The ongoing efforts of business-jet manufacturer Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. to increase sustainability in business aviation have driven the industry standard. Years of leading by example have culminated in a series of milestones that are persuading the broader industry to embrace and adopt environmentally friendly practices.
Gulfstream’s enhanced commitment to sustainability stretches back to 2009, when the company joined the broader business aviation industry in committing to the sustainability goals set by the National Business Aviation Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and the International Business Aviation Council.
Since then, Gulfstream’s robust sustainability programme has grown to include aircraft operational efficiency, eco-friendly buildings and the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for its corporate, demonstration, customer support and flight test fleets in Savannah. The company even sells SAF to customers of its Long Beach, California, maintenance and completions facility and uses it for its own California-based completions and delivery flights.
The company’s first foray into using the fuel came in 2011, when a Gulfstream G450 became the first business jet to cross the Atlantic using renewable fuel. In 2015, the company signed a multi-year agreement for a regular supply of sustainable aviation fuel for its Savannah facility. By December 2019, the company achieved a milestone by flying its corporate aircraft more than 1 million nautical miles on SAF.
Every gallon of SAF used by Gulfstream’s Savannah-based fleet saves at least 60% in carbon dioxide emissions on a life-cycle basis vs. petroleum-based jet fuel. Gulfstream has used a 30/70 blend of low-carbon, drop-in SAF and Jet-A in operations at its Savannah headquarters since 2012. To date, it has used more than 980,000 gallons of the SAF blend and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1,700 tonnes.
Gulfstream’s use of SAF prompted others to embrace this environmentally friendly fuel. In March 2019, it completed the first sale of SAF to a Gulfstream operator. Nearly 20 Gulfstream operators have expressed interest in obtaining and using their own SAF supply, and Gulfstream has worked to connect them with the World Energy refinery. In 2020, Gulfstream also began offering the fuel at its service centre in Van Nuys.
With more still to be done, Gulfstream launched a carbon offsets programme. In October 2019, the company flew carbon neutral for the first time, taking five SAF-fuelled company-owned aircraft filled with employees from Savannah to Las Vegas; the offsets represented more than 200% of the carbon emitted during the trip. Through the programme, operators let Gulfstream know their projected annual flight hours and are invoiced a monthly fee, which is invested in environmentally beneficial activities through a third-party provider chosen by Gulfstream.
Gulfstream also designs its aircraft with efficiency in mind. When the industry goals were established in 2009, the Gulfstream G450 and G550 were baselines. The Gulfstream G500 and G600 both fly faster than the G450 and G550 and feature larger cabins, but at the same time, they offer as much as a 32% improvement in fuel efficiency. Both aircraft fly nearly 30 knots faster than their predecessors with the same fuel burn while providing a longer and wider fuselage, giving the business aviation community a new generation of efficiency and performance.
In addition to its aircraft, Gulfstream also focuses on sustainability within its facilities. The company recently opened several new buildings with sustainable features in the United States and Europe. In August 2019, the company opened a new facility in Appleton, Wisconsin, that includes sensitive land protection, a rainwater management system, enhanced control systems for heating and cooling, optimised energy performance and electric vehicle charging stations.
In September 2019, Gulfstream opened its East Campus service centre in Savannah, Georgia. That facility features energy-efficient lighting, enhanced control systems for heating and cooling, optimised energy performance, recycling of at least 75 per cent of construction waste, low-emitting building materials, water-saving fixtures and preferred parking for low-emission vehicles.
The all-new Gulfstream Van Nuys service centre opened in December 2019; the facility offers SAF to customers and features recycled building materials, an energy-efficient thermoplastic polyolefin roof, water-saving fixtures and landscaping, and enhanced control systems for heating/cooling. All three facilities are expected to receive U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.
In 2020, the new Gulfstream Farnborough service centre in Hampshire debuted its environmental benefits, including rainwater harvesting, radiant heating systems in the purpose-built hangar, intelligent lighting controls and heat recovery systems. The building is also expected to achieve a “Very Good” Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) rating.
Overall, Gulfstream boasts 10 Green Certified new buildings, featuring sustainable site construction, material selection, indoor environmental quality and water and energy-efficient designs. These buildings have provided a reduction in Gulfstream’s carbon footprint by 10 per cent since 2014. Company-wide processes have been optimised to improve quality, reduce delays, reduce total costs, and improve skills and processes to reduce operational waste.
The manufacturer’s work is not yet done. Gulfstream boasts a cross-functional, enterprise-wide Environmental Strategy Team dedicated to ensuring the company remains on the forefront of sustainability within business aviation as well as the communities where its employees live and work.