Earth Day and The Aviation Industry

This year, Earth Day is on Saturday, April 22nd, and the airline industry has some creative ways to celebrate and contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions produced. Currently the airline industry is responsible for about 2% of global carbon emissions and that number is expected to exponentially grow, hitting 22% by 2050. As a result, the industry has recognized that is has a responsibility to keep our air clean and reduce as much negative environmental impact as possible. Here are some of the most creative ways we can see the airline industry helping keep our Earth clean:

Solar Impulse

Solar Powered Flight

The Solar Impulse was the first solar powered airplane to fly across the United States, through the night, and between continents. The First Round-The-World Solar Flight was manned by pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, and lasted from March 2015 through July 2015. This aircraft was the first to fly completely on solar power, with absolutely no fuel, leading to a cleaner way of air travel.

The crew was the first to fly five days and five nights straight solely using solar power, setting countless records, and more importantly, setting a new challenge for the airline industry. According to Bertrand Piccard, “The problem with our society is that, despite all the grand talk about sustainable development, we are a long way from making use of the clean technologies that are already available to us. Those solutions bring opportunities to create jobs, make profit, sustain the growth of the industry, and at the same time protect the environment.” Piccard and Borschberg want the airline industry, and the world, to explore the possibilities of clean, renewable energies like solar power and get creative with the future of flight.

Low Emissions Aircraft

“Boeing airplanes use 70 percent less fuel now compared with the start of the Jet Age through technology alone,” shared Julie Felgar, the managing director of Commercial Airplane’s Environmental Strategy and Integration team. To continue increasing this percentage, Boeing has recently released its family of Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

The 787-8 and 787-9 Dreamliners are both roughly 20% more fuel efficient than the airplanes they were created to replace, while the 787-10 is 25% more fuel efficient. 787_earthblogBecause of this, less fuel is used, producing less carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Additionally, the new Dreamliner family now flies more direct routes, meaning less fuel is used to make stops along the way. The Dreamliner aircraft are also larger in space, meaning more people and baggage can fly with the same amount of fuel being used.

American Airlines is also working to reduce carbon emissions through replacing their fleet with new, more energy efficient models. Their goal is to fly the youngest U.S. based fleet internationally, and replace older aircraft which burn more fuel, produce more emissions, and have increased energy costs. Newer aircrafts are made to burn less fuel and utilize new energy technology, so the change in fleet will greatly decrease American’s contribution to carbon emissions and fuel inefficiency. American Airlines is proud to boast that they have played a key role in U.S. based airlines reducing emissions by 3.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from 1978 to 2012. They’ve been at the forefront of the environmentally friendly flight industry, and plan to remain innovative and key players in the changes to come.

Pilots

Minor Changes, Major Impact

Industry leaders are making the following changes to help contribute to reducing carbon footprints:

  • Go paperless! American Airlines’ flight attendants and pilots have begun using iPads and eManuals rather than paper. This change has led to American reducing amounts of CO2 emissions by 2,100 metric tons each year due to the decrease in weight.
  • Install winglets. This is a small vertical piece added to the end of each wing, which cuts down the amount of fuel needed to fly because of the improved wing lift.
  • Taxi with one engine. There is no need to power up both engines, and utilizing one engine taxiing reduces fuel consumption significantly.

United Nations’ Civil Aviation Organization

The United Nations’ Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) met in October of 2013 and signed an unprecedented agreement to stop emissions caused by international aviation at 2020. After this, ICAO agreed that all growth must be carbon-neutral, if not carbon-negative. From 2021 through 2026, 65 countries have agreed to participate in the process of becoming carbon-neutral. Starting in 2027, participation will be mandatory for all major countries. This stands to be a long-term plan for the aviation industry to reduce its carbon emissions and contribute to the well-being of our planet.