Vail Valley Jet Center honored for its sustainability efforts

Walking Mountains presents private aviation facility with climate action award

The Vail Valley Jet Center was recently honored by Walking Mountains Science Center with a Climate Action award. Part of the facility's efforts include providing sustainable aviation fuel to some clients.
Vail Valley Jet Center/Courtesy photo

“Private air travel” and “sustainability” don’t often appear in the same sentence. But the Vail Valley Jet Center is making some significant improvements.

The Jet Center, which hosts private aviation at the Eagle County Regional Airport, was recently honored with a Climate Action Award from Walking Mountains Science Center.

The projects

Here’s a look at some of the Vail Valley Jet Center’s sustainability efforts:
• Joining Holy Cross Energy’s PURE program to purchase renewable energy.
• Installing solar panels for some electrical needs.
• Installing interlocks on hangars to pause climate controls when the doors are open.
• Two electric-powered refueling trucks are on order.
• Replacing 584 traditional lights with LED lighting, reducing energy use by 65 to 75%.

Jet Center General Manager Paul Gordon outlined a number of steps the facility is taking on the road to carbon neutrality.

Part of the effort includes the availability of jet fuel made from a mixture of kerosene and animal tallow. That mix is similar to “bio-diesel” fuel used in ground vehicles.

Diesel-powered vehicles at the Jet Center now use bio-diesel fuel blends.

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Gordon said the biggest problem with the sustainable jet fuel is availability.

“We’re selling as much as we can get,” he said.

The vehicles in the Jet Center’s fleet are also a big part of the sustainability efforts.

Gordon said electric vehicles and low-emission vehicles now make up more than half of the Jet Center’s ground support equipment. That switch is estimated to reduce those vehicles’ carbon dioxide emissions by about 150 metric tons per year.

From tugs to trucks

Gordon said aircraft tugs and golf carts are easy to electrify and still effective in use.

Fuel trucks are a little more difficult. Gordon said some of the trucks that date to the 1990s are being phased out and replaced with trucks that are 40% more efficient. In addition, a 5,000-gallon fuel tanker is on order.

That tanker will be one of the first of its kind to operate in the winter at higher elevations, Gordon said.

But fuel and vehicles are only part of a widespread sustainability push.

Gordon said Signature’s corporate goal is to reduce greenhouse emissions 50% by 2030 and get to carbon neutrality by 2050.

That’s a big job. Gordon noted that Signature has about 200 facilities in 27 countries.

Getting all those facilities to carbon neutrality requires broader thinking than just vehicles.

The Jet Center has switched out 584 conventional light bulbs — including large outdoor fixtures — with more-efficient LED fixtures. Other moves include putting motion detectors for lights in restrooms and other occasionally used areas.

Big doors, big savings

One big saving is at the Jet Center’s hangars. Gordon said interlocks are being placed on all the hangar doors that will pause heating and air conditioning when the doors are open.

Those doors are big, and the hangars are large. Gordon said it can take two to three hours to fill one hangar with several aircraft. Leaving the heat off when the doors are open will save a lot of electricity.

Still, there’s only so much a facility like the Jet Center can do. Gordon said the Jet Center is purchasing carbon offsets from the Somerset Mine on the west side of McClure Pass. The Jet Center is also helping fund housing electrification projects through Energy Smart Colorado.

In addition to the efforts at the Jet Center, commercial passengers at the airport can participate in the Good Traveler program, which allows commercial airline passengers to purchase carbon offsets.

During a recent update to the Eagle County Board of Commissioners, Josh Miller, the county’s assistant aviation director, said the offsets can be purchased online. The airport’s commercial terminal will also have signs with QR codes so passengers can sign into the program before boarding or after arrival. Participants can direct their payments to the Walking Mountains Science Center.

At the Jet Center, Gordon said it’s “neat working for a company like Signature that wants to do good things.

“I’m really looking forward to the future,” he added.

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