A ‘green’ approach for aviation

While the aviation sector looks to cleaner ways to fly, business air travellers can choose to contribute to either carbon emissions or carbon offsets.

Those who consider the impact to the environment of their international and domestic aviation, may invest in carbon offsets.

As I travel to multiple cities over several weeks next month, I am well aware of the emissions generated by aircraft and road transport.

The Hong Kong based carrier Cathay Pacific, has a “FLY greener” carbon offset programme. My investment will offset the calculated 1.87 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions amortised to my individual portion of the flights. So there is an economic cost attached to even the amount of legroom I choose.

2% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are generated by aviation, but individuals and the aviation sector are working to reduce this volume. A range of initiatives are being explored to find methods to reduce aviation emissions.

Alternative fuels

Other researchers are testing alternative fuel sources.

One Cambridge University engineer has developed a test bed aircraft to both prove the viability of hybrid aircraft engines, but also as a safety measure while testing different types of aviation fuels.

The platform is only a small prototype and a long way from an engine which could power a commercial passenger jet. Liquid jet fuel (both fossil and alternative) won’t be completely replaced any time soon, as the power needed to lift a plane off the ground simply can’t be produced with any other current economical energy source. However, it is just one example of ongoing research to make air travel more sustainable.

As part of industry-wide efforts on aviation biofuel research, Boeing established the Sustainable Biomass Consortium with the Swiss-based École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. The aim is to partner with academic researchers, refiners, aerospace companies, environmental organisations and governments round the globe to establish standards for sustainable aviation biofuels produced from renewable resources that do not compete with food crops for land or water: advanced-generation biofuels. In Australia, the bane of farmers, Mallee roots, are even being considered.

Solar power

One of the more advanced, sustainable aviation projects is the Solar Impulse aircraft.

With a wingspan considerably greater than that of a jumbo jet, the wings of the lightweight Solar Impulse, are covered with photovoltaic (PV) solar cells, enabling it to fly entirely on energy generated by the sun. Extensive testing in Europe culminated in 24 hour flights where the night flying was powered by energy captured during the hours of sunlight!

The initiative has received the support of global brands including Deutsche Bank, Solvay, Omega, Schindler, Bayer and Swiss RE, as well as individuals who have paid small sums to ‘adopt’ one or more solar cells on the aircraft’s wings. You can adopt yours online.

Solar Impulse has already flown half way around the world. On Tuesday, the aircraft landed in Nanjing, China en route on its global circumnavigation.

It is the only aircraft of perpetual endurance, able to fly day and night on solar power, without a drop of fuel. Its challenge is to complete the first Round-The-World, Solar Flight, to demonstrate how pioneering spirit, innovation and clean technologies can change the world.

So there are lots of changes in the aviation sector, and not just relating to leg-room!

 

The Geneva-based Air Transport Action Groupe represents the commercial aviation industry online at enviro.aero

Links:
aviationbenefits.org
cathaypacific.com
enviro.aero
solarimpulse.com

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