News — 17.11.19

Raising industry awareness – Sustainable Aviation Fuel takes off.

The business aviation community firmly demonstrated its commitment to ICAO’s carbon reduction mandate when it launched the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Initiative, (SAF, formerly SAJF), ahead of this year’s EBACE.  David Coleal, President, Bombardier Aviation, kicked-off the event stating aviation is currently the only global transport industry committed to carbon reduction.  It is in support of this that a business aviation industry coalition including OEMS, fuel producers and suppliers, and organisations are collaborating to highlight the sector’s immediate need to seek alternative sources of fuel as a matter of course.

“The conundrum of reducing carbon emissions is multi-layered. It isn’t just about biofuel, the whole air traffic management system needs to be modernised,” explained Eammon Brennan, Director General of Eurocontrol. European ATC still uses routes initiated in 1948, which is contributing to Europe’s poor performance in carbon reduction. Aircraft may be more fuel efficient, but the network is not, it needs to catch up.

Aircraft electrification is still figuring out the battery-weight ratio, existing UAVs are too small to satisfy human flight, and AI is yet to be implemented. This is the future, but the sector’s challenge is now. It remains difficult to obtain SAF on a daily basis, less than 3% of fuel required for aviation in Europe is available.  “When operators request it the price, sometimes six-times more, is off-putting, price reduction is imperative. Production, distribution and availability are all challenges the sector faces,” explained Coleal, but nevertheless the need to raise awareness and encourage uplift is important, “We have to start somewhere to make a change and take up the environmental stewardship, to ensure a brighter future for generations to come.”


Ed Bolen, President of NBAA added, “We want to fly further faster more safely and sustainably. We’re committed to doing that.” Coleal reiterated that current biofuel is a drop-in, and as such it does not affect the way engines operate. “We need to educate all pilots, directors of maintenance that SAF won’t change the way the plane flies,” he added. The varying executive aircraft models lined-up on the TAG Farnborough Airport apron waiting to fly to Geneva confirmed this.

Statistics delivered by IBAC’s Director General, Kurt Edwards, show that so far 180,000 commercial flights have operated with SAF since 2011, and 1.6 billion gallons of SAF are currently in forward purchase agreements. However, there are only a few airports worldwide that offer biofuel as a regular option. “The fact is we’re dependent mainly on new technology to currently reduce carbon emissions, and the infrastructure supporting the new airframes needs to catch up,” commented Tim Huppler, President of AeroConsult, a consultancy focused on supporting new aircraft programmes.

European ATC still uses routes initiated in 1948, which is contributing to Europe’s poor performance in carbon reduction.

The SAF fuel initiative is certainly making a contribution to raising awareness but what is the industry doing now, practically, to support carbon emission reduction? The good news is there are large and small initiatives already in play that any industry stakeholder can participate in.


Air BP offers a number of carbon offset projects and is already certified carbon neutral. It is also leading the way in supplying biofuel. Tom Parsons, Air BP’s biojet Commercial Development Manager says, “Momentum is building, as we are regularly receiving new questions from new customers.” Air BP has also invested heavily in a number of lower carbon projects, including Fulcrum Bioenergy. World Fuels’ Guy Sawyer states the business is “fully invested” and has delivered over half a million gallons of biofuel to business aviation customers. Shell has launched its own Nature Based Solutions scheme enabling customers buying fuel from any supplier/provider – not just Shell – to make voluntary contributions to certified carbon reduction projects worldwide.

Sustainable Aircraft Fuel: SAF is the name given to advanced aviation biofuel types used in jet aircraft and certified as being sustainable by a reputable independent third-party.

It is not only the big players but smaller companies that are supporting the cause. Switzerland-based VALCORA launched a conservation portfolio during this year’s EBACE where anybody uplifting fuel via its digital fuel platform can make a voluntary contribution to a number of conservation projects. Subsequently VALCORA has announced it will be working with the Shell NBS scheme as one of its first third party licensees. Carbon neutral Sundt Air supports mangrove reforestation projects in Heyerdahl Climate Parks, and this year pledged to double the amount of contributions. Undoubtedly the industry will continue to talk carbon reduction, neutrality and biofuel well into the future, but acting now is imperative.