Historically speaking, aviation has always been a gas-guzzling business. As the world demands a new and more sustainable approach to travel, industry, and everyday life, the aviation sector refuses to be left behind. While major aircraft companies such as Airbus and Boeing focus on minimising fuel consumption, other start-ups such as Boom see potential in supersonic flight. The question arises: what is next for business aviation? Are we going to fly slower, but with zero-emissions, or break the supersonic barrier in fuel-powered aircraft and be able to circumnavigate the world in a matter of hours?
While there is no clear answer to this question, the arguments being made for both modes of transportation are worthwhile.
Beginning in 2021, a large part of international air traffic will be subject to the Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), requiring aircraft operators to buy carbon offsets as compensation for their carbon emissions exceeding a 2020 baseline. As a result, zero-emissions aircraft would be a cheaper option when compared to airplanes powered by fossil fuels. At the same time, aircraft that can be operated sustainably can push society towards a circular economy, further driving down reliance on finite resources such as oil and gas.
On the other hand, the benefits provided by supersonic flight are no less important. Being able to bridge the gap between London and Sydney in 5-6 hours could speed up the development of economies, supporting not only global prosperity, but benefiting the industry in the long run. However, with the currently available technology, supersonic flight may be the one sector where sustainability would be out of the question.
Since the majority of sound-barrier breaking aircraft are equipped with four fuel-thirsty jet engines, the fuel consumption is significant, to say the least. Additionally, supersonic aircraft are mostly designed as VIP or private transport, flying only a handful of people, which significantly increases the fuel consumption per passenger per km flown. As a result, supersonic flight may be quick, but it is hardly a sustainable option until innovation enables supersonic jets to be equipped with hydrogen fuel cells or other environmentally friendly propulsion methods.
While the topic is highly relevant in the current environment, the sustainability of aircraft fuel or propulsion is far from being the only factor in the future of green business aviation. Having an infrastructure that can operate in a sustainable manner will be just as important as operating zero-emissions aircraft. Implementing optimisations in day-to-day operations, researching new ways to minimise waste and employ practices of a circular economy should be the main goals of MROs seeking to become sustainable in the coming decades. As a business and regional aircraft MRO provider, Jet MS is already experimenting with the reuse of scrapped aircraft fuselages as decorations or learning platforms, optimising our processes with LEAN systems, and striving to create a greener tomorrow in aviation.
About the author
Vytis Zalimas is CEO of Jet Maintenance Solutions (Jet MS). Founded in 2007, Jet MS is a provider of integrated aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) solutions for business and regional aviation. The company is a family member of Avia Solutions Group, the largest aerospace business group from Central & Eastern Europe, with 90 offices and production sites providing aviation services and solutions worldwide.