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#Sustainability20: Virgin Atlantic Wins UK Permit For 100% Sustainable Fuel Transatlantic Flight & More
Weekly Roundup - 10/11/23
Each Friday, we publish a round-up of the 20 most important stories on sustainable aviation. You can see previous editions of #Sustainability20 here.
Virgin Atlantic plans a pioneering London to New York flight using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on Nov 28, after UK approval. Currently blended with kerosene, this flight aims to demonstrate SAF's potential in decarbonising air travel. Regulatory permissions from the U.S., Ireland, and Canada are pending.
ACI World is collaborating with Netherlands Airport Consultants (NACO) and To70 to develop a global standard for airport environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting. This framework will support sustainable infrastructure investment, meeting air travel demands while adhering to social and environmental responsibilities.
The European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) is developing a Standards & Training for Aviation Responsibility and Sustainability (STARS) program, aiming for comprehensive environmental and social sustainability in the business aviation sector. This framework, involving all industry stakeholders, will include a compliance label to indicate progress in these areas.
A new study reveals that extreme weather caused by climate change may disproportionately impact native species over non-native ones. Researchers found that native species often experience more negative effects from extreme weather, including reduced populations and geographical distribution. In contrast, non-native species generally show resilience, owing to traits like high reproduction rates and adaptability.
Infrastructure and operational efficiencies
Heirloom Carbon Technologies, a California-based start-up, has inaugurated the first commercial facility in the U.S. for direct air capture, a process that extracts carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The plant, also operating in Iceland, aims to combat climate change by converting captured CO2 into concrete. Heirloom's facility in Tracy can absorb 1,000 tons of CO2 annually, equivalent to emissions from 200 cars, and plans to scale up rapidly.
Emirates, known for its flair in the fashion world, is launching a unique upcycling project in 2024. The collection will include luggage and accessories made from 30,000 pounds of materials repurposed from Emirates' Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft, including first-class leather and seatbelt nylon. Handmade and customizable, these pieces will first be showcased at the Dubai Airshow next week.
Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) and Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) are expanding their SWISS Air Rail network to include Geneva Airport, offering convenient train connections to Zurich and Geneva Airports from Lausanne, Fribourg, and Bern. The network, growing since 2019, now features two airport rail stations and 11 destinations.
Airbus UpNext's modified Cessna Citation VII business jet, featuring an innovative wing design, successfully took off from Toulouse for initial tests. The aircraft will eventually become an uncrewed, remotely controlled platform. The new wing design, to be tested in the second phase, includes a lidar system for turbulence anticipation and a semi-aeroelastic hinge to reduce turbulence impact. The adaptive wing aims to improve fuel efficiency by 5-10%.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)
The FAA is investing $300 million in its Fueling Aviation’s Sustainable Transition (FAST) program to support SAF production and development, aiming for net-zero emissions by 2025. The goal is to produce 3 billion gallons of SAF annually by 2030 and 35 billion by 2050, meeting all U.S. aviation fuel needs.
After a 20-month pilot by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), GenZero, and Singapore Airlines, Singapore is operationally ready for SAF but requires more support for widespread adoption. The pilot validated the end-to-end process, including procurement, blending, certification, and delivery at Changi Airport.
Boeing has joined aireg (Aviation Initiative for Renewable Energy in Germany), demonstrating its commitment to SAF and a more sustainable air travel future. By collaborating with both aireg and the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) in the U.S., Boeing aims to make all its commercial aircraft 100% SAF-compatible by 2030.
Emirates successfully kicked off commercial flight operations powered by blended SAF in collaboration with Shell Aviation. Shell supplied the blended fuel to the Dubai International Airport (DBX) through DBX's airport fueling system. It was officially the first-ever SAF supply in Dubai for Emirates.
Chevron's El Segundo refinery is the first of its facilities globally to produce 100% renewable diesel fuel, highlighting its commitment to sustainability and emission reduction. The refinery adapted its systems to co-process bio feedstocks like soybean oil with traditional crude oil, creating diesel and SAFs with significantly reduced carbon intensity.
By 2030, North America is projected to lead in SAF production, reaching 2,418 million gallons annually, with Europe and Asia following at 1,246 and 898 million gallons respectively. This growth, detailed in a GlobalData report, is driven by multiple projects, predominantly through standalone renewable refineries and some conversions of crude oil refineries.
New technology: Electric and Hydrogen
InterGlobe Enterprises and Archer Aviation are set to launch an electric air taxi service in India by 2026, using Archer's 'Midnight' eVTOL aircraft for up to 100-mile flights. Starting with 200 aircraft in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru, the service aims to cut travel times and expand into cargo and other services.
Helijet International, a Canadian helicopter airline, has ordered two ALIA eVTOL aircraft from BETA Technologies, aiming to be Canada's first air carrier to offer passenger and cargo services with eVTOLs. These eVTOLs will integrate into Helijet's existing network, enhancing services like emergency response, air ambulance, and connecting rural communities. ALIA is expected to receive commercial regulatory certification in 2026.
BETA Technologies' ALIA eCTOL completed a 2,000-mile journey across 12 states, landing at Duke Field, Eglin Air Force Base, showcasing its capabilities in restricted airspace. This is part of BETA's collaboration with the U.S. Air Force under AFWERX Agility Prime, with commercial service expected in 2025-2026.
Universal Hydrogen demonstrated its modular hydrogen storage on an ATR-72 in France, efficiently handling hydrogen capsules for transport using existing networks. Their H2AmpCart™, developed with JBT AeroTech, offers a mobile, hydrogen-powered charging solution for electric ground equipment.
TCab Tech's E20 eVTOL completed initial flight tests, targeting CAAC certification by 2025 and later EASA. With a 200-km range, 320 km/h speed, and five-passenger capacity, it has over 200 provisional orders. Safran's motors power the E20, priced at about 7 million yuan. Additionally, AutoFlight introduced an AI-assisted firefighting eVTOL.
China's AeroHT is progressing rapidly in eVTOL flying cars, unveiling two new concepts: a six-wheel hybrid-electric "aircraft carrier" van and a flying supercar with a concealed airframe. The six-wheel van functions as a ground deployment system for a two-seat eVTOL multicopter, while the updated supercar concept features a four-arm system with eight propellers and internal storage for flight gear.
Volocopter successfully conducted its first multi-level flight tests for its eVTOL at Tampa International Airport, marking a significant milestone in urban air mobility. These tests, witnessed by key figures, included takeoff, landing, and local condition performance assessments.
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