3 JUNE 2019


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Article from BTNews 3 JUNE 2019


Fuel for thought

EBACE 2019 started in the UK this year before flying off to Geneva. Alison Chambers reports.

Landing at the world’s first carbon neutral business aviation airport on Saturday 18 May, TAG Farnborough, manufacturers Gulfstream, Bombardier, Piaggio, Textron Aviation, Cirrus and Embraer came together to reinforce their commitment to the environment.

They joined the SAJF Coalition (Sustainable Alternative Jet Fuel) and its representatives from the following organisations to participate in an educational conference on sustainable alternative fuel – before flying their bio-fuelled jets on to Geneva with media passengers.

EBAA (European Business Aviation Association)
NBAA (National Business Aviation Association)
NATA (National Air Transportation Association)
GAMA (General Aviation Manufacturers Association)
IBAC (International Business Aviation Council‎)

David Coleal, Bombardier Aviation president and leader of the SAJF Coalition, highlighted that this fuel is safe and ‘drop in’ easy to use.  These aircraft don’t know they have different fuel.  “Today is a momentous day for aviation,” stated NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen, urging now is the time to encourage business aviation pilots, operators and FBOs (fixed base operators) to regularly ask for it, so we can start stimulating demand.” 

Jurgen Wiese, EBAA chairman who heads BMW’s flight operations department added that the big operators are willing to take the lead – which will help pull the prices down.   Tom Parsons, biojet commercial development manager at Air BP said that supply is not the problem.  “We are ready for it and I expect the market will double next year.”

World Fuel Services and Gevo supplied the fuel for the 12 business jets flying from Farnborough.  Air BP teamed with Neste to offer alternative sustainable fuel at Caen-Carpiquet Airport (France) and Arlanda in Stockholm too. Avfuel offered biofuel from Republic Airport New York (USA).  As a result of this massive effort, a total of 27 business jets arrived into Geneva fuelled by biofuel.  In a first too, Embraer’s newly EASA and NBAA certificated super mid-size Praetor 600 flew across the Atlantic to Farnborough and then on to Geneva with it.

The fuel theme was repeated in Geneva when media luncheon speaker Mrs Diaz Pulido, the European Commission’s head of unit at Directorate for Mobility and Transport, urged long-term incentives are needed to trigger massive production and decrease the price, with biofuel being up to four times more expensive than Jet 1A.  “We need something disruptive.  This will be the game-changer to getting the public on side with this (bizav) sector (which constantly has to defend itself),” she added.

The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP who heads the All Party Parliamentary Group for General Aviation (APPG-GA) in the UK was among the speakers in Farnborough and Geneva.  With a rise in climate concerns globally, he highlighted that political pressure will “ratchet up for business aviation to improve its environmental footprint."

"Business aviation is very likely to end up at the forefront of these concerns.  It is incumbent on us to get there first. We have a small, but shrinking window.”  Shapps urged everyone in the industry to make the case that business aviation is a net positive for the economy and for society.  He cited the work the APPG-GA is doing in showcasing the industry’s job and education opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) with initiatives like Stansted College (see BBGA annual conference in BTN's On Tour).

“We have a really good story to tell,” said Shapps, “that business aviation is essential.”  If we can show that business aviation provides jobs and growth we’ll be here in another decade’s time, with this exhibition bigger and more important than ever.”

Aerial mobility changing the face of aviation

EBACE will for sure have to change its whole model (and possibly the venue, observers suggested) in a few years to include flight demos, taking into account a raft of new urban mobility solutions that are shaping up.  eVTOL, flying cars, hybrid and even a vertical business jet are under development.

A fascinating presentation in the Innovation Zone on Wednesday afternoon looked at the advances in aerial mobility.  In the absence of any big order announcements or new programmes this year, (Gulfstream is rumoured to be preparing a new aircraft to compete with the latest ultra-long range Globals) and the welcome news from Pilatus Aircraft that it is reopening its order book for its PC-24 light jet, these disruptors were a strong theme in Geneva.

This market – where there are no fewer than 120 programmes in various stages of planning globally – will emerge into a US$1.5tr market according to Morgan Stanley.  See www.morganstanley.com/ideas/autonomous-aircraft

Only around 20 will succeed, the audience heard, and these will be the ones with solid financial backing and big names behind them, such as Embraer’s X (X for Exponential); the all-electric Lilum Jet, which this month made its first flight in Germany; Volocopter 2X and CityAirbus.   United Therapectics/Beta Technologies in Vermont, USA – the Elon Musk of aviation was hailed as one to watch.

The Chinese-developed eHANG, on display at EBACE, represented by its Austrian partner FACC, is approved in the country and has already started flight-testing, thanks to the support of transport minister Norbert Hofer who is keen for Austria to be at the forefront of this technology.  The electric eHANG, which is actually a drone with a human payload, can fly for around 30min.  Taking personal transport to a whole new level is UK company Gravity Industries.   It has designed a gas turbine pack you can literally strap on and fly to the shops!

During EBACE, Gabriella Somerville, founding MD of ConnectJets, announced a new subsidiary ConnectJet Skies focused on sustainability in private jet charter and aircraft sales. She has a newly ratified agreement with VRCO, the Midlands (UK) designer of NeoXCraft – a hyper luxury multi-modal electric craft.

The XP2 – two-seater, emphasises safety, but with significant attention given to a spacious interior and high performance.  It is an all-new electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, designed to transform urban and rural mobility and take the stress off congested motorways, flying for up to 60min.

Vertical Business Jet from South Africa

South Africa’s Pegasus Universal Aerospace presented its unique vertical business jet. It showed a 2x2m model, similar to the testbed model that first flew a year ago.  Pegasus One offers a six-seat comfortable cabin and will be powered by two 2,300shp engines delivering a range of 1,150nm.  Founded by Dr Reza Mia, who has been funding the programme for several years and for which he has secured local patents, it needs about US$400m to start production.  But with its helicopter flexibility it could be just the answer for small airfields, which will help the other burning issue the industry faces – accessibility.  ACL CEO Edmond Rose, who spoke at the BBGA conference in March, acknowledged the increasing lack of slots at UK airports and this is worsening as the low cost carriers (LCCs) add more capacity.

Geneva Airport, where the likes of easyJet and Vueling are growing, is now publishing its slots online to help the industry.  EBAA has called for an inclusive European aviation framework to enable improved connectivity, efficiency and regional cohesion across the continent and for regulations that allow business aviation the same level of access to airports as scheduled operators.  BBGA CEO Marc Bailey too is lobbying for ring-fencing at big business aviation hubs like Luton and Stansted Airports. “Our industry is ‘unscheduled’ and the slot model does not work for us,” he said.



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