While CO2 is most often given the role of the big bad wolf of climate change (and for very good reason), aviation’s effect on the environment goes beyond carbon – as must the solutions to deal with it. Research is still ongoing. However, estimates show that condensation trails (that’s contrails for short) may account for more than half of the entire climate impact of aviation. One of the airlines working on reducing contrail formation through enhanced flight planning is Etihad, together with its partner, SATAVIA. Beyond the scope of their ongoing research, the two will operate a dedicated ‘NetZero’ flight from Washington Dulles Airport to Abu Dhabi this Sunday, November 13.

Potential for net zero using current technology

Sunday’s EY130 will be the latest in Etihad’s program of ‘ecoFlights’ carried out over the past two years. It will be operated by the carrier’s ‘Greenliner’ Boeing 787 aircraft. It will apply contrail prevention practices and be powered to a large extent by sustainable aviation fuel. Along with other operational efficiencies, Etihad says it will demonstrate the potential for net-zero commercial aviation using current technology.

Mariam Alqubaisi, Etihad’s Head of Sustainability & Business Excellence, said,

“The Etihad/SATAVIA collaboration demonstrates the possibility of dramatic sustainability advances in day-to-day commercial operations. In 2022 alone, SATAVIA technology has enabled us to eliminate over 6,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent climate impact. We are delighted to extend this partnership on this transatlantic flight during COP27, tackling aviation’s non-CO2 impacts with industry-leading technical innovation.”

SATAVIA contrails image 4


Rerouting 10% of transatlantic flights could cut 80% contrail impact

Sunday’s flight will be Etihad’s first to apply contrail prevention measures on a transatlantic route. SATAVIA’s Chief Executive Officer states that up to 80% of contrail climate impact on transatlantic operations could be reduced by rerouting as little as 10% of flights. In winter operations with cold and humid conditions, high-traffic routes across the Atlantic, such as the one from Washington Dulles to Abu Dhabi, often lead to strongly warming contrails.

The SAF “used” on the flight will not actually power the Greenliner itself. It will be loaded onto other aircraft out of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), where more substantial volumes are available, through a book-and-claim system that decouples the actual product from the paying customer.

Single-engine taxiing, continuous descent and waste reduction

In order to reach the least amount of environmental impact possible, Etihad says it is applying a suite of measures that comprise:

  • Utilizing the Boeing 787 with competitive fuel efficiency per passenger
  • Maximizing and ensuring cargo and passenger load factors to maintain efficiency
  • Pre-flight engine wash and aircraft cleaning for aerodynamics and engine efficiency
  • Use of single-engine taxiing
  • Intensive flight planning and direct routing, including continuous descent and reduced auxiliary power unit (APU) burn
  • Contrail avoidance testing with SATAVIA to reduce non-CO2 emissions and climate impact
  • In-flight service to reduce waste production and scope 3 waste to CO2 impacts

What do you think of Etihad’s contrail prevention program? Should more airlines deploy similar tactics? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Source: simpleflying.com

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