A look at how the Norwich-based company is looking to increase its rollout of sustainable aviation fuel.
With the aviation sector having now largely overcome the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, its attention has shifted toward the widespread goal of reaching net-zero emissions. Sustainable Aviation Fuel is seen as a key component, and many of the world’s largest airlines have made commitments on this front.
However, while such stories often make the headlines, smaller operators are also making their own investments. Away from the world of commercial aviation, Norwich-based private charter carrier SaxonAir has begun rolling out such fuel on certain flights. Simple Flying had the chance to visit its facilities to learn more.
SAF at SaxonAir
A quick look at SaxonAir’s website shows that the carrier takes sustainability seriously, with a whole section of its online presence dedicated to the topic. The company notes that “aviation is still heavily reliant on environmentally damaging fossil fuels,” and that it has lobbied for a greater provision of SAF at UK airports. This is pertinent, given its isolated location at a smaller facility in East Anglia.
However, despite Norwich Airport (NWI) not being an airport that operates on the same scale as UK hubs such as London Heathrow (LHR) and Manchester (MAN), it has recently begun to get SAF provision of its own. Speaking to Simple Flying, SaxonAir’s Wellbeing & Sustainability Manager Rebekah Hill explained that:
“We’ve started to use sustainable aviation fuel, which has only just become available in Norwich. Of the aircraft that we have flying from Norwich, our helicopter now uses sustainable aviation fuel 100% of the time, at a blend of about 35%.”
The challenges of increasing the blend
While obviously a good step in the right direction, SaxonAir is all too aware of the importance of increasing the strength of the SAF blend that it uses. To an extent, especially given Norwich’s location tucked away in the East of England, this is a question of availability. Wellbeing & Sustainability Functions Team Member Rachel Harvey reflected on this at length, telling Simple Flying that:
“In the last few months, [Air BP] have made two new deals with companies who are manufacturing sustainable aviation fuel. My hope is that, if that sort of trend continues, the availability of it might increase as a result, and we might up it from a 35% blend to hopefully more.”
Photo: Jake Hardiman | Simple Flying
Look out for more content on SaxonAir’s sustainability drive in the coming days!
Hill also echoed the fact that an airport’s location can dictate the availability of stronger blends. She stated that “the [SAF] they’ve got in Norwich is a 35% blend, but it can be up to an 80% blend; it varies depending on an airport’s location, and things like that“. However, availability isn’t the only challenge.
The cost of SAF also plays a key role
With SaxonAir primarily operating private charter flights using helicopters and business jets, its clients are more than used to paying more money for a premium product. Despite this, the use of SAF has the potential to come with unwanted extra costs compared to the use of conventional fuel. Specifically, Hill told Simple Flying:
“At a lot of the London airports, it’s triple the price of normal jet fuel. Although our clients are high net worth clients, they don’t want the extra cost and don’t necessarily see the direct benefit.”
Photo: Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock
Harvey also touched upon the implications of normalizing SAF usage in UK aviation, both in terms of attitudes towards the topic and making it a more affordable solution. She concluded that,
“It’s a question of how we can market it so that people want to pay extra to use it. But also, as a country, what can we do to start bringing the price down?“
It will certainly be interesting to see how the situation develops.
With thanks to Rachel Harvey and Rebekah Hill at SaxonAir.