest from big names in business and private jets, NASA has conducted joint studies with the German Aerospace Center and the National Research Council of Canada, which have tentatively shown that biofuel reduces the formation of contrails. This is excellent news for the reduction of negative environmental impacts since contrails have shown a major link between aircraft and environmental damage.
Research continues on unleaded jet fuel under the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI). The FAA announced in June that the program was approximately halfway through the engine-testing portion of the program. Two different fuels, one from Shell and the other from Swift, won bids for testing under the initiative, although a completion date is unclear.As an alternative to SAJF, some researchers are even looking forward to electric aircraft as the future, though this prospect seems more distant. In the meantime, others in the aviation industry are doing their share as solar panels at FBOs and other energy-saving technologies are becoming standard practice.
While the transition to alternative fuels is a slow one, the international business aviation industry is determined to be a forerunner in the pursuit of cleaner travel. Soon, every private and business aircraft owner might be able to offset carbon emissions with cleaner, greener fuel options.