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Zurich airport leads on SAF refuelling for Davos
A global coalition focused on business aviation sustainability welcomed two new carbon-reduction initiatives for Davos-bound flights at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos.

In conjunction with the World Economic Forum and Zurich airport, the Business Aviation Coalition for Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF Coalition) has secured agreements to make SAF blend fuel available for aircraft departing the airport.

At an event held on 20 January to demonstrate the fuel's viability, organisers thanked officials with WEF and Zurich airport for their collaboration with industry stakeholders in support of the demonstration. A business jet was refuelled at Zurich airport with a blend of conventional jet fuel and SAF in a joint project between Jet Aviation, the airport and Finnish renewable jet fuel producer Neste.

Currently, SAF has to be imported into Switzerland from abroad. The SAF première at Zurich airport shows that, with a high level of commitment from the partners involved and in close collaboration with the Swiss authorities and the underground fuelling provider, it is fundamentally possible to establish a functioning supply chain. At the same time, Emanuel Fleuti, head of environmental protection at Flughafen Zürich AG, points out: “From logistics to import and distribution on site, significant hurdles have to be overcome before a jet can be fuelled with SAF at a Swiss airport. I'm all the more delighted that we have managed to prove that this is possible.”

Joao Martins, senior director and GM of Jet Aviation's FBO operations in Zurich notes: “We began preparing for the prestigious WEF event months ago and have been working very closely with the Zurich airport managerial team and Swiss authorities to ensure we could gain all the necessary approvals to import sustainable aviation fuel in time for WEF.”

All of the SAF available, including the blend used in Zurich, is certified and equivalent to conventional jet fuel in terms of technical properties. Aside from availability, widespread use of SAF is also made more difficult due to the fact that SAF is still around three to four times more expensive than conventional jet fuel. Further investments and research are necessary to make alternative fuels cheaper and a viable, marketable option in aviation. The initial use of SAF at Zurich airport should therefore be viewed as an impetus for policy-makers to create a framework which would improve its availability and marketability. For example, if the proceeds from a potential national flight ticket levy currently discussed in the national parliament of Switzerland were to be used specifically to promote SAF, they could help to effectively reduce CO2 emissions in aviation right at the source.

In addition, under a payment-transfer initiative known as book-and-claim, operators flying to Davos are, for the first time, able to purchase SAF supplies even at airports where SAF is not available. The initiative will be in place at Teterboro; Laurence G Hanscom Field; and Dulles International airports. Simply put, SAF will be apportioned to the purchasing aircraft and consumed through a routine operation at California's Van Nuys airport.

Leaders with the coalition stakeholder groups applaud both initiatives. “Business aviation has long been committed to the sustainability of flight,” says NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. “As we continue working toward increased availability of sustainable fuels, we know that these initiatives are key to moving the industry toward a carbon-neutral future, this week, and in the years to come.”

“Business aviation aims to be a catalyst in the transition to cleaner and more sustainable transport. The new SAF programme brings us one step closer,” adds EBAA chairman Juergen Wiese. “This week at Davos, business aviation is laying the foundation of a physical, and traceable, SAF supply chain around the world.”

“It is paramount that business aviation stimulates supply and demand for SAF, which is a linchpin to our industry's sustainability commitments. These initiatives complement efficiency gains garnered through more efficient aircraft and engine designs and leveraging performance-based navigation, which is enabled through advanced avionics,” notes GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce. And IBAC director general Kurt Edwards suggests: “Business jet operators and their stakeholders around the world can and should request SAF when fuelling their tanks. The demand for SAF is the game changer for more production, and the time is now to bring the supply to our industry and demonstrate that thousands of aircraft are ready to fly with SAF.”

“NATA commends the SAF Coalition and our members from all segments of the supply chain for their dedication and innovation in advancing a number of sustainable firsts for the business aviation industry,” concludes NATA COO Timothy Obitts. “These milestones demonstrate that meaningful change can be achieved through partnerships, education and collaboration.”

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