Industry leaders have doubled down on the sector’s environmental commitments, citing ongoing investment in emission-reducing technologies in a bid to reach net-zero by 2050.

Speaking at two sessions ahead of te EBACE show on 27 May, manufacturer chief executives and trade association bosses hit back at politicians seeking to restrict private air travel in the name of addressing climate change.


Source: Ron Draper

Textron Aviation chief executive Ron Draper says rate of innovation is only increasing

“One of our societal values is freedom of movement,” European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) secretary general Holger Krahmer says.

“We need to overcome this not-very-fortunate European spirit of restrictions and bans,” he adds, citing a “business unfriendly environment” emanating from EU institutions in Brussels.

He and his National Business Aviation Association counterpart Ed Bolen say that technological advancements and increased use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) will ensure the business aviation industry achieves the mid-century goal.

“SAF is the key tool to decarbonise aviation,” Krahmer adds. “This is not greenwashing.”

The aviation industry touts SAF as reducing lifecycle carbon emissions by 80% compared with fossil-based fuel, but SAF remains pricey and in short supply. Because few companies produce it, even getting SAF can be difficult or impractical for some operators.

To address that problem, the aviation industry has started embracing a carbon-offset system called book and claim, under which companies can pay for SAF to be used elsewhere.

“SAF is not available in many of those smaller hubs. If there is no book and claim in place you cannot deliver such a product,” says Patrick Hansen, chief executive of private aviation company Luxaviation.

Established aerospace companies and start-ups alike have been investing heavily in experimental new technologies from electric and hydrogen propulsion to advanced lightweight materials.

“The rate of innovation is exploding,” says Textron Aviation chief executive Ron Draper, noting aircraft today emit 40% less carbon than their previous-generation counterparts.

Krahmer insists that while industry must better promote its technology development to the public and to policymakers, the latter should focus on encouraging such development.

For that reason, Krahmer says EBAA has joined an NBAA-led marketing and promotion called “Climbing. Fast”. NBAA rolled out the programme at its annual convention in Las Vegas last year to highlight the sector’s carbon-reduction efforts.

“There is a need… to put that [message out] a little bit louder,” Krahmer says.

But if there are those promising that electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft will save the world from climate breakdown, Klaus Roewe is not one of them.

“eVTOLS will not turn the planet around in terms of CO2 emissions,” the Lilium chief executive told an EBACE media roundtable focused on advanced air mobility on 28 May.

Although that may be a downbeat message from one of the leading lights of the eVTOL segment, Roewe is convinced the technologies being pioneered on the battery-powered Lilium Jet will play their part in the future.

The first iteration of the Lilium jet will enter service in mid-2026, he says, initially as a four-seater for VIP and executive transport, but with a six-passenger regional shuttle following in 2027. Maximum range will be around 95nm (175km), but will grow as batteries improve.

But once aircraft architecture has been proven in service and as battery power density grows further “we will then try to put our technology into a more traditional plane”, says Roewe, a former Airbus executive.

Such an aircraft would be capable of carrying 100 passengers on routes of up around 1,000nm, he says, offering a genuine zero-emission option for the commercial airline industry.

Others on the panel offered more nuanced views. Billy Nolen, chief safety officer of urban air mobility provider Archer Aviation, admits the company’s Midnight eVTOL – targeted for service entry next year – is all about saving time, not the planet.

But he says the “ability to provide a form of transportation that helps to decongest cities” that is “environmentally friendly and neighbourhood friendly” will contribute to improved urban mobility.

And using an eVTOL will not be the “purview of the rich”, he says, claiming the cost per mile for passengers will be line with that of a luxury Uber Black initially, falling to the equivalent of an Uber X as more vehicles enter service.

“If that’s where we end up [only addressing the VIP market] we will have failed from the beginning,” he says.

Additional reporting by Dominic Perry