Environmental Groups File Notice of Intent to Sue EPA Again Over Endangerment Finding for Aircraft Emissions

As discussed previously in this blog, in 2012, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review and respond to an administrative petition filed by several environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, regarding their request that the agency issue an endangerment finding for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from aircraft. (Ctr. for Biological Diversity et al. v. EPA et al., No. 1:10-cv-00985). Section 231 (a)(2)(A) of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7401 et seq., requires EPA to determine whether GHG emissions from aircraft endanger public health and the environment, and thus should be regulated. EPA reviewed the petition and responded that the agency would need 22 months to complete the rulemaking process.

On August 5, 2014, the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth filed a notice of intent to sue EPA for unreasonable delay because, after two years, the agency has failed to begin the rulemaking process to determine if an endangerment finding is necessary. According to the groups, the aviation sector is one of the fastest-growing sources of carbon dioxide pollution, contributing 3% of the U.S. GHG emissions in 2006 and emissions were growing by 5% annually by 2008.

As this case progresses, please check back to this blog for future posts.

Inclusion Date of Long-Haul Flight Under the EU-ETS Postponed Until 2017

As mentioned in the March 20, 2014 post, a deal to exempt intercontinental flights from regulation under the European Union's Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS) until the end of 2016 failed in the European Parliament's Environment Committee. Many in the industry thought that this could be an indication of whether the proposed exemption could pass the full EU Parliament. Instead, the Parliament voted 458-120 to postpone the date of application of the EU-ETS to long-haul flights originating or arriving in the EU until 2017. As discussed in an earlier post on October 17, 2013, by 2017 the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) hopes to develop a market-based approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation industry through the use of technology, the adoption of carbon standards, and the utilization of sustainable alternatives to jet fuel.

It appears that this controversial issue is over and in the hands of ICAO, for now. As this issue progresses, please check back to this blog for future posts.

ETS Exemption Deal Rejected by Parliament's Environment Committee

A deal to exempt intercontinental flights from regulation under the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS) until the end of 2016 failed March 19 in the European Parliament’s Environment Committee. This could be an indication of whether the proposed exemption can win enough support when the measure goes before the full EU Parliament early next month. If the measure fails, tensions may be reignited between the EU and major opponents of the inclusion of non-EU airlines, such as the United States, China, Russia, and India.  

As this issues progresses, please check back to this blog for future posts.

Market Based Approach to Reduce Worldwide Greenhouse Gas Emissions Approved by United Nation's Aviation Agency

After two weeks of negotiations, a deal was reached at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) meeting in Montreal. The assembly of nations agreed to develop a market based approach by 2016 to be implemented in 2020. This resolution encourages countries to create new aircraft technology, adopt carbon dioxide standards, and utilize sustainable alternatives to jet fuel. Further, the measure promotes the engagement of member states in talks about the design of new carbon markets and the implementation of existing programs. This resolution makes air transport the first major industry sector to have a global model in controlling greenhouse gas emissions. The air transport industry currently accounts for 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions with projections of higher emissions by 2050.

As discussed in this blog previously, the European Union has been a leader in the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and a driving force behind ICAO’s decision to address emissions on a global scale. On October 16, the European Commission relaxed its own controversial emissions regulations which would have included all flights to, from, and between European Union airports in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). A proposed directive by the European Commission to the member states and the European Parliament would require inclusion of only the portions of flights that take place in EU airspace to be included in the ETS. The directive would amend the ETS to include international flights by foreign airlines. Although not as burdensome as the original plan, it is possible that Indian, Chinese, Russian, and Unites States’ based airlines will still refuse to comply.

As this issue progresses, please check back to this blog for future posts.

Special thanks to Sullivan & Worcester’s Emma Spath, Environmental Intern, for assistance in preparing this post.

ICAO Council Compromises on International Aviation Emissions

Last week, the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a permanent body comprised of thirty-six ICAO members, met in Montreal to discuss international aviation emissions. This meeting proceeded the September 24 – October 4, 2013 meeting of the full ICAO membership. The Council agreed to a temporary framework that would allow regional emissions trading systems to regulate portions of flights in their airspace.  In contrast to the European Union’s (EU) earlier attempt to regulate the full distance of all flights taking off or landing in the EU, this new agreement would allow regulation only of the flight portion in EU airspace. This agreement fell short of what many had hoped for – the adoption of a global, market-based system to reduce carbon emissions. The Council did agree, however, that such a comprehensive international plan would be secured by 2020. The agreement still must be approved by the full ICAO membership later this month at the Assembly.

In the end, the agreement is a compromise between the EU, which desires stronger emissions standards, and countries such as the United States and China, who have pushed to find a global solution. Hopefully, the Council’s decision will keep the peace until a global management plan is developed.

 

As this issue progresses, please check back to this blog for future posts.

Report Pushes ICAO Towards Market-Based Measures to Address International Aviation Emissions

As we have previously discussed, the 38th Session of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly is set for September 24 – October 4, 2013. On the agenda is how and when to address international aviation emissions. In preparation for this meeting and to provide information to policymakers, Manchester Metropolitan University’s Center for Aviation, Transport, and the Environment (CATE) released a report, Mitigating Future Aviation CO2 Emissions: Timing is Everything, on August 27, 2013. This paper concluded that market-based measures, rather than alternatives such as biofuels or efficiencies, are the most cost-effective methods of mitigating emissions and climate impacts. This is because market-based measures, such as carbon emissions trading, have the potential for immediate reductions in emissions while the world must wait for improved technologies. If such market-based measures can be successfully implemented by ICAO, it would avoid reinitiating the battle between the European Union (EU) and other countries over the regulation of all flights originating or landing in the EU by the Emissions Trading System (ETS).

The CATE report can be found here. As this issue progresses, please check back to this blog for future posts.

EPA Has No Mandatory Duty to Find that Lead Emissions from General Aviation Gasoline Cause or Contribute to Air Pollution

Recently, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia held in Friends of the Earth v. EPA, D.D.C., No. 12-363, that the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has no mandatory duty under the Clean Air Act to find that lead emissions from general aviation gasoline cause or contribute to air pollution and endanger human health and the environment. In a previous post, we commented on the question before the Court - whether EPA has a mandatory or discretionary duty to make such a finding. Finding no mandatory duty, Judge Amy Berman Jackson granted the agency’s motion for summary judgment. The Court analyzed the language, structure, and purpose of the statute and the Court found nothing that defined the endangerment determination to be a nondiscretionary EPA duty.

This opinion is open to being appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. If so, please check back to this blog for updates.

ICAO Considering Global Carbon Emissions Offset Program that Requires Funding Emissions Reducing Projects

Late last month, executives gathered in London for the Aviation Carbon 2013 summit. A few themes developed from this summit.  Among the themes was that  any adopted carbon emissions offset program must show a verifiable difference to the health of the environment, and that any carbon emissions offset program must be simple to join.  Discussion also concentrated on the International Civil Aviation Organization's (“ICAO”) meeting in September 2013.  As we reported earlier in this blog, in November 2012 the European Union suspended the inclusion of the non-EU aircraft industry in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (“EU-ETS”) for one year until ICAO had an opportunity to develop a global consensus on a plan to reduce emissions.  The September meeting of ICAO's High-Level Group on International Aviation and Climate Change is that opportunity. 

The working group is reviewing at least three market-based mechanisms:  (No. 1) a carbon emissions offset program that requires the funding of projects that reduce carbon emissions; (No. 2) a carbon emissions offset program similar to that proposed in No. 1, but with an additional revenue mechanism, most likely a tax; and (No. 3) a global carbon emissions cap-and-trade system.  It has been reported by news outlets after the Aviation Carbon 2013 summit that the mechanism showing the most promise is No. 1, which will require participants to engage in carbon offset projects such as those that support renewable energy, promote reforestation, avoid deforestation, and boost energy efficiency.  If the working group fails to come to a consensus, then we could see a stand-off again between the EU and the non-EU aircraft industry on this controversial measure.

As this issue progresses, please check back to this blog for future posts.

European Helicopter Developer AgustaWestland Creates the World's First Fully Electric Tilt-Rotor Aircraft

In the face of a heightened focus on aircraft emissions reduction in the industry, electric-powered and hybrid aircraft, as well as aircraft that use biofuels, offer viable alternatives.  This blog has explored the development of the electric aircraft before in “Electric Aircraft May Soon be the Standard in the Business Aviation Industry.”  Recently, the development of electric aircraft took another step with the announcement that European helicopter maker AgustaWestland has built and flown the world’s first electric tilt-rotor aircraft.  

Named “Project Zero,” the aircraft employs two electric-powered rotors, one on each wing.  The rotors, which are located within the wingspan, can be rotated more than 90 degrees so that they can be used for lift-off and as propellers during normal flight.  This model is completely electric; however, AgustaWestland is considering a hybrid model that uses a diesel engine.  For more information, please visit AgustaWestland’s website.

Photo: AgustaWestland

Does EPA Have a Mandatory or Discretionary Duty to Issue an Endangerment Finding for Lead in Aviation Gasoline?

This blog has discussed the regulation of lead in aviation gasoline extensively. Due to the fact that the general aviation industry is the last remaining industry to use leaded fuel, aviation gasoline has become a focal point of discussion at the Environmental Protection Agency, in the general aviation industry, and amongst environmental NGOs. Below are some of the past posts regarding lead in aviation gasoline:

In the pending case, Friends of the Earth v. EPA, D.D.C., No. 12-363, the plaintiff environmental group is pushing EPA to issue a finding that leaded aviation gasoline endangers human health and the environment. Such a finding would require the agency to regulate lead. During a hearing last week on EPA’s motion for summary judgment, Judge Amy Berman Jackson told the parties that the question before the court was whether EPA has a mandatory or discretionary duty to make such a finding. Only if the agency has a mandatory duty could the court compel EPA to take action. Each side points to specific language in the Clean Air Act to argue that the agency does or does not have discretion.

Before this lawsuit, Friends of the Earth filed an administrative petition seeking to compel EPA to make the endangerment finding. Only after EPA denied the petition last year did the environmental group bring the suit. In denying the petition, EPA stated that it needed additional time to study lead emissions in the general aviation industry (petition denial can be found on EPA’s website here). Battling a limited amount of monitoring data to make its evaluation, EPA has been working to develop a robust model that can characterize the amount of lead in the ambient air at and around airports where piston-engine aircraft operate.

The industry is closely following this case and issue. So will this blog. Please check back for updates.

U.S. House of Representatives Approves European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011

Last week, the United States House of Representatives approved the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011 , which would allow aircraft operators to dodge participation in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (”EU-ETS”).  The EU’s cap-and-trade policy has been the subject of much discussion and controversy over the last few years because many industry leaders say that the policy is a unilateral tax on the American aircraft industry and a violation of international law. As we posted on this blog before, the U.S. Senate passed a similar bill (S. 1956) in September 2012.  After reconciliation, the bill heads to the desk of President Obama for his signature.

The passage of this bill comes on the heels of a surprising suspension of the ETS provisions for a year. The International Civil Aviation Organization (“ICAO”) recently  announced that it would work to develop a plan to reduce global emissions of the aviation industry, thus prompting the EU to delay the inclusion of the aviation industry until after the ICAO General Assembly meeting in fall 2013. If ICAO fails to resolve the issue or make substantial headway, the recent suspension will only serve to postpone the controversial measure.  

As this issue progresses, please check back to this blog for future posts.

Court Denies Motion to Reconsider March 2012 Ruling that EPA Does Not Have to Determine if Emissions from Aircraft Engines Contribute to Air Pollution

As previously posted in “U.S. District Judge Dismisses Environmental Group's Legal Suit to Force EPA to Regulate Aircraft Engine Emissions,” in March 2012, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) motion for summary judgment and refused to force the agency to determine if emissions from aircraft and ships “cause or contribute to dangerous air pollution.” On November 2, 2012, the Court denied a motion for reconsideration filed by the plaintiff environmental groups, finding that neither EPA’s proposed Power Plant Rule, 77 Fed. Reg. 22392, nor the Court of Appeal’s decision in Coalition for Responsible Regulation, Inc. v. EPA, 684 F.3d 102 (D.C. Cir. 2012) constitute newly discovered evidence. Nor did they demonstrate that the Court’s earlier order was based on an error of law or fact.

The environmental groups had argued that EPA’s newly proposed regulations for power plants could be applied to other sources, such as aircraft, and constituted new evidence that warrants reconsideration by the Court. But, the Court found that the regulations were only proposed and that the agency was still accepting public comment. Further, the Court did not accept the argument that the regulations could be applied to other sources because the proposed regulations relate to an entirely different section of the Clean Air Act. The Court went on to find that these facts, even if considered, would have no influence on the issue in the case: “whether Defendant EPA has unduly delayed in promulgating an endangerment determination for aircraft engines.”

A copy of the order can be found here.

Rep. Henry Waxman Urges FAA to Immediately Address Lead in Aviation Gasoline

As mentioned in an earlier posts, "Industry-Government Task Force Report Sheds Light on Future of Aviation Gasoline," "Environmental Advocacy Group Sues EPA to Regulate Emissions from Aviation Gasoline," and "EPA Sets Its Regulatory Cross Hairs on Lead Aviation Fuel," leaded aviation gasoline, or avgas, remains a concern in the general aviation sector.

A joint industry-government task force is currently tackling the problem, and in a June 2012 report stated that the goal of the task force is to advance unleaded aviation gasoline by 2018.  However, this timetable is too long for some, including Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D. Calif.). In a recent letter to Federal Aviation Administration Acting Administrator, Michael Huerta, Rep. Waxman asked the agency to promote the use of unleaded alternatives for piston engine aircraft that are available today.

In the letter, Rep. Waxman noted the detrimental health effects of lead and that general aviation fuel accounts for half of all lead emissions in the United States. These effects are exacerbated by the fact that many of the smaller aircraft that use leaded gasoline fly out of airports near densely-populated areas.

A press release from Rep. Waxman’s office can be found here. As this issue progresses, please check back to this blog for future posts.

Aviation Groups Support Measures to Halt EU-ETS

Last week, the National Business Aviation Association (“NBAA”) continued its support for increased pressure and direct measures that would curb efforts of the European Union to include the U.S. aviation sector in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (“EU-ETS”). The NBAA joined forces with 18 other aviation-related associations in an advocacy coalition. The coalition sent President Obama a letter requesting that an Article 84 legal action be pursued at the International Civil Aviation Organization (“ICAO”). An Article 84 action refers to a dispute resolution mechanism that all ICAO members agreed to at the 1944 Chicago Convention. NBAA’s press release, including a copy of the letter can be found here. This message may have been in response to an earlier letter sent to President Obama by a coalition of environmental advocacy groups. In August 2012, the environmental coalition requested that the President not “give in” to pressure from the U.S. aviation industry to take legal action.

In another press release last week, the NBAA affirmed its approval of the U.S. Senate’s final passage of Senate bill S. 1956 entitled the “European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act.” As we have posted before, S. 1956 prevents all U.S. aircraft operators from complying with the EU-ETS and authorizes the Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration to negotiate a universal approach to address aircraft emissions. This bill must now be reconciled with an earlier bill (H.R. 2594) that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in October 2011 and be signed by President Obama. Industry leaders believe the bill could be taken up in the House as earlier as the week of November 12, 2012. NBAA’s press release can be found here.

As this issue progresses, please check back to this blog for future posts.

Bird Strikes During Aircraft Takeoff and Landing Still a Major Issue

Bird strikes during takeoff and landing at airports is a major issue that affects safety in both the commercial and business aviation sectors. According to a recently released audit by the Department of Transportation Inspector General, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has not been sufficiently implementing its program to monitor these hazards.

The report suggests that the FAA’s oversight and enforcement of the Wildlife Hazard Mitigation Program has not done enough to stop strikes. The Program requires airports to conduct wildlife hazard assessments when strikes occur or could occur. The assessments must be approved by the FAA Administrator and may result in the implementation of a wildlife hazard management plan, which includes wildlife population management, habitat modification, and land use changes that have been identified in the assessment. 

The audit report challenges the Program’s effectiveness. Bird strikes have increased by 500 percent between 1990 and 2011. According to a study of 40 randomly selected airports, including a dozen regional airports, bird strikes have caused approximately $123 million in damage each year, and 23 deaths in the U.S. (229 worldwide) since 1988.  

Further, airports are not required to report these incidents; which mean data could be insufficient and costs could be much greater. A 2009 FAA study found that only 39 percent of bird strikes were reported and 21 percent of strikes in airport logs were not reported to the FAA database.

The FAA offers grants through the Airport Improvement Program to implement wildlife management plans, and airports are inspected by FAA-contracted wildlife biologists. However, the audit found that current spending and oversight is insufficient to address the issue and further found that inspectors do not have the technical expertise to conduct proper wildlife hazard assessments.

The Inspector General suggests that the FAA develop better performance metrics and coordinate with the Department of Agriculture and the Fish and Wildlife Service to obtain the technical assistance required to limit bird strikes to business and commercial aircraft.  

 Special thanks to Sullivan & Worcester’s Alexandra Campbell-Ferrari for assistance in preparing this post.

FAA's No Hazard to Air Navigation Determinations Challenged

As we discussed earlier in our post entitled "Offshore Wind Energy Turbines Pose No Threat to Air Navigation and Traffic Operations According to the FAA," the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) issued No Hazard to Air Navigation determinations for the Cape Wind offshore wind energy project located in the Nantucket Sound. The determinations mean that the project’s 130 wind turbines pose no threat to air navigation and traffic operations in the area.

Shortly after the FAA’s determinations were issued, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound asked the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review the FAA’s aeronautical studies that led to the no hazard determinations. According to the Petition for Review, the Alliance questions whether the FAA complied with the court’s October 2011 decision in Town of Barnstable v. FAA, 659 F.3d 28 (D.C. Cir. 2011), which vacated the FAA’s earlier no hazard determinations for the Cape Wind project, and remanded the matter back to the FAA for further study and analysis.

The case is pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound v. FAA (Civil No. 12-cv-1363). This review will be closely watched by the wind energy industry and the states. If the FAA’s determinations stand, the Cape Wind project and offshore wind energy will move one step closer to development and operation.

Part 2: Conversation with Brad Mottier, Vice President at GE Business & General Aviation

In part two of our conversation with Brad Mottier, vice president at GE Business & General Aviation, we discuss the newest innovations in GE’s engines. The company is currently developing a new engine with improved environmental benefits and recently had its H80 turboprop engine be type certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. In this post we look at what this certification means for GE Business & General Aviation and what to expect from its newest engine for business aviation, the Passport 20.

Business Aviation Law Blog: I read that a new GE Passport 20 engine is under development for use in business aircraft. In what stage of development is the engine? I also read that the Passport 20 engine will offer improved fuel consumption and environmental benefits, such as reduced nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide emissions and reduced noise pollution. Is this true? 

Brad Mottier: The Passport 20 engine, being developed for large cabin business jets, will set a new standard in performance, efficiency and reliability for business aviation. GE is incorporating key technologies in the Passport engine to bring environmental benefits to operators, including a composite fan case to reduce weight, a front fan blisk for lower cabin noise and vibration and advanced core technologies that will reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency. GE recently finalized the architectural design of the Passport engine for the Bombardier Global 7000 & 8000 aircraft. With the design frozen, GE now begins the detailed design phase. Component fabrication will begin soon, leading to the start of assembly of the first full engine by year end. The first engine is scheduled to begin testing in 2013.

Business Aviation Law Blog: It was reported that Honda Aircraft Co. has developed a new light business aircraft that will seat two crew members and five to six passengers. Will the HondaJet be powered using GE engines? If so, which model? 

Mottier: The GE Honda Aero Engines’ HF120 engine will power the HondaJet. The HF120 engine features high-flow, wide-chord fan blades, compressor with maximum engine pressure ratio, a reverse flow configuration combustor and advanced material in turbine. GE Honda Aero Engines is a 50/50 joint venture between GE Aviation and Honda Aero, Inc. For more information, visit http://gehonda.com.

Business Aviation Law Blog: The Federal Aviation Administration recently approved type certification for GE Aviation's H80 turboprop engine for commuter aircrafts. Can you tell us more about the H80 engine and what this certification means?

Mottier: GE is excited to bring the H80 engine turboprop to the marketplace, and the certification was the result of the hard efforts of the GE Aviation Business and General Aviation Turboprop team in the Czech Republic along with teams in Evendale and Lynn who worked the design. The H80 turboprop engine combines the elegant, robust design of the M601 engine with GE's 3-D aerodynamic design techniques and advanced materials to create a more powerful, fuel-efficient, durable engine with no recurrent fuel nozzle inspections and no hot section inspection. The H80 engine will feature an extended service life of 3,600 flight-hours or 6,600 cycles between overhauls. It will provide the option of a single- or dual-acting governor, allowing customers to have flexibility in propeller selection. The H80 engine will power the Thrush 510G agricultural aircraft, the Aircraft Industries L410 commuter aircraft, and the Technoavia’s Rysachok twin-engine aircraft. Along with these applications, Smyrna Air Center is working a Supplemental Type Certificate for a H80-powered King Air C90 aircraft. Recently we announced the launch of two new H80 engine derivatives – the H75 and H85 engines—for the agricultural, commuter, utility and business turboprop aircraft segments. You can catch a H80-powered Thrush 510G in flight on this video.

Thank you to Brad Mottier for talking with us. You can find out more about GE Business & General Aviation at http://geaviation.com/bga or on Facebook at http://facebook.com/gebga.

Offshore Wind Energy Turbines Pose No Threat to Air Navigation and Traffic Operations According to the FAA

The Federal Aviation Administration affirmed its previous decisions that the Cape Wind offshore wind energy project poses no threat to air navigation and traffic operations. This is the fourth time the FAA’s aeronautical study has concluded that the 130 wind-turbine farm would not present a hazard since the project was first reviewed in 2002. The agency must evaluate the project and make a determination every 18 months. This latest determination expires in February 2014.

The same decision was made last year by the FAA; however, the D.C. Circuit Court concluded that the agency had not properly applied its handbook to the project’s evaluation. The court required the agency to go back and analyze whether the project adversely affected visual flight procedures. This latest study showed no adverse effect.

As we discussed in our July 2011 post entitled, “Wind Turbines Effect on Radar Systems and Aviaiton Security,” wind turbines affect the safety of the general and business aviation sector because wind towers may be constructed along routes typically flown by smaller aircrafts. The Cape Cod and Nantucket Sound area, where the Cape Wind project is located, is served by several public use airports, including Barnstable Municipal Airport-Boardman/Polando Field (HYA), Nantucket Memorial Airport (ACK), and Martha’s Vineyard Airport (MVY), as well as one military airport, Falmouth Cape Cod Coast Guard Air Station (FMH). According to the FAA’s determination, the Cape Wind project poses no hazard to flight operations in and out of these airports.

Attention will now turn to the litigation pending in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Civil No. 10-cv-01067). In this matter, several community groups and one Native American tribe brought a consolidated action against the U.S. Department of Interior. The action alleges that in approving the Cape Wind project, the agency did not conform to law and perform the due diligence required in evaluating the potential impact the project would have on the environment and the cultural and historical resources of the tribe.

Sullivan & Worcester represents the Conservation Law Foundation, a non-profit environmental group with offices throughout New England, in the matter. CLF is an amicus curiae party supporting the U.S. Department of Interior’s approval of the project.

Part 1: Conversation with Brad Mottier, Vice President at GE Business & General Aviation

The Business Aviation Law Blog had a chance to speak with Brad Mottier, the vice president at GE Business & General Aviation. In this two-post series, we discuss with Mr. Mottier the role GE has played in the business aviation market and where the industry is headed. In this first post, we look at the business aviation industry as a whole and its future internationally. We explore the role China will play in the years to come as well as GE’s continued dedication to improving business aviation. In the next post we will discuss some of GE’s technological advancements in its new engines.  

Business Aviation Law Blog:   GE Aviation is a world-leading provider of jet and turboprop engines and components for commercial, business and military aircraft.  What does GE Aviation see as the market outlook in the business aviation industry?   What are the challenges and opportunities?

Brad Mottier: The business jet segment has been affected by the economic downturn. In 2008, the segment saw record orders with the enthusiasm generated by the air taxis and new small planes launched. This resulted in inflated sales figures, which were not sustainable. I am hopeful that business aviation industry is poised for recovery in next few years that will coincide with the entry into service of several of GE’s new engines, like the GE Honda Aero Engine’s HF120 on the HondaJet and GE’s Passport on the Bombardier Global 7000 and Global 8000 aircraft.

Business Aviation Law Blog:  China has emerged as both a leader in the business aviation industry and as a significant potential customer. What is the market outlook in China and how has GE positioned itself to take advantage?

Mottier: GE considers China to be a growth region for all segments of aviation with the increasing number of airports in China and the sheer number of potential passengers living in the country. We are actively talking to potential customers in China and look forward to expanding our business into this region.

Business Aviation Law Blog:  I know that GE's Business and General Aviation division had a booth at the 2012 European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition ("EBACE") back in May  in Geneva, Switzerland.  Can you share some of your impressions of the convention that you think would be of interest to our readers?

Mottier: Air shows like EBACE as well as Farnborough, at which GE showcased the H80 engine for the first time at this major show, are a great chance to talk with our airframe customers as well as those that fly our planes.  GE Aviation exhibits at many aerospace conventions around the world—but there is nothing better than attending a show where we get a chance to talk with our customers and hear straight from them what is working well with our engines and customer/product support. A few weeks ago, I was at Oshkosh where I met many customers and I get to see a lot of aviation innovation firsthand.

Business Aviation Law Blog: How did the GE Business and General Aviation division help support the 2012 Olympic Games in London?

Mottier: According to the UK Civil Aviation Authority, business aircraft flights to southeast London were expected to increase by more than 3,000 during the summer's 2012 Olympics. To help support these customers who operate GE-powered aircraft, GE Aviation formed a strategic arrangement with Ocean Sky Jet Centre, a Luton fixed-base operator (FBO). Dedicated GE Aviation field service representation were on-site at Ocean Sky Jet Centre through the Olympics. GE's mobile repair team were available for any line maintenance needs. GE Aviation also strategically positioned new and exchange materials in the region for easy access.

Business Aviation Law Blog:  Where can our readers obtain more information about GE's Business and General Aviation division?

Mottier: You can find more information about GE's BGA division at http://geaviation.com/bga or connect with us on Facebook at http://facebook.com/gebga.

Check back for the second part of our conversation with Brad Mottier. We discuss GE’s new engines and their environmental impact.

Progress at ICAO Reveals Hope for a New Worldwide Carbon Dioxide Standard

In a major move forward in the effort to establish a worldwide carbon dioxide standard for aircraft, the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (“ICAO”) Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection unanimously approved a metric to characterize CO2 emissions, taking into consideration such influences as fuselage geometry, maximum take-off weight, and fuel-burn performance.  With this step behind the Committee, work will begin on creating a new CO2 aircraft standard, including defining the certification procedures and determining the standard’s scope of applicability.  ICAO’s press release can be found here.

Industry leaders call this a major milestone, but agree that this is merely one step towards establishing an international standard by the end of 2013.  This announcement, however, has done little to temper the European Union’s plan to implement the Emissions Trading Scheme (“EU-ETS”).  It has though given support to those countries that oppose inclusion in the EU-ETS.  The United States Departments of State and Transportation hosted 16 countries from July 31 to August 1, 2012 to discuss alternatives to the controversial scheme. Countries participating were Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates.

All attending countries favor national and regional measures to reduce aviation emissions; however, each has stated their opposition to the EU plan, and would rather see a global, sector-led standard created through ICAO. Representatives from the European Commission were not invited according to a spokeswoman for the Commission, but were briefed on the meeting’s results. This meeting follows a February gathering in Moscow of 20 countries which agreed on retaliatory measures if the EU-ETS’s inclusion of non-EU aircraft continues moving ahead.

At the same time of this meeting, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee unanimously approved a bill to bar the EU from extending its carbon caps to the U.S. airline industry. This approval moves the bill closer to a Senate floor vote after the August recess. A similar bill was passed by the House of Representatives in October 2011 and is described in more detail here. The passage of this bill follows the sub-committee hearing described earlier in this blog. EU officials immediately criticized the bill.

EBAA, CBAA and IBAC Call on the International Business Aviation Community to Help Develop an Alternative Measure to the EU-ETS

Several national business aviation associations and the International Business Aviation Council (“IBAC”) reiterated their opposition last month to emissions regulation under the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (“EU-ETS”).

The announcement came in Toronto, Canada at CBAA 2012, the annual convention hosted by the Canadian Business Aviation Association (“CBAA”).  According to the joint press release, Fabio Gamba, CEO of the European Business Aviation Association (“EBAA”), told the conference participants that he shared their frustrations over the EU-ETS’s flaws.  Gamba emphasized that in addition to the distinction made between commercial and non-commercial operators and how the de minimis rule is applied, the EU-ETS focused more on punishing those who emit CO2, rather than encouraging them to find avenues to improve their carbon footprint.

“There’s no denying that aviation emissions will grow over time despite the sector’s constant technological and operational improvements and its formal long-term commitment to reducing the impact of aviation on the environment,” Gamba said at the event. “And although business aviation emits less than 2% of air transport emissions – and less than .04% of total man made emissions – we confirm our sector’s role in helping to combat global warming.”

Despite the general consensus that the system would hurt the business aviation industry, Don Spruston, Director General of IBAC, cautioned that too much resistance may lead to retaliation, which would hurt all parties involved.  This statement came on the heels of China announcing its plan to possibly impound European aircraft as a penalty for China’s three national airlines being reprimanded for not submitting greenhouse gas emissions data to the EU.

Instead, the EBAA, CBAA and IBAC called on the rest of the international business aviation community to join the worldwide effort to develop a new global agreement under the leadership of the International Civil Aviation Organization. As mentioned in earlier posts, this viewpoint appears to be in line with the position of the National Business Aviation Association, as well as many commercial aviation industry groups.

Special thanks to Sullivan & Worcester’s Joshua Walfish, Marketing Intern, for assistance in preparing this post.

EPA Brings NOx Emissions Regulations for Commercial and Non-Commercial Civilian Aircraft Engines in Line with ICAO Standards

Late last month, EPA adopted new nitrogen oxide (“NOx”) emissions standards for aircraft engines that align with international requirements previously promulgated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (“ICAO”). According to the Final Rule [77 Fed. Reg. 36342], the regulations reduce NOx emissions from taxiing, take off, landing, idling, and flight for certain gas turbofan engines used by commercial and non-commercial civilian aircraft with maximum rated thrusts greater than 26.7 kilonewtons (“kN”). Although engines with this rating are primarily used in the commercial sector, the rule makes clear that the standards also apply to non-commercial civilian aircraft engines that are required to obtain airworthiness certificates.

Prior to this rule, gaseous emissions regulations were limited to commercial civilian aircraft engines. The inclusion of non-commercial aircraft engines, according to the Final Rule, was because ICAO’s standards and recommendations already apply to both sectors. This rule, therefore, brings EPA’s regulations into full conformance. Further, manufacturers already certify the engines to the international standards, thus “this provision simply incorporates the status quo.” Finally, the inclusion was necessary because of the physical and operational similarities between the aircraft engines used in the two sectors.

To facilitate an orderly transition, EPA adopted two tiers of emissions standards: (1) Tier 6 (or CAEP/6) standards and (2) stricter Tier 8 (or CAEP/8) standards. Implementation of the Tier 6 standards will result in a 12 percent reduction in emissions levels below the current Tier 4 standards. The Tier 8 standards will result in a 15 percent reduction in emissions levels below the Tier 6 standards. The applicability of the tiers depends on the manufacturing date and certification date of the engine model.   

  • Tier 6 Standards: If the engine model is manufactured and certified before July 18, 2012, the engine model would not be required to comply with the Tier 6 standards until December 31, 2012. Any engine model certified on or after July 18, 2012, must comply by December 31, 2013.
  • Tier 8 Standards: Any engine model certified on or after January 1, 2014, must comply with the Tier 8 standards. 

The Final Rule also includes several changes that affect all aircraft gas turbine engines subject to current emission requirements. The Final Rule:

  • clarifies when a design variation of a new engine causes the latest version to become different enough from its previously certified parent engine that it must conform to the most current emissions standards;
  • amends the emission measurement procedures to reflect current certification practices; and
  • requires covered gas turbine and turboprop engine manufacturers to report emissions data to EPA to conduct analysis and define appropriate public policy.

According to EPA, this rule “is not an economically significant regulatory action” and “will impose no real additional burden on engine manufacturers” because aircraft turbofan engines are already designed and built to ICAO standards in order to be sold and operated worldwide. Overall, only ten engine manufacturers will be affected by this rule. EPA estimates that the total annual burden of compliance is approximately ten hours and $365 per manufacturer. 

This is not the first time that EPA has revised its standards for aviation emissions to conform to ICAO guidelines, nor will it be the last. As covered extensively in several previous posts, if ICAO develops universal and comprehensive standards for aviation greenhouse gas emissions, EPA may soon revise its regulations to follow suit.  

More information on the new NOx standards can be found on EPA’s website.

Special thanks to Sullivan & Worcester’s Noah Tomares, Environmental and Marketing Intern, for assistance in preparing this post.

Industry-Government Task Force Report Sheds Light on Future of Aviation Gasoline

As mentioned in earlier posts, “Environmental Advocacy Group Sues EPA to Regulate Emissions from Aviation Gasoline” and “EPA Sets Its Regulatory Cross Hairs on Leaded Aviation Fuel,” leaded aviation gasoline, or avgas, is a concern in the general aviation industry. Lately, the issue has garnered more attention as the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) examines possible regulation of lead emissions from aircrafts.  

Not much progress has been made to develop an alternative fuel to 100 octane low-lead (100LL), mainly due to the ready availability of the current fuel, a lack of regulation, and the technical infeasibility of developing a single “drop-in” alternative fuel that can be deployed across the entire industry. Aviation industry leaders realize, however, that steps forward must be taken if the industry wants to avoid future regulation.

Last week, the Unleaded Avgas Transition Aviation Rulemaking Committee (“UAT ARC”) released a final report detailing how to incentivize and facilitate the certification of an alternative aviation fuel to 100LL. Formed in 2011 by the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”); the ARC is a joint industry-government task force with a goal of advancing unleaded aviation gasoline by 2018. Members on the industry side include the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (“AOPA”), the Experimental Aircraft Association (“EAA”), the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (“GAMA”), the National Air Transportation Association (“NATA”), and the National Business Aviation Association (“NBAA”). The government stakeholders are FAA and EPA.

Collaboratively, this task force has worked to ensure the continued availability of aviation gasoline in an unleaded form. According to FAA’s press release, the ARC’s report outlines five key recommendations. These are:

  1. Implement a fuel development roadmap for avgas readiness levels that identifies milestones in the aviation gasoline development process.
  2. Establish centralized testing of candidate unleaded fuels which would generate standardized qualification and certification data.
  3. Establish a solicitation and selection process for candidate unleaded aviation gasolines for the centralized testing program.
  4. Establish a centralized certification office to support unleaded aviation gasoline projects.
  5. Establish a collaborative industry- government initiative called the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI) to implement the UAT ARC recommendations to facilitate the development and deployment of an unleaded avgas with the least impact on the existing piston-engine aircraft fleet.

More details concerning these primary recommendations can be found in the final report, which can be found on FAA’s website. Press releases discussing the report were also posted by AOPA and NBAA

The participation of EPA is essential to the success of this framework. EPA has been pressured with litigation to promulgate regulations to eliminate or significantly reduce lead emissions. If FAA and industry groups can address the issues and recommendations outlined in the final report in a timely fashion and in a manner that is amenable to both the environment and industry, EPA will not have to take steps to regulate.

As this issue progresses, please check back to this blog for future posts.

ICAO's Release of a Draft Market-Based Emissions Reduction Measure has been Delayed until March 2013

The International Civil Aviation Organization (“ICAO”) aims to have a draft global plan to reduce aviation emissions completed by March 2013, not by the end of 2012 as previously planned. ICAO is considering four market-based alternatives. One is mandatory offsetting of emissions from airlines, while another is mandatory offsetting with some revenue-generating mechanism. There are also two cap-and-trade systems under discussion; one would allow all aviation emissions to be traded, while the other would only allow increases and decreases from a predetermined baseline to be traded. Secretary-General Raymond Benjamin said he hopes to finalize one plan next March 2013, with the ultimate goal of presenting it at ICAO’s triennial meeting in the fall of 2013. (Reuters)

This delay only exacerbates the current deadlock between the European Union and the non-EU countries that stiffly oppose inclusion in the EU emissions trading system. It is imperative that ICAO stick to this timetable, or it may risk an escalation of the conflict and a possible trade war.

Special thanks to Sullivan & Worcester’s Joshua Walfish, Marketing Intern, for assistance in preparing this post.

Mr. Edward M. Bolen, NBAA, Emphasizes the Disparate Treatment of the General and Business Aviation Sector under the EU-ETS

As discussed in earlier posts, “House Passes European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act,” and “Coalition Lobbies Senate on Passage of EU-ETS Prohibition Bill,” the U.S. Congress is actively pushing to protect the U.S. aviation sector from being regulated under the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (“EU-ETS”).  

The House convincingly passed House Bill H.R. 2594 in October 2011, and similar legislation was introduced in the Senate in December 2011 by Senator John Thune (R- S.D.) and co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill (Mo.). During a hearing on June 6, 2012, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee again addressed the issue of U.S. aviation industry inclusion in the EU-ETS and its potential impact on operations. 

One of the panel witnesses, Mr. Edward M. Bolen, President and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association, underscored the fatal flaws of the EU-ETS, pointing to the unfair and discriminatory handling of the U.S. general and business aviation sector. Although the EU-ETS is unfair to the U.S. commercial aviation sector, it is even more unjust to non-commercial aviation. To illustrate the inequality, Mr. Bolen provided as an example that an airline may fly from Chile to Europe with two scheduled flights a day using a commercial aircraft, yet remain exempt from regulation as a “small emitter.” However, a U.S. based non-commercial flight that flies to Europe once a year is not provided the same exemption. As Mr. Bolen stressed at the 11th Annual Aviation Summit in April 2012, registering under the EU-ETS is an expensive process -- a burden that is felt disproportionately by smaller operations that lack administrative resources. According to Mr. Bolen, many of the companies that are members of the NBAA have already spent thousands of dollars and hours registering and complying with the EU-ETS. More on this topic is available on the NBAA’s press release, including Mr. Bolen’s written statement to the Committee. 

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood offered the administration’s point of view. Although Secretary La Hood refused to take a position on the pending legislation, he reminded the Committee that he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have made their opposition clear in multiple meetings with EU officials. According to Secretary LaHood, if the EU continues to move forward, the U.S. would consider direct action by submitting a formal Article 84 challenge under the Chicago Convention aviation treaty.

Panel witnesses Captain Sean Cassidy, First Vice President of the Air Line Pilots Association, International and Ms. Nancy Young, Vice President of Environmental Affairs for Airlines for America, along with several Senate Committee members, delivered further comments in opposition to the EU-ETS. The general themes of those comments were that: (1) the EU-ETS violates U.S. sovereignty; (2) there is no regulatory guarantee that any collected fees would be used to reduce aviation emissions; (3) the top priority at the Federal Aviation Administration is the implementation of NextGen technology, which will improve aircraft efficiency and reduce emissions, thus calling into question the need for the EU-ETS; (4) this regulation will most likely be viewed by the American public as a tax imposed by a foreign entity; and (5) this issue is more properly addressed using a global agreement through the International Civil Aviation Organization (“ICAO”).

Specifically, Ms. Young noted that the commercial aviation sector estimates that compliance will cost $3.1 billion from 2012 – 2020. According to Ms. Young, this translates into less money to invest in sustainable fuels and other fuel efficient technology.

In support of the EU-ETS, Mr. Jos Delbeke, Director General of the European Commission, Directorate-General for Climate Action, emphasized that the EU-ETS is not a tax, and that the EU would be willing to modify the scheme if other nations take specific action to curb aviation emissions or if ICAO develops a global agreement. Mr. Delbeke further stated that 90% of the emissions credits will be free and called into question the U.S. aviation industry’s estimates regarding the cost of compliance. Ms. Annie Petsonk, International Counsel, Climate & Air, Environmental Defense Fund stated that the EU-ETS was a reasonable measure, could help grow American jobs, and doesn’t intrude on U.S. sovereignty any more than U.S. fees intrude on the sovereignty of other nations. Ms. Petsonk also highlighted the small cost to travelers, $6 per round trip ticket, and stated that some EU member nations, such as Germany, have mandated that any collected money must be used for emissions reductions.

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) noted that the EU only took this step after a global solution could not be reached by ICAO, a point that was also made by Mr. Delbeke. Senator Kerry remarked that the U.S. has “dragged its feet” regarding regulating greenhouse gas emissions. He also observed that this issue signals just the beginning of the tough negotiations the international community will face in the future as it addresses such other global problems as water, food, energy and refugees.  

At this stage, it is difficult to see a way through. According to Mr. Delbeke’s statements, the EU is not contemplating suspending the EU-ETS. That leaves only a U.S. response. Senator Thune believes that he can garner enough support for his legislation, which will essentially hold harmless U.S. airlines that do not comply. Further, it is clear that the administration does not agree with the carbon cap measure. Unless ICAO can develop a solution quickly that is acceptable to the EU, the U.S. may be compelled to challenge the EU-ETS under the Chicago Convention treaty. In the meantime, the commercial and non-commercial aviation sector is stuck in limbo, still required to comply, but wondering for how long.     

The hearing has been archived on the Committee’s website.    

As this issue progresses, please check back to this blog for future posts.

Chinese and Indian Airlines Miss Deadline for Submitting 2011 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data; However, Despite Objections US Airlines Comply

It was recently reported that eight Chinese and two Indian airlines failed to provide data on their 2011 greenhouse gas emissions, as required under the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (“EU-ETS”). Both governments had previously signaled that their respective airlines would not comply with this requirement. As mentioned before in an earlier post, China and India are just two of many countries that are fighting inclusion in the EU-ETS, however, airlines from other objecting countries such as the United States, Russia and Brazil did provide timely emissions data.

According to Connie Hedegaard, the EU’s Commissioner on Climate Change, the ten noncompliant Chinese and Indian airlines account for less than 1% of the more than 1,200 airlines that are subject to the trading scheme. EU authorities have given the noncompliant airlines a fast-approaching deadline of mid-June to submit their emissions data.

It is important to note that the EU Commission has provided non-EU airlines a way out. Non-EU airlines can be exempted from the scheme if their home countries adopt “equivalent measures” to reduce aviation greenhouse gas emissions. China has taken a recent step that may fit this exclusion. Chinese airlines levy fees on passengers for airport construction; recently however, these fees have been repurposed into a general civil aviation development fund to be used on energy conservation and emissions reduction schemes, along with other non-emissions related projects. According to Hedegaard, the EU delegation in Beijing is reviewing this move to determine whether it qualifies as an equivalent measure.

If it does qualify, will other countries follow China and adopt similar “equivalent measures”? Or, will taking advantage of the “equivalent measures” exclusion be seen as accepting regulation by the EU? Objecting countries have consistently stated that their position is more about national sovereignty than environmental protection. 

As this issue progresses, please check back to this blog for future posts.

Congressional Budget Decision Threatens Growth of Aviation Biofuels Market

The Department of Defense has determined that reducing the military’s dependence on foreign petroleum products is critically important to national security. As mentioned in an earlier post, to meet this target, the United States Navy procured the largest order of algae and animal oil fat based biofuel in the federal government’s history, which the Navy planned to use to power its newly created “Green Strike Group.” Now, a congressional budget decision threatens that goal.

The House of Representatives passed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act last month, which among other provisions, prevents the Department of Defense from purchasing alternative biofuels that are more expensive than traditional fossil fuels. A draft of the Senate’s version of the Act was recently released by the Armed Services Committee with the same prohibition.

Industry leaders had hoped that the Navy’s substantial procurement of biofuel would enable the new fuel source to be proven on a commercial scale, thus increasing the pace of research and development, expanding the market, and eventually reducing the fuel’s overall cost. These hopes may be dashed, however, if this act becomes law. Without large-scale military investment in the market, this new technology’s future use in other industries - such as the civilian business and commercial aviation industry – has become more uncertain.     

Special thanks to Sullivan & Worcester’s Noah Tomares, Environmental and Marketing Intern, for assistance in preparing this post.

EPA Finalizes Its Rule on Effluent Limitations Guidelines and New Source Performance Standards for the Airport Deicing Category

As outlined in last month’s post entitled, “White House Completes Review of Effluent Limitation Guidelines Governing Discharges From Airport Deicing Operations,” the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has been working towards finalizing a rule which it says will reduce pollutant discharges from airport deicing operations by at least 16 million pounds per year at an annual cost of $3.5 million.

Earlier this month, EPA published its final rule, which takes effect on June 15, 2012. As anticipated, under the New Source Performance Standards, new airports with at least 1,000 annual non-propeller aircraft departures and an estimated 10,000 annual departures within five years of commencing operations are now required to collect 60 percent of spent aircraft deicing fluid (“ADF”). In addition, they must meet numeric effluent discharge requirements for chemical oxygen demand of a daily maximum of 271 mg/L or weekly average of 154 mg/L. Importantly, under the final rule, new runways at existing airports are not to be treated as new sources. 

New airports, in addition to existing airports with 1,000 or more annual departures, performing airfield pavement deicing activities are also required to use non-urea containing deicers, or alternatively, to meet a numeric effluent limitation for ammonia of a daily maximum of 14.7 mg/L.     

Requirements for existing airports with aircraft deicing operations will continue to be established in general permits, or for individual permits on a case-by-case basis. In addition, airports with less than 1,000 annual departures are beyond the scope of the final rule and will be regulated by permits on a site-specific basis.

You can read more about the final rule on EPA’s website. As this issue progresses, please check back to this blog for future posts.

Electric Aircrafts May Soon be the Standard in the Business Aviation Industry

Volta Volare, a Portland, Oregon based aeronautics company will begin testing a four-person electric aircraft prototype called the GT4 later this year. 

As reported by the company, here are a few interesting aspects of the GT4: 

  • The GT4 runs off a hybrid powertrain similar to that of the Chevrolet Volt and is equipped with both a 900-pound lithium-polymer battery system and a secondary supercharged 1.5 liter gasoline engine that will recharge the battery when the battery approaches 25% full.
  • The GT4 is able to takeoff and travel up to 300 miles on battery power alone. The aircraft carries enough aviation gasoline to extend the flight another 1,000 miles, if required.
  • The GT4 utilizes a canard, or short cross-wing near the nose of the aircraft, and a rear four-blade carbon-composite propeller to “push” the aircraft through the air.

Electric-powered flight is made possible by the tremendous technological advances in the electric vehicle industry. Batteries have become lighter while at the same time able to generate the additional horsepower needed for takeoff and flight.  Further, hybrid technologies have cured one of the greatest criticisms of electric powered flight – that the failure of power during flight is too risky.

The benefits of electric aircraft travel are obvious. The cost of completing a roundtrip journey on battery power would be a fraction of the cost to complete the same journey on aviation gasoline, especially if jet fuel prices remain at record highs. Aircraft emissions and noise pollution will also be reduced significantly. Some industry experts also envision a time when daily commutes will be made by electric flights, thus cutting gasoline-powered vehicle emissions.

The next logical step once these personal electric-powered aircrafts are regularly flying and the technology has further matured is for the aircrafts to become larger. They could soon reach a capacity of 10 to 20 seats for use in the business and corporate sector, and then move to commercial size. Before this happens, however, there are some regulatory hurdles. Currently, Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) regulations for light sport aircraft preclude electric-powered aircraft. However, it was announced last month at the CAFE Electric Aircraft Symposium that the FAA had completed its regulatory study and is moving towards rulemaking. The rulemaking process may take several years to compete and implement, thus, although no longer science fiction, you may have to wait a little longer to take your first electric-powered flight.

For more information on the electric aircraft industry, visit the CAFE Foundation’s blog.