Besides innovating on biofuels and electric planes, easyJet and others are demonstrating that much can be done to cut emissions before aircraft leave the ground

Neste's head of renewable jet fuel sees 2017 as a turning point for the aviation industry. Paul Paoletta, whose company is providing Geneva airport's biofuel, wrote in a blog that the year will go down in aviation history because all sectors started to work together to cut emissions.

Besides innovation in electric planes, easyJet is demonstrating that much can be done on the ground. It is replacing its diesel tugs with electric tugs at Gatwick airport to move aircraft off the stand, to reduce both emissions and noise.

It’s also working with French aerospace group Safran and UK hydrogen energy producer ITM Power to develop a hydrogen fuel cell to provide the energy required for taxiing. First trials are expected at Toulouse airport next year. EasyJet says taxiing consumes 4% of its total annual fuel demand, so deploying the technology across its entire fleet could save 55,000 tonnes of fuel a year. The airline envisages making the hydrogen from renewable energy. 

New aircraft are also more fuel-efficient. Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays say they’ve cut aircraft CO2 emissions by 8% to 4.08m tonnes compared to 2015. Some of the decrease is down to fewer flights, and some to continued introduction of more efficient aircraft. Virgin Atlantic says emissions are down 22% since 2007. The airline has already exceeded the industry’s 2020 target of a 1.5% increase in fuel efficiency each year, which begs the question as to whether the industry as a whole needs to be more ambitious. Geneva airport’s Andre Schneider says he’s begun to realise the sector is not very innovative. “Movement needs to happen: it’s better to be ahead, to define it yourself, instead of having it imposed.”

At Geneva airport, fixed electrical ground power systems for aircraft are cutting carbon emissions and fuel consumption; nearly a quarter of vehicles on the tarmac are electric, hybrid or natural gas; and it plans to expand its use of solar panels to all 5,000m2 of its roofs. A system of water pumps enables terminal buildings to be cooled by water from Lake Geneva. Through the fees it charges, it also incentivises airlines to use the most efficient aircraft.

Main image credit: Rzoze19/Shutterstock Inc.


Geneva Airport  Neste  Gatwick Airport  Safran  ITM Power  hydrogen economy  Virgin Atlantic 

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