Aviation & Environment News in Brief

First A319neo flight with 100% sustainable aviation fuel; Etihad's SAF flight cuts carbon emissions; Cathay joins climate task force

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Airlines like Cathay Pacific are hoping sustainable aviation fuel can be scaled up to help cut carbon emissions. (PHOTO: Via Cathay Pacific)

First A319neo flight with 100% sustainable aviation fuel

(PHOTO: Airbus)

Airbus, Dassault Aviation, ONERA, the French Ministry of Transports and Safran have launched the first in-flight study of a single-aisle aircraft running on unblended sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).  During the flight test over the Toulouse region on 28 October, one CFM LEAP-1A engine of an Airbus A319neo test aircraft operated on 100 percent SAF. Initial results from the ground and flight tests are expected in 2022.

The unblended SAF is provided by Total Energies. It is made from Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA), which primarily consists of used cooking oil, as well as other waste fats. HEFA is made of paraffinic hydrocarbons and is free of aromatics and sulfur. Approximately 57 tonnes of SAF will be used for the entire test campaign. It is produced in Normandy close to Le Havre, France. The 100 percent SAF will also be utilised for compatibility and engine operability studies on the Safran Helicopters Arrano engine used on the Airbus Helicopters H160, which are expected to start in 2022.

Airbus, in collaboration with DLR, is responsible for characterising and analysing the impact of 100 percent SAF on ground and in-flight emissions. Safran focuses on compatibility studies related to the fuel system and engine adaptation for commercial and helicopter aircraft and their optimisation for various types of 100 percent SAF fuels. Safran will perform LEAP engine ground tests with 100 percent SAF at its Villaroche facilities later this year to complete analysis. ONERA is supporting Airbus and Safran in analysing the compatibility of the fuel with aircraft systems and will be in charge of preparing, analysing and interpreting test results for the impact of 100 percent SAF on emissions and contrail formation. Dassault Aviation is contributing to the material and equipment compatibility studies and verifying 100% SAF biocontamination susceptibility. 

The study – known as VOLCAN (VOL avec Carburants Alternatifs Nouveaux) – contributes to global decarbonisation efforts currently underway across the entire aeronautical industry, and is benefiting from a financing of the France Relance recovery plan, the part thereof dedicated to the decarbonisation of aviation, which is implemented by DGAC under the supervision of Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, French Minister of Transports. The study’s ultimate goal is to promote the large-scale deployment and use of SAF, and certification of 100 percent SAF for use in single-aisle commercial aircraft and the new generation of business jets.

Etihad’s SAF flight cuts carbon emissions

(IMAGE: Etihad)

On Saturday 23 October, Etihad Airways operated its most sustainable flight ever, leveraging the learnings and efficiencies developed over the last two years of its comprehensive sustainability programme to reduce carbon emissions (CO2) by 72 percent in absolute terms compared to the equivalent flight operated in 2019. The London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi flight is part of the Etihad Greenliner Programme – a two-year partnership between Etihad and Boeing using Etihad’s Boeing 787 fleet as a test bed for sustainability improvements in partnership with organisations across the industry. It required huge collaboration across the aviation ecosystem to deliver a sustainable in-flight product, coordination with airspace management for optimised flight routing, new technology flight deck tools, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), contrail reduction and airport handling processes.

In an industry-first, EY20 was the first commercial flight to explore contrail-avoidance. Working with UK-based SATAVIA, the team identified potential areas of ice super-saturated regions in the atmosphere where harmful contrails are likely to form, and the flight route was adjusted to avoid these areas. Based on the original and adjusted flight plan, the strategy avoided the production of approximately 64 tonnes of CO2e, with a fuel penalty of only 100kg, or 0.48 tonnes CO2.

“These are noteworthy savings,” said Mohammad Al Bulooki, chief operating officer, Etihad Aviation Group. “When Etihad committed to achieve net zero, it was acknowledged that it was only possible if the airline worked collaboratively and positively with our industry partners. That is exactly what Etihad has done with the Sustainable Flight. Of equal importance, Etihad, Boeing and its partners – airports, ANSP, and suppliers – used the flight to learn where further improvements could be made.

Etihad provided catering that was appropriately sourced and served on sustainable crockery and with light-weight cutlery. The crockery itself is part of a circular recycling process where they are returned to the manufacturer at the end of their serviceable life and ground down to its raw material and remade. Guests were also provided with environmentally friendly plant-based water bottles and limited-edition tote bags from upcycled aircraft materials. Eighty percent of all single use plastics were eliminated. Once the aircraft arrived at Abu Dhabi, it was serviced by Etihad’s new fleet of electric vehicles for ground logistics such as baggage unloading. Where electric vehicles were unable to be used, Etihad purchased bio-diesel to fuel equipment such as the airline’s passenger coach service between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, meaning all passengers, including those transiting to Dubai, were completely carbon neutral for the entirety of their journey.

Cathay Pacific joins Aviation Climate Taskforce

(PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

Cathay Pacific together with Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and other airline leaders announced today the formation of the Aviation Climate Taskforce (ACT), a new non-profit organisation founded to tackle the challenge of eliminating carbon emissions in aviation through innovation and collaboration. Cathay Pacific has pioneered efforts in decarbonisation technologies over the years. It became the first airline investor of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) developer Fulcrum BioEnergy in 2014, and recently committed to using SAF for 10% of its total fuel consumption by 2030. This cross-sector partnership will contribute to the airline’s ongoing decarbonisation efforts and commitment to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Chief Executive Officer Augustus Tang said: “Dramatically reducing emissions is a critically important but also highly challenging task facing the aviation sector. At Cathay Pacific, we recognise the importance of working with different sectors to develop the kinds of radically new technologies that will be required to decarbonise airline operations and enable us to meet our net-zero carbon emissions goal. We are very pleased to join hands with a group of like-minded organisations as founding members of the Aviation Climate Taskforce to accelerate the development of breakthrough technologies and lead the way in this very important area.”

Aviation contributed less than 3 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions annually before the COVID-19 pandemic, but that number may rise as the industry continues to develop. As a uniquely hard-to-abate sector, the industry takes an active and collaborative approach in driving breakthrough innovations that are required to eliminate carbon emissions. 

ACT will drive technological innovation and accelerate the research and development lifecycle of emerging technologies. It will take a portfolio approach, with the majority of its focus on critical medium-term solutions, such as synthetic fuel, and additional focus on more near-term solutions, such as emerging bio-based SAF pathways, and long-term solutions, such as hydrogen technologies. Through the Innovation Network, ACT will accelerate breakthroughs in early, upstream technologies, while its Collaboration Forum will identify other ways to jointly reduce carbon emissions by expediting adoption and scaling of emerging technologies. ACT will engage with experts, activists, policymakers, and thought leaders to help offer a clear way forward for the deployment of innovative technologies.

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