Alexander Mitchell Simple Flying
Why Business Aviation May Benefit Sustainable Initiatives
March 8, 2024
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  • In recent news cycles, sustainability and private aviation are almost always at odds. Private jets conjure images of celebrities emitting twice the average American’s yearly carbon footprint in an afternoon flying from Los Angeles to New York.

    Regulatory movements have emerged to push back on private jet usage, with locals opposing the expansion of Cape Cod Gateway Airport (HYA) back in December, citing environmental concerns driven by private aviation as a key factor. Across the board, business aviation is extremely carbon intensive, and to maintain a future of sustainable flight, the sector will need to make significant advances in green technology.

    Private jet operators, however, are in an extremely unique position to be some of the first to adopt carbon-neutral technologies like Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) in large quantities due to their smaller fleet sizes and flexible operations. Kennedy Ricci, the CEO of 4AIR, a company focused on helping private operators adopt sustainable technologies, spoke to Simple Flying to share his thoughts on the matter.

    A laboratory of innovation

    As Simple Flying has been quick to analyze in the past, commercial airlines operate on incredibly tight margins and, as a result, are extremely sensitive to rising costs. Thus, airlines are extremely hesitant to gamble on unproven developmental technologies that could heavily reduce carbon emissions in the long run.

    Ricci notes that private operators are far more versatile in their operations and significantly less cost-sensitive. When the opportunity to explore a new sustainable technology arises, business operators will be far less scared about the financial ramifications of implementing such initiatives. When discussing the potential of expanding SAF operations to private operator fleets, Ricci shared the following:

    “Private jets provide more flexibilities which lead an operator to adopt some of these technologies, and SAF demonstrates a good example. Some of its earliest adopters were in business aviation.”

    Down the line, Ricci sees business aviation as the key incubation chamber for some more advanced sustainable technologies down the line. Specifically, he cites private aviation as the first place where both electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft will thrive.

    While expensive, implementing sustainable initiatives at large-scale airlines is often easier as entire teams will be dedicated to ensuring that the appropriate resources are available to adopt new technology. In private aviation, however, the story is different, as operators are smaller in scale, and dedicated sustainability teams are few and far between.

    According to Ricci, this is where his company, 4AIR, steps in. The company is able to provide operators with the logistical support needed to incorporate sustainable technologies, a purpose he articulated as such:

    “What we’ve done is try to partner with companies like Textron to bring in programs that are very accessible, and incorporate them into programs regarding maintenance and other pre-existing systems. Aircraft owners can just opt in, and it makes it very easy for them to participate in these sustainability programs.”

    Across the board, 4AIR’s team has made some impressive strides in supporting sustainable initiatives in business aviation. In recent years, the company has also begun partnering with commercial airlines, including an SAF partnership with Southwest.