VIEWPOINT: They should have stayed home

While well intentioned, a round-the-world flight to promote sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) so far has not used one bit of SAF.

Matthias Niederhäuser and Robin Wenger.
Matthias Niederhäuser and Robin Wenger.

sesThey say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. In the case of Diamondo Earthrounding, a non-profit initiative that is hoping to highlight the role of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by flying around the world, it might be a case of just because you can do something should you do it?

In this case the answer is a resounding “no”. A little background first. Pilots Matthias Niederhäuser and Robin Wenger are in the cockpit of a Diamond DA50 RG five-seater aircraft that left Zurich in January and has travelled around a good part of the world visiting multiple airports, cities and sustainable initiatives “with a mission to connect worldwide projects for sustainable aviation, raise awareness of sustainable technologies and how to utilise them as well as aim to accelerate aviation’s path to net-zero carbon emissions,” according to their PR firm. As of last week the two pilots and their plane are reported to be in Thailand where the DA50 aircraft is undergoing scheduled maintenance inspections and perhaps a little R&R for the pilots.

Here’s where the whole “highlighting the role of SAF” gets interesting: Diamondo Earthrounding, the group overseeing the trip, said the two pilots “can claim that they have covered the first quarter of their trip on SAF, despite not fuelling the DA50 with SAF blended jet fuel once thus far. So the whole trip around the world is to promote SAF but so far they’ve not used SAF once.

The group’s PR people say that “while this seems paradoxical”, and it does, a carbon offset plan offered by Jet Aviation called “Book and Claim” makes their claims possible. Through Book and Claim, the same amount of jet fuel that is loaded into the DA50 flows into the global aviation system as SAF at locations where it is available. The problem is, most green activist groups claim such offset plans are really licences to pollute and do nothing to remove CO2 from the air. And who can say the SAF that is made available through the offset plan will actually be used by anyone?

One can certainly applaud the group for its good intentions and if they were actually using SAF, one might see the point of the trip. But if you’re not going to eat what you cook, or use the fuel you’re promoting, it would have been better to stay home. While the DA50 may be a “streamlined” and efficient aircraft, it’s still pushing out pollution.

Diamondo Earthrounding has good intentions in what it’s doing as does most of the aviation industry that claims it wants to be carbon neutral by 2050. But as has been argued in these pages time and again, 2050 is too late and flying around the world to promote SAF without actually using SAF seems more of a way to show your friends what you did on your winter vacation rather than a way to actually fight the climate crisis.

Use this one

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Matthew Driskill is the Editor of Asian Aviation and is based in Cambodia. He has been an Asia-based journalist and content producer since 1990 for outlets including Reuters and the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and is a former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. He frequently appears on international broadcast outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC and has taught journalism at Hong Kong University and the American University of Paris. Driskill has received awards from the Associated Press for Investigative Reporting and Business Writing and in 1989 was named the John J. McCloy Fellow by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York where he earned his Master's Degree.


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