How The Aviation Industry is Achieving Eco-Friendly Flight

As flight technology and design consistently increases, manufacturers and operators are finding new ways to combat the rise of carbon emissions. By 2050, the aviation industry has promised to cut their amount of greenhouse gases in half as compared to 2005 levels, and various methods and technologies are assisting in this endeavor. As combating climate change and providing more sustainable methods of travel is becoming ever increasingly important, operators are looking to fossil jet fuel equipment substitutes, more advanced and efficient aircraft systems, optimal flight plans, and more.

Combating climate change within the aviation industry has been a major concern of many airline operators and airliners in recent years due to the fact that their total emissions have had a steady rise since 2013. Curbing the amount of emissions that aircraft produce can also come in many shapes and forms, including endeavors such as improving aircraft efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emission from fossil jet fuel equipment, minimizing noise pollution, and much more. From aircraft manufacturers to the airliners that operate aircraft, many are working together to find new ways in which the industry can evolve to be more eco-friendly.

With the diversification of fuels, operators and manufacturers can begin to shift away from fossil fuels and utilize more sustainable options such as plants, algae, cooking oil, and waste. As one example, JetBlue has begun to shift away from traditional fuel types for domestic flights, instead utilizing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Rather than creating fuel from refined petroleum, SAF is created through waste oils, agricultural waste, and other biological substances. As a type of drop-in fuel, SAF does not create a need for new equipment installations or unique assemblies as the fuel may be blended together with fossil fuels for use. As compared to pure fossil fuel combustion, SAF provides increased fuel efficiency and air quality, all while reducing emissions of carbon dioxide from the aircraft exhaust system by upwards of 80 percent.

Another type of SAF that has been experimented with is jet and biofuel mixtures created from the succulent plant Salicornia. Since its implementation for flight, over 170,000 flights have been conducted utilizing such biofuel blends, and operators include Qantas Airways, Virgin Atlantic, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines. Beyond airlines, airports such as Los Angeles International Airport and Oslo Airport are also taking initiatives to provide such SAF alternatives as an availability for all airlines that pass through them for aircraft refueling

To further strengthen climate change initiatives and persuade others to follow suit in such green endeavors, some have also turned to state-based policies. After JetBlue began to utilize SAF fuels to combat climate change and reduce emissions, operators and individuals in Seattle, Washington pressed for the adoption of a low carbon fuel standard for the state. Alongside such operators, other airlines have also begun to see a push from many fronts to begin using sustainable aviation fuels through incentivization. Since then, multiple operators and airliners have begun researching and experimenting with greener methods of flight.

Beyond specific airports, fighting climate change in the aviation industry has also played a role on the global stage. In 2009, the International Air Transport Association placed carbon neutral growth targets for the aviation industry to cap carbon emissions. With such targets, airlines would need to ensure that net carbon emissions never grow despite any increase in aircraft fleets, operations, or traffic. Furthermore, a total of 81 countries have also pledged their support for a United Nations plan that similarly seeks to mitigate the growth of carbon emissions. Known as the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), the UN plan would call for countries to procure carbon offsets to stop the growth of carbon emissions from aircraft once they meet an individual cap.

Similar to the commercial airline industry, corporate jet operators have also begun to make changes to their flights, adopting more sustainable fuel alternatives. While greener fuels have the benefit of curbing climate change, corporate jet operators may also benefit from attracting customers who seek more eco-friendly methods of travel. Additionally, low carbon fuel and efficient flight would also benefit shareholders of such companies, as sustainability is often a major concern of such groups. To assist in these efforts, many airports are beginning to offer corporate jets access to SAF for aircraft refueling.

While providing aircraft of all types with cleaner and more sustainable fuel options can go a long way for reducing carbon fuel emissions, the construction of the aircraft can also make major differences for their carbon output. With manufacturers such as Airbus and Boeing, a great number of improvements have been made to their designs over the years, allowing for newer models to travel greater distances on less amounts of fuel. As such, aircraft can conduct the same flight routes on less fuel, both saving money and reducing their footprint. Furthermore, the aviation industry has also been making great strides towards achieving electrically powered flight, investing in fully-electric and hybrid-electric aircraft technology. With the realization of fully electric aircraft, airliners would be able to continue all of their operations without burning fuel, greatly decreasing the amount of carbon emissions from the aircraft exhaust system.

Though there are many methods in which airliners, airports, and aircraft manufacturers can combat the effects of climate change and reduce emissions, such endeavors will take time as entities collaborate together to find new methods and strategies. With constant developments being made to fuel alternatives and more efficient aircraft systems, achieving greener alternatives may not be very far in the future.

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December 20, 2022
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