“You can have a vision, but if you don’t act now, you’ll still be a dreamer.” With this comment, EBAA President Jürgen Wiese summed up business aviation’s aspirations for sustainability so far. At the start of EBACE’s sustainability luncheon on Monday, Wiese, who is also head of BMW’s aerospace division, described targets previously set by the industry in 2009, which included reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. Last year , that has been escalated to carbon neutrality by 2050. “It was a great vision,” Wiese told the audience, “but how do we get there?”
The industry has long pinned its hopes on four pillars: technological advances in airframes and propulsion, air traffic control improvements, and market-based measures such as carbon offsets, and sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). Although considered to play a key role in achieving these goals, SAF is still an emerging industry providing less than 1 percent of aviation needs. “SAF is the big component that we have to jump on, that we have to ramp up production and uptake,” Wiese said. “It has to get cheaper and more available.”
One of the ways that is being thought of to stimulate innovation is to identify and create some kind of awards, similar to those that in the past paved the way for major changes in the industry. It was Charles Lindbergh’s pursuit of the Orteig Prize that led to his non-stop crossing of the Atlantic Ocean 95 years ago, and during lunch, his grandson Eric Lindbergh, who had to cancel his appearance at the event due to Covid, announced via video his release. From Forever Flight Alliance to provide such an incentive. Under the Forever Flight Alliance, the Lindbergh Foundation and XPrize – with support from the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, NBAA and others – will explore ways to accelerate aviation decarbonization with 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 on, and it knows two reasons,” she told the audience. “One is frankly saving the planet but also really saving the industry. This is a problem of failure or disruption.”
The panel included experts on various technologies that will play roles in the future of aviation sustainability including Tine Tomažič, chief technology officer of electric aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel; Anita Sengupta, Founder and CEO of Hydroplane, a leader in hydrogen propulsion for aviation; Brian Sherpaku, President and CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors of SAF Alder Fuels’ Raw Materials Development Company; and Kennedy Ritchie, president of 4Air, a provider of aviation sustainability solutions.