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Aviation – Sustainability issues
The development of a global market-based measure for aviation
On the ground
Airport & ground facilities
Air Traffic Management
Air Traffic Management
Land use planning
Local air quality
Limiting the impact
End of life
Once the industry has maximised the reductions in emissions through technology, operational efficiencies and infrastructure improvements, we can then turn our attention to economic measures that can help to limit aviation’s climate change effects. Economic measures should first be used to boost the research, development and deployment of new technologies rather than as a tool to suppress demand. The use of tax credits and direct funding must be explored as incentives to drive new technology programmes and encourage companies to invest in new, more efficient equipment.
While emissions from domestic aviation (and airport facilities) are covered under the Kyoto Protocol, those from international aviation (and shipping) are not, due to the difficulty in allocating these emissions to specific countries. International aviation emissions are therefore not included in the carbon reduction goals of signatories to the Kyoto agreement. Instead, governments agreed to pursue the limitation or reduction of such emissions through the UN’s aviation body, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Since 2008, the aviation industry has been asking Governments to develop a global market-based measure for international aviation, as part of the four pillar strategy. Despite political differences, at the 2013 ICAO Assembly Governments agreed to develop such a measure by the 2016 Assembly, for implementation by 2020. This will mean that the industry’s suggested goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 can be realised. While there is a lot of work that needs to be done before the 2016 Assembly, the industry is confident that this is the best course of action. It is also worth noting that aviation is subject already to some $7 billion worth of fuel- and emissions-related taxes and charges in various places around the world. Below are some of the options for economic measures:
This is the industry’s preferred option, at least initially. Offsetting is the process of purchasing good quality carbon credits in the global market (such as the UNFCCC’s CDM, or gold standard credits and using them to offset the carbon emitted. In other words, if a flight creates one tonne of CO2, a credit can be purchased which helps fund a scheme for greener electricity production in a developing country the value of which would save one tonne of CO2.
This is the industry’s preferred option because it is the simplest to implement and could be used by all countries – it does not require a sophisticated infrastructure like some of the other options below.
An emissions trading scheme (ETS), also known as cap-and-trade, involves setting an overall limit on emissions and then allowing companies to buy and sell emission allowances to meet their reduction targets. A global ETS is one possible option for ICAO to follow in pursuit of a reduction in emissions.
An emissions trading scheme can provide an added financial incentive for companies to combat global warming because emissions allowances are given a cash value; companies that are able to reduce their own emissions can sell excess credits to companies that exceed their targets. However, for a full ETS to be developed, it requires a complicated registry and allocation system to be established, which may slow down progress particularly with the complexities of a global marketplace.
Currently, international aviation is not covered under any global emissions trading scheme. However, the European Union included all international flights departing from or arriving at European airports under their internal ETS. This led to a fairly tense stand-off between the EU and other parts of the world as they objected to the EU regulating their airlines even as they were flying over their own airspace. The EU, prior to the 2013 ICAO Assembly, agreed to pause this scheme to allow negotiations to take place at ICAO on developing a global scheme.
Aviation is currently covered under several emissions trading schemes at a domestic or regional level: the European ETS covers all flights between airports in the EU, Iceland and Norway (the European Economic Area); China has implemented trial ETS at several Chinese cities, including one in Shanghai that covers domestic airlines; and New Zealand’s ETS covers domestic aviation.
Green taxes add a cost to each flight, whether by adding a charge for each passenger carried, for each take-off or landing, or for each leg of a flight. Green taxes are aimed at changing demand for air transport, which simply means pricing some passengers out of the market.
But in many instances, travellers have no reasonable alternative to air transport.
The aviation industry believes that green taxes are not a viable solution to address aviation’s contribution to climate change because they drain the aviation sector of financial resources needed for investments into research and development. In nearly all cases, the money raised by governments from such taxes have not been reinvested in environmental improvement measures – the UK’s Air Passenger Duty is a case in point.
Fuel levies are additional taxes on fuel. Fuel is already the largest expense for the aviation industry. Fuel levies tend not to be an effective emissions-reduction tool for aviation because of the international nature of its operations. Airlines should make refuelling decisions based on efficiency rather than stopping in one country instead of another because of the tax regime. This is why the Chicago Convention [link to ICAO Chicago convention] protects international services from fuel taxes to prevent unilateral fiscal measures.
The development of a global market-based measure for aviation
The industry will be working to help Governments develop a global MBM for aviation before the next ICAO Assembly in 2016. Among the technical design work that will take place are the following elements.
MRV: deciding on the most appropriate ways to measure aviation emissions, so that all countries and airlines are measuring the same things in the same way.
Offsets: deciding what the best quality offsets are and what are acceptable uses of the revenue from the measure.
Coverage: deciding whether all countries need to take part (there are a number of very small aviation markets which combined would only account for a couple of percent of the industry’s emissions – they may not need to go through the process.
Fairness: how to reconcile the need to ensure good coverage, whilst also taking account of some of the key dynamics of the aviation industry – there are some very mature markets (mainly the developed world) that are not growing rapidly, and some very fast growth areas (mainly in the developing world). The key political sticking point is how to make sure one set of countries does not pay too much, considering their desire to develop their economies, whilst also ensuring that overall growth in emissions does not take place. Aviation, unlike most other sectors, is fairly homogenous as we use the same equipment and fly the same routes no matter if we are flying from developing or developed countries.
The development of sustainable aviation alternative fuels could provide a very large part of the industry’s emissions-reduction strategy. Research has shown that, on a full carbon lifecycle basis, using the equivalent quantity of some alternative fuels could reduce CO2 emissions by around 80% compared to the jet fuel they replace.
Since the first biofuel flight in a commercial aircraft took place in 2008, there has been a huge amount of work by the industry and our partners. Certification through the global fuel standards agency ASTM allowed us to operate using biofuels and more than 1,500 commercial flights on alternative fuels have flown since 2011.
Alternative Fuel Page
The alternative fuels we are investigating are second-generation feedstocks that can be grown or produced without negatively impacting food supplies, water or land use. Importantly, they are also ‘drop-in’ fuels which share the same properties as the jet fuel we use today, so can simply be blended with the current fuel supply as they become available.
Many of the technical hurdles facing aviation in its move towards sustainable aviation fuels have been overcome and much of this work has been achieved within the industry. Now, commercialisation and scaling up of the supply of alternative aviation fuels is the most important task. But airlines and the rest of the industry cannot do it alone – political support and financial investment will have to come from a number of stakeholders.
This section outlines six suggested steps that policymakers can consider in helping their air transport system grow with less carbon-intensive fuel, whilst in many cases also investing in green growth jobs and a new sustainable industry. These steps are presented in no particular order:
Step 1. Foster research into new feedstock sources and refining processes
Step 2. De-risk public and private investments in sustainable aviation fuels
Step 3. Provide incentives for airlines to use alternative fuels from an early stage
Step 4. Encourage stakeholders to commit to robust international sustainability criteria
Step 5. Understand local green growth opportunities
Step 6. Establish coalitions encompassing all parts of the supply chain
There are many examples of stakeholder-oriented processes, all of which are groups of regional and national stakeholders, who have convened to work through the sustainability, supply, investment and long-term planning issues and maximise the opportunities within their respective regions. Within coming years, many significant commercial, policy and sustainability outcomes will result from such comprehensive regional stakeholder processes. These processes serve to enable commercial parties, while also giving confidence to governments and civil society organisations that sustainable aviation fuels efforts are following a planned path.
The aviation industry has established a plan for reducing emissions. Sustainable aviation fuels are an important part of that plan and, as you will have seen in this publication, the industry and its partners have made significant progress. There is confidence that alternative fuels can be a very significant part of every airline’s future. From policymakers, the industry is looking for encouragement and the right set of legal, fiscal and policy responses to ensure this exciting new energy stream can bear fruit as quickly as possible.
The aviation industry has made it clear that it is only looking at second-generation biofuels and is determined not to repeat the mistakes made with first-generation sources, expecting any supply to be fully sustainable. The industry is working together through groups such as the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) to make sure that any fuels used by the industry are, in fact, sustainable.
Initiatives around the world
Businesses from across aviation’s value chain are coming together in projects around the world to help with the commercialisation of alternative aviation fuels.
Efficiencies gained through improvements to operational practices can make a big difference. At every step of a plane’s operations there are actions that can reduce its fuel burn and consequently its emissions.
Airlines are saving fuel through more efficient procedures and weight reduction measures. These can range from ensuring the plane’s engines are clean to developing and using new arrivals procedures. Some airlines taxi to the runway on one engine instead of using two.
On the ground
When parked at airport gates, aircraft must be powered to provide air conditioning, electricity on board and also to start the engines before it departs. Aircraft are equipped with a small generator in the tail called an auxiliary power unit (APU). A large number of airports are now equipping their gates with fixed electrical ground power and pre-conditioned air, allowing pilots to switch off the APU and save fuel and noise whilst on the ground,
Airports are also working to power ground service equipment (baggage loading devices, catering trucks, passenger buses) with more efficient sources of energy, such as natural gas or electricity.
As aircraft taxi from the gate to the runway, there are techniques either in operation, such as single-engine taxiing, or in development, such as self-driving devices, which allow aircraft to reach the runway without using the full power of the engines.
Airports, airlines and air navigation service providers are also working together on so-called ‘green departures’ through which aircraft can take off and climb at a steady rate to reach the most efficient phase of flight – the cruise – faster.
Despite the size of an aircraft, they still burn less fuel when they have less weight on board. So airlines are finding ways of reducing the weight of a huge number of items carried – everything from food service trolleys, to seats and carpets, to loading just the right amount of water for each flight, rather than filling the tanks each time. These can result in some significant savings.
Airlines and air traffic controllers are also working together to take advantage of weather conditions at high altitudes. In a series of projects, pilots and flight planners have been studying wind patterns just before the departure and routing the aircraft along strong wind streams. Despite sometimes flying a much further distance, these flights have both reduced flight time and emissions. Flexible routing is taking place particularly on long routes in uncrowded airspace, but new surveillance technology much like GPS systems will allow it to be deployed on more crowded routes.
Traditionally, flights have descended from cruising altitude to land at airports in several steps, descending from one altitude to the next then ‘levelling out’ by powering up the engines. New technology allows much more accurate surveillance of where each aircraft is located in the airspace and therefore a more comprehensive picture of the traffic environment. This has led to a new technique – continuous descent operations – which allow aircraft to almost ‘glide’ into the airport, with engines at a very low setting. This can not only save fuel, but reduce noise impact on communities around airports. It is being used at more and more airports around the world, depending on weather and traffic conditions.
There are also more carefully tailored techniques being developed which take advantage of sophisticated navigation technologies to determine the most appropriate tightly controlled flightpaths into airports, specifically with difficult runway approaches – either if they are in mountainous areas or as a way to avoid flying over communities. These approach techniques can save millions of tonnes of fuel and CO2, as well as reducing the number of people impacted by aircraft noise around airports.
We’re not just focusing on aircraft emissions.
Most environmental concerns around air travel focus on the role of aircraft. But associated infrastructure, which include airports and flight paths, also have an impact on the environment and improvements can be made to be more environmentally sound.
Airports and ground facilities
When viewed as part of the efforts being made to reduce emissions across the entire industry, incorporating environmentally-sound features into airports, factories and other facilities is increasingly important. Ground facilities are essential to the industry and have a responsibility to become more energy efficient.
Airports are investing in offsetting schemes to become carbon neutral, most notably the ACI Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, building ‘green-certified’ terminals, reducing on-airport vehicle emissions by introducing automatic metro lines, or switching to vehicles with alternative fuels and low-emission technology, and providing electricity to aircraft at terminal gates using fixed electrical ground power rather than the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit.
A large number of airports are installing solar and other alternative energy supplies for terminal buildings.
There is a significant impact on emissions from congestion at airports. When flights have to hold and circle before they land, or queue on taxiways before taking off, it is not only inconvenient to passengers, but also adds to fuel use. These inefficiencies are continually looked at to determine whether measures such as operating restrictions on flights or new facilities like runways are needed.
One way that the industry is working to reduce congestion and delay (and therefore fuel use) is collaborative decision making (A-CDM), with all parties working together to make sure that flights don’t start their engines until there is a confirmed take-off time and a slot at the destination airport.
Air traffic management
Perhaps the biggest area of infrastructure impact on aircraft fuel burn is the air traffic management system. The route a plane takes, the height it flies, and the weather it flies through, all affect the amount of fuel it burns and therefore the CO2 it emits. These factors are managed by air navigation service providers (ANSPs), the companies that provide air traffic control services.
Around the world, ANSPs are helping the industry improve its environmental performance by making better use of airspace design and optimising aircraft performance across all phases of flight. ANSPs work with regulators, aircraft manufacturers, airlines, airports, pilots and engineers to optimise ground and flight operations to improve overall aircraft performance.
In Europe, the unification and simplification of national air traffic management into a Single European Sky would reduce circuitous flight paths. Currently, the European airspace is split up along national boundaries with 45 different ANSPs controlling the airspace. While the operations are very safe, this does lead to duplication of resources and, importantly, an inability to manage the traffic in the most efficient way possible. The Single European Sky is meant to be a step-by-step process towards a less fragmented airspace and, according to the European Commission, this better use of airspace will save upwards of 16 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually. However, progress towards this has been slow and the industry is concerned that, without governments making the Single European Sky a priority, both air traffic congestion and the impact on the environment will increase. Urgent focus is needed to get the project moving.
Similarly, in the United States the air traffic management modernisation programme known as NextGen is not making as steady progress as is needed. Although the United States is one single air traffic zone, the system is in need of a more modern approach to handling aircraft traffic, leaving behind the processes that have been in place for decades and taking a more advanced and dynamic approach to traffic management.
Aircraft and engine factories are large industrial sites dealing with materials and processes that require specialist handling, both in production and as waste. Those companies operating in civil aerospace around the world are showing industrial leadership, with many of them exceeding best practice in the manufacturing process. Importantly, a number are also insisting on such standards throughout the production supply chain as well.
Engine maker Pratt & Whitney has launched aggressive goals to further improve the sustainability of its factories, suppliers and products by 2025. The goals, backed with an investment of $60 million in more than 800 environmental projects, focus on waste, energy, water, safety and wellness, materials, suppliers and products. By 2025, Pratt & Whitney aims to have zero waste in its factories, with 100% of waste recycled. Energy use will be optimised and there will be a reduction of greenhouse gases by 80% (greenhouse gases have already been reduced by 30% in factories). The company is aiming for no water waste and a reduction of water consumption by 80%. In terms of safety, the goal is for employees to be injury-free and have best-in-class wellness programmes. Pratt & Whitney engines will be 100% recyclable at the end of their life. And suppliers will have world class safety rates, meet aggressive resource conservation targets and be 100% green certified.
Boeing and aluminium supplier Kaiser have recently announced the instigation of a closed-loop recycling system for aluminium, which will see around ten million kilograms of offcut and scrap metal a year being re-used in the industry – the largest such scheme of its type. A five-year environment audit has revealed that Boeing reduced hazardous waste by 18%, CO2 by 9%, energy-use by 3% and water intake by 2%, all despite employing 13,000 more people and opening a major manufacturing facility. In 2012, 79% of the solid waste Boeing generated was diverted from landfills – a 36% improvement since 2007.
In January 2007, Airbus became the first aerospace enterprise to receive ISO14001 environmental certification covering all of the company’s production sites, products and services throughout a lifecycle approach. The Airbus blue5 initiative has a set of stringent targets for the company’s manufacturing sites around the world to meet by 2020. In 2012, the programme had already resulted in, among other things, a 29.7% reduction in energy consumption; 43.3% reduction in water consumption; 46.2% reduction in non-recycled waste production; and a 34.2% reduction in CO2.
From the moment new aircraft are thought of, engineers are working out how to make them more efficient. In fact, aviation is one of the most technologically-advanced and innovative sectors in the world.
Unlike ground vehicles, which don’t need to be optimised for efficiency to the same extent as aircraft because they can refuel often, long-distance aircraft must carry all their fuel with them. Fuel is expensive, heavy and takes up a great deal of storage room. Its weight can limit the range of an aircraft and it needs to be stored in tanks which affect the wing size and the payload able to be carried. At the same time, the aviation industry is doing all it can to limit its environmental impact.
Each new generation of aircraft has double-digit fuel efficiency improvements, even up to 25% more fuel efficient than the one it replaces. This has led to today’s modern aircraft producing well over 70% less CO2 per seat than the first jets in the 1950s. But there is more work to do.
New technologies on the horizon have the potential to significantly decrease greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, and solutions that are being implemented today also promise other savings. Even small savings here-and-there offer significant benefits in total.
Being able to operate efficiently is critical to the future of the aviation industry, not just for environmental reasons but also for financial ones, especially since fuel makes up over 30% of airline operating costs.
To formalise and compliment the market-driven evolution in aircraft fuel efficiency, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreed on a CO2 emissions standard in February 2016, which will apply to all new aircraft designs from 2020 and newly-built existing models of aircraft from 2023.
The aviation industry has a track record of achieving the impossible
Before the Wright Brothers, few people believed powered flight was possible. This spirit of innovation has continued, and it is driving the industry’s response to its environmental challenges. As examples:
Aviation has been successful at decoupling emissions growth and actual growth. Traffic growth is increasing at an average of 5% annually, while CO2 emissions are growing around 3%.
Newer aircraft, like the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787, consume on average less than three litres per 100 passenger kilometres or more than 78 passenger statute miles per US gallon. This is a fuel use which compares favourably to that of compact cars, although aircraft travel much further distances, much faster.
The next generation of aircraft to come off the production line, including the Airbus A350XWB, A320neo, Boeing 737MAX, Embraer E2 series and Bombardier CSeries will offer further improvements in fuel burn and emissions.
Turboprop aircraft like the Bombardier Q400 and ATR series can provide a more fuel-efficient alternative to jet aircraft to cover shorter distances
Today, engineers and researchers are making incremental and frequent improvements that offer large savings overall. For instance, the wingtip devices airlines and manufacturers install on new aircraft increase aerodynamic efficiency and reduce fuel usage.
Manufacturers are increasingly using light-weight materials such as carbon composites to build aircraft and components. The Boeing 787, Bombardier CSeries and Airbus A380 and A350XWB aircraft all use these cutting-edge materials and technologies to deliver exceptional gains in environmental performance. Manufacturers of engines are also using highly advanced materials and processes such as additive layer manufacturing to develop new engines.
Technology on new aircraft can either be to improve fuel burn through aerodynamic efficiency (mainly airframe), or to reduce actual combustion use (mainly engine-related). Combined, these elements create a new aircraft with a reduced environmental impact.
Aircraft have a useful life of around 25-30 years, during which they will cover many millions of nautical miles and carry millions of passengers or tonnes of cargo. Because of the long lead times for developing, designing and manufacturing a modern civil aircraft, there tend to be ‘waves’ of new aircraft entering the fleet. We are currently in the middle of such a wave, with a number of new aircraft types coming into the system and replacing older, less fuel-efficient aircraft.
The industry is working hard to achieve the kind of ‘impossible’ developments that characterised flight itself.
Noise from aircraft mostly impacts those who live around airports.
The industry has been working to reduce noise for decades. On average, aircraft are already 50% quieter today than they were ten years ago, and 75% quieter than the first generation of jet aircraft. It is estimated that the noise footprint of each new generation of aircraft is at least 15% lower than that of the aircraft it replaces.
In 2013, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the United Nations’ intergovernmental body on aviation, introduced the fourth new noise certification standard in its history, Chapter 14. The requirement is that new aircraft types are least seven decibels (summed over the three assessment points) quieter than those built to the previous Chapter 4 standard. The purpose of these aircraft noise standards is to ensure that the best noise technology continues to be used on future aircraft types.
The certification was one in a series of measures to reduce jet engine noise. In fact, ICAO estimates that between 1998 and 2004, the number of people exposed to aircraft noise around the world was reduced by 35%.
ICAO advocates a balanced approach to noise reduction. This combines noise reduction at source; land-use planning and management; operational procedures; and flight restrictions. The aim is to maximise the environmental benefit at lowest cost.
From looking at such factors as the proportion of air travelling through the engines, the size of the fan blades in the engine, the position of the engine on the aircraft body and even the size and number of flaps that help control the wing shape, research and development on noise has been extensive. The latest large aircraft, the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 have noise ‘footprints’ that are remarkably small. The new Bombardier CSeries aircraft will make use of new Pratt & Whitney technology, ‘geared’ turbofan engines, which further cut noise and emissions.
The industry is working hard to make aircraft a further 50% quieter by 2020. There is a powerful incentive to continue tackling this issue, as concerns over noise pollution can – and do – affect the viability and acceptability of airport expansion plans.
Air traffic management
Controlling where the planes fly when departing and approaching airports has an important impact on noise exposure. The placement and use of runways is fundamental and preferred runway use can, for example, try to maximise night time approach and departure tracks over a sea or lake where the noise impact is minimal.
Air traffic management can be used to map out flight tracks that avoid the most highly populated areas. Recent developments in required navigation performance mean that aircraft can now follow designated tracks very precisely. This can avoid random track spreading and the resulting ‘spaghetti’ radar flight track maps, but track concentration can mean that a smaller number of residents are subjected to a higher number of flyovers. Air traffic management and airspace design needs to be undertaken with careful consultation of community groups. Issues such as the relative benefits of track concentration versus track dispersion need to be carefully considered.
Airlines and pilots with input from the air navigation service providers and airport operators can develop and implement noise abatement procedures such as reduced thrust take-off, displaced landing thresholds, continuous descent operations.
In parallel with aircraft noise minimisation through technology and air traffic management, land-use planning is a crucial process for minimising the number of people exposed to high levels of aircraft noise. Airports need to work with local authorities to put in place zoning rules in areas impacted by high levels of aircraft noise. Effective land-use planning can discourage or prevent inappropriate new residential, health or educational developments, and encourage light industry or storage areas not sensitive to aircraft noise. In some areas, sound insulation and ventilation can be required for new or existing dwelling to at least improve the indoor noise levels.
In most jurisdictions, however, airport operators have no authority or control of land-use planning off the airport site and can only seek and encourage local government to protect airports from the encroachment of residential and other noise sensitive land use. In these areas, the industry encourages governments to take a long-term proactive planning approach to using land around airport facilities to ensure that now and in the future, there will be no development that could be impacted by aircraft noise.
However, in tackling some environmental issues, compromises need to be made. For example, the aviation industry and governments must make a choice between shortening routes to reduce the amount of fuel used and maintaining noise abatement procedures – sometimes the shortest route into an airport can take flights over communities. This is a delicate balancing act.
Local air quality
Like many industries, the emissions from aircraft and other activities at airports can have an effect on the local air quality in the nearby areas.
In the immediate vicinity of airports, emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter (PM) are usually considered the most important contributors to local air quality concerns. The contribution of other trace emissions such as sulphur dioxide (SO2), hydroxyl radicals, nitrous and nitric acids, still requires better understanding but is currently believed to be negligible.
Technical developments since the 1960s mean today’s new aircraft emit 50% less carbon monoxide and 90% less smoke and unburned hydrocarbons than those made 50 years ago.
Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) levels have also been cut, and modern aircraft now emit 40% less NOx than in 1981. As a result of these technology improvements, aircraft can often have a smaller impact on the local air quality around airports than road traffic. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) sets standards for NOx emissions and regularly tightens these for each new generation of aircraft. However, there is still work to be done and the industry has a number of projects underway to further reduce its effects around airports.
Limiting the impact
Aircraft emissions can be further reduced when airports provide fixed electrical ground power and pre-conditioned air supplies at the terminal gates. These allow aircraft to switch off their auxiliary power units at terminal gates, reducing fuel burn and pollutants. Reducing taxiing and holding times may be achieved by construction of more direct taxiways, holding aircraft at the gate until departure slots are ready and the relief of congestion in general.
Other airports sources of emissions that affect local air quality include power plants, ground service equipment and by airside and landside vehicle fleets. Mitigation measures taken by airports and their partners include modernising power plants, ground equipment and vehicle fleets. Diesel and gasoline vehicles are being replaced with those using alternative fuels such as liquid petroleum gas, compressed natural gas, hydrogen, electricity and even compressed air. Airports usually need to build new infrastructure to provide these alternative fuels.
Many airports, in cooperation with the local authorities have introduced measures to reduce road traffic, improve ground traffic flow and encourage less polluting methods of transport to and from the airport. Airports need to work with local road and transit authorities to develop roads and public transport including light or heavy rail, trams and buses.
In the meantime, the aircraft and engine manufactures are continuing to target further aircraft emission reductions, including an additional 80% cut in NOx by 2020. Airports are working with the aircraft and engine manufacturers to further reduce emissions and noise impacts on local communities.
In addition, the gains in efficiency that the industry is targeting, in its move to reduce fuel consumption and cut the emission of greenhouse gases, will also lead to a further reduction in pollutants such as NOx and carbon monoxide.
End of life
An aircraft will typically remain in service for around 20-25 years. During that time, it will fly on average 40,274,144 kilometres – over 1,000 times around the world – with some long-haul aircraft flying over 100 million kilometres, for several airlines. Once it reaches the end of its useful life, an aircraft can be recycled not only to ensure proper disposal but also to take advantage of the many high-quality components and materials of which they are made.
The Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association is working with 72 companies such as manufacturers of aircraft and engines, component suppliers and operators, to establish best practice guidelines for the disposal and recycling of aircraft. These organisations recycle over 150 aircraft and 30,000 tonnes of aluminium a year. Manufacturers are also ensuring that new aircraft are designed not only for a long, safe and efficient life, but also for end-of-life opportunities. The Airbus PAMELA project, begun in 2005, demonstrated that more than 70% of the weight of an aircraft can re-used or recovered. This project lead to the creation of Tarmac Aerosave with partners including Safran. This company specialises in recycling aircraft and is now able to re-use and recover materials making up over 90% of an aircraft’s weight.
New materials such as carbon fibre present new challenges for aircraft designers to find ways of dealing with the materials once the product leaves service. Processes are being developed to allow these new materials to be recovered and potentially recycled once the aircraft reaches the end of its useful lifespan.
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