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Ensuring the environmental sustainability of General and Business Aviation

EUROCONTROL, EBBA and IAOPA - Yearbook 2009


Although General and Business Aviation produce re latively low levels of C02 , they are still trying to reduce this even further.

Pat Malone reports

While commercial aviation has become the bete noir of the green movement, General and Business Aviation {GA and BA) have attracted their share of the attention, although the amount of fuel the sector uses is minuscule by comparison.

Business Jets, which comprise almost 8 per cent of European Instrument Flight Rules traffic, produce less than 1 per cent of emissions. Piston-engine aircraft, while outnumbering jets by ten-to-one, are estimated to use less than half of 1 per cent of the fuel that evaporates from car fuel tanks. Today's aircraft are 30 to 40 per cent more efficient than those of a generation ago. Nonetheless, for economic as well as environmental reasons, much effort is being expended to cut emissions further, and to perfect new engines and fuels for GA.

European business aircraft are generally younger than their airline counterparts- an average of eight years old, as opposed to a commercial average of 18 - and are quieter and more fuel-efficient than older jets. They fly less - an average of 500 hours a year, compared to an airliner's 3,000 - and they fly on task rather than on schedule, carrying no 'non-revenue' seats. Unlike the airlines, which overwhelmingly service the leisure industry, they are solely business-orientated, and they are vital to the economy. They take their environmental responsibilities seriously; the largest operator, NetJets, runs a voluntary carbon offset scheme, as do
many smaller companies.

However, BA faces a double blow from increased fuel taxes and mandatory emissions trading. They are uniquely disadvantaged by EU legislation due to be introduced in 2012, which allows commercial business aircraft operators who emit fewer than 10,000 tonnes of emissions to be outside ETS, but requires corporate owners of jets to pay for everything even if they only operate one aircraft. Furthermore, tracking of emissions threatens to be complex and bureaucratic. Brian Humphries, President of the European Business Aircraft Association, says: "We would prefer an alternative means of compliance so that rather than tracking every flight and calculating carbon output for every type of aircraft, we contribute on a simplified basis. We know we must pay our environmental way, and we do, but the system that is proposed will be very costly to administer."

Fuel for piston-engine aircraft- called Avgas - is a 'boutique' product that refineries are less and less willing to make. Where a Boeing 747 captain might put in an extra tonne of Jet-A 1 fuel just for taxiing to the runway, a training aircraft will use perhaps 20 litres of Avgas an hour. Only three major European refineries still make Avgas, and lac of refinery capacity is one of the drivers of change in the GA fuel market.


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