The Vail Valley Jet Center (VVJC), owned and operated by Signature Aviation, announced today that it has achieved carbon neutrality for its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions generated by equipment, fleet vehicles, and buildings. The accomplishment is a key step in Signature’s journey to fulfill its commitment to attain a net-zero operational footprint by 2050, serving as an exploration into the tactics and strategies that can be implemented throughout the company’s global private aviation terminal network. The Eagle County Regional Airport location is serving as an innovation testbed as it tracks the most effective ways of reducing carbon emissions.
Signature Aviation is the world’s largest network of fixed-base operators (FBOs), which provide general aviation aircraft and travelers with services such as aircraft fueling, handling, hangar storage, and maintenance. Signature’s Eagle location started its journey toward carbon neutrality in January 2022 by following the company’s protocols to audit and monitor emissions of all its facilities and equipment. The audit established the baseline carbon footprint that led to three carbon neutrality strategies: on site solar, procurement of renewable energy through local utilities, and electrification of its vehicle fleet.
Building upon these strategies, the VVJC implemented over ten energy efficiency programs.
- Joined Holy Cross Energy’s PURE program in July to be supplied with renewable energy
- Began contributing to local housing electrification through Energy Smart Colorado
- Installed solar to eliminate the need for utility-supplied electricity
- Electrified over 50% of the location’s ground support equipment and upgraded to low emission vehicles to achieve a 150 metric tonne reduction in CO2
- Installed HVAC interlocks on 11 hangars, pausing climate controls when the doors are open
- Replaced 584 traditional lights with LED lighting throughout its campus, reducing energy use by 65-75 percent over traditional metal halide and high-pressure sodium lighting
- Installed lighting motion sensors in restrooms, offices, and storage areas
- Insulated hangar doors and added interior roof insulation
- Utilized B20 biodiesel in all diesel-powered equipment
- Ordered two new fully electric aircraft refueling trucks with delivery anticipated in late 2022, making Signature among the first in the industry to use this type of equipment
- Purchased offsets from the Somerset Mine in the Western Colorado town of Somerset
The largest challenge was modifying VVJC’s ground service equipment fleet to include 50% electric-only vehicles. Despite significant supply chain challenges, the investment in new equipment will result in a 15% reduction in fossil-fuel emissions. It included the following fleet upgrades:
- Six new Rampmaster 5,000 gallon aircraft refueling trucks, which will consume 40% less diesel fuel than the 1990’s vintage trucks they will replace (three refueling trucks have already been delivered, with the rest to be delivered in December 2022)
- Six electric Club Car Transporter golf carts, replacing 1990’s era gas-powered golf carts
- Electric lavatory cart, an electric fork-lift, a Tesla Model Y for use by visiting aircraft crews, and an electric belt loader that displaces its gas-powered predecessors
“Our team has risen to the challenge of accomplishing the wide variety of tasks associated with implementing this program,” said Paul Gordon, President and General Manager of Vail Valley Jet Center. “We are proud of reaching this goal for our airport and our community.” One of those supporters is Eagle County's Walking Mountains Science Center, who is Energy Smart Colorado's local partner assisting with implementation of the offset program.
“Achieving our ambitious net-zero goal will require significant changes to the way we operate” shared Heather Frost, Director of Environmental and Sustainability Programs for Signature Aviation. “The success achieved at the VVJC has educated us on holistic sustainability and established a model for Signature’s efforts to decarbonize the private aviation industry.”
In August 2022, VVJC celebrated another significant achievement, becoming the first FBO in the United States to achieve the highest environmental certification for sustainable operations in the business aviation industry, outpacing thousands of private aviation service providers globally. The certification was part of the sustainability standards established by a national trade group, the National Air Transportation Association (NATA). Those VVJC sustainability efforts have already had the effect of removing 678 metric tonnes of CO2 annually from Colorado skies.
The Eagle County facility’s accomplishment is part of parent company Signature Aviation’s 2020 worldwide commitment to become net-zero for Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2050, in alignment with a science-driven climate framework. That includes a 29% reduction in GHGs by 2025 and a 50% reduction by 2030. As of the end of 2021, Signature was ahead of its near-term target of 29% reduction by 2025.
The aviation industry is still working to overcome the most significant source of CO2 creation within the sector – emissions from aircraft fuel, also referred to as Scope 3 emissions. This is a major challenge to aircraft operators becoming net zero because of the limited availability of carbon-intensity-reducing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and a cautious regulatory environment.
Signature is already the private aviation industry’s largest provider of SAF, having delivered over fifteen million gallons to its customers to date. Its FBO in San Francisco, California converted its entire fuel supply to SAF, and Signature Aviation offers the fuel for purchase at 18 additional locations in the United States and United Kingdom.
Furthermore, Signature’s Eagle County location began refueling aircraft with sustainable aviation fuel sourced from renewable feedstock in spring 2022, empowering customers to reduce the emissions generated by their own aircraft. Sustainable aviation fuel gallons pumped in Eagle County follow an independently audited certification process to track their carbon reductions.