As part of SHY Aviation's ongoing strategy, Mike Ryan recently attended the Foresight Live Sustainable and Future Aviation Conference in London. The conference featured distinguished speakers, including Joe Delafield, the Deputy Head of Aviation for the Department of Transport, Frederic Laugere, Head of Innovation Services at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, Dr Maria Nelson, Head of Innovation and Sustainability at the Aerospace Technology Institute, and Gary Cutts, Future Flight Challenge Director at Aviation Live.
The topics discussed were varied, and I will summarise some key points and potential solutions.
Aviation accounts for 2% of the UK's CO2 emissions, with private aviation contributing 2% to this figure.
The graph presented in many sessions depicts the sustainable aviation net zero roadmap to 2050.
The main pillars to the reduction of CO2 can be summarised below, as presented by the Department for Transport are outlined below.
The main pillars for CO2 reduction as follows:
1. System efficiencies: One practical approach is for aircraft to fly directly from point A to B using new airspace routings, or to fly in formations like geese across the Atlantic to reduce drag and fuel burn.
2. Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF): Dirk Singer of SimpliFlying presented a slide indicating that in 2009, IATA aimed for 10% of all flights to be powered by SAFs by 2017. However, the first flight powered entirely by SAFs only occurred last week, with Virgin flying across the Atlantic.
It was generally agreed that there is insufficient biomass and waste globally to support all long-haul flights let alone short haul aviation, marine, heating and general transportation. Anecdotally, it was explained that America is now importing palm oil to cover the corn that is now being used to create SAF, previously used to make corn oil.
On the positive side, more engines are now being certified to use SAF so this is a good start. The light at the end of the tunnel could be Nuclear with what has been termed Carbon Neutral Fuels (CNF) which can be made anywhere from air and water. This process is called the Power to Liquid Process (PTL) but requires a lot of cheap electricity.
The UK uses 15bn litres of Jet A-1 annually. To make enough CNF via a Power to Liquid process, would require 75GW of electricity. The UK electrical grid is 45GW (average peak consumption) so we would need to triple the amount of electricity we create in the future, not counting the additional electricity needed for battery cars, heat pumps etc. This would represent a huge challenge considering that a 39% reduction needs to come from Sustainable Aviation Fuels!
3. Zero Emission Flights: There was an interesting presentation by Faradair showing their future Regional Electric Aircraft, one of over 300 aircraft being designed and then they need to be certified. There will be 3 or 4 that emerge which will operate in the very short haul and small aircraft private aircraft markets using electric motors, some direct and some hybrid using small efficient kerosine or SAF engines that will eventually be replaced by Hydrogen.
4. Sustainable efforts by Naboair and Saxon Air, private aircraft and helicopter operators based in Norwich, were highlighted. Naboair operates the Piper Velis Electro, the world's first certified all-electric aircraft for pilot training. This current reality contrasts with future aspirations.
Using the Cessna150/172 trainer as a benchmark, with emissions of 75g per hour of flight, the potential CO2 reduction is notable, especially considering the 47,000 pilots in this aircraft class in the UK.
The UK government's investment in research across these areas and its support for agencies like the Civil Aviation Authority is promising. The key message for stakeholders is to engage early with the Department of Transport and CAA to achieve sustainability goals.
SHY Aviation is keenly monitoring these developments, focusing on zero-emission flights using new technologies, potentially as early as 2026. We aim to be at the forefront of the emerging sustainable aviation market.
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