Why business aviation means 'green' aviation

By Patrick Margetson-Rushmore, chief executive, London Executive Aviation (LEA). 

Where did the media’s fascination with the ‘green’ credentials of business aviation go? Well, despite the fact mainstream press interest in the subject has undoubtedly lessened in the past two years, our industry’s focus has not decreased at all: we remain absolutely committed to minimising environmental impact. 

Our commitment is real, not notional. In 2007, for example, LEA became the first operator to sign up to the BBGA’s ‘Carbon Balancing Scheme’, established with the aim of making Britain’s entire business and general aviation industry carbon-neutral. From January 2012, business aviation became part of the European Union’s emissions trading scheme. And, at LEA, we are constantly seeking to improve and expand our fleet, flying new aircraft such as the Embraer Legacy 650 (which entered into service in 2010), the Embraer Phenom 300 (2009) and the Cessna Citation Mustang (2006). These new jets bring the environmental benefits of the tens of millions of dollars airframe and engine manufacturers invest in ‘green’ technologies every year. 

These commitments produce results. According to GAMA and IBAC, the specific fuel consumption of turbine-powered jet engines used on general aviation aircraft has improved by approximately 1% each year since the introduction of turbine-powered business jets in the mid-1960s. With the direct relationship between fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, that’s consistent environmental progress, decade after decade. 

For LEA, our focus is on minimising our time in the air, resulting in lower fuel consumption and fewer carbon emissions. Apart from regularly updating our fleet with younger, greener aircraft with better technology and aerodynamics, we also find GPS technologies and thorough planning contribute to reduced emissions; if you know you are likely to be delayed by half an hour at your arrival airport, you can delay your departure to reflect the revised arrival time, reducing your time in the air. Additionally, using GPS technology for approaches means you can arrive at your destination without having to spend as much time on standard arrivals procedures. LEA’s management, pilots and crew all constantly reassess the way in which fuel burn can be minimised. 

Gas emissions are not the only concern, of course. Our counterparts in the commercial airline industry are indisputably working to minimise the impact of aviation noise, but with their much larger aircraft and older average fleets, the vast majority of aircraft noise heard around Europe will originate from commercial airline operations, particularly around hub airports, rather than business jet services. 

Like many operators, we at LEA insist on a paperless cockpit these days, ensuring our obsession with efficiency matches our ecological objectives. Heavy manuals, maps and briefing documents were once essential items in every business jet cockpit. Now, all that weight has gone, replaced by nothing more than a tablet computer, for example. Reduce an aircraft’s weight and you reduce the fuel burn, which can only be good for the environment. (Incidentally, step out of the cockpit into the passenger cabin and you are increasingly likely to find an interior fitted with materials from renewable sources.) 

The same ‘green’ commitment exists on the ground too. Across the business aviation industry, you will find companies operating paperless offices, introducing increasingly efficient lighting and carrying out comprehensive recycling activities.

So, make no mistake, at LEA – and I’m sure I speak for our fellow operators – we are determined to ensure business aviation remains environmentally sustainable. Media interest in the subject may wane but our industry’s commitment to ‘green’ aviation will not. Perhaps, as an industry, we should shout louder about all the good work we do?

Published in BlueSky 9 October 2014

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