The technological and operational aspects which will come together to help aviation and aerospace reach net zero were discussed at the Sustainable Skies World Summit this week.

Industry experts and leading academics from around the world shared insights and discussed the main barriers facing industry on the path to reducing its carbon emissions at the two-day event at the Farnborough International Conference & Exhibition Centre.

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport Robert Courts MP, spelled out the urgency of the issue. He said collaboration between industry players would be vital to achieve the target and timeline: “To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, we must reach Net Zero global emissions by around the middle of the century. This means we need to half global emissions in this decade. So the urgency of this challenge couldn’t be greater. Wherever we are in the world, be this at home or here today at Farnborough, we all look up on the same skies and we all know that we must act and act fast.”

The decade to make “a big step change”

Shell Aviation took a step towards greater sustainability with the signing of the Global Declaration on SAF. Jan Toschska, President of Shell Aviation explained: “We talk a lot about collaboration and that is actually what’s starting to continue to develop from here. As the energy provider, we need to play a role in this overall ecosystem. We need to raise the concerns, we need to find solutions jointly. It’s about supply as well as demand and we present the supply of it’s very important for us.”

Sustainable Skies looked at how all sectors of the industry could come together to tackle emissions. Martin Rolfe, CEO of NATS, said the organisation had been looking into operational aspects which were being applied to reduce emissions “in terms of improved fuel efficiency of aircraft flying through UK airspace by shortening routes, straightening routes, reducing holds, all the kinds of things you would do just to reduce the fuel usage and therefore reduce CO2.”

“I think it’s already happening. I think it needs to accelerate. This is going be the decade where we make a big step change.

Hydroelectric motion – “fundamentally changing the game”

Technical solutions to reach net zero were a big focus for the event. Within the short term, the focus was on fuel technologies and SAF, with green hydrogen viewed as the long-term solution for the future.

Grazia Vittadini, CTSO at Rolls-Royce said: “SAF per se brings efficiencies in terms of combustion, and also most likely in terms of emissions.”

Russ Dunn, Chief Technology Officer from GKN Aerospace, added: “The thing which probably I’m most excited by his hydroelectric motion. I think it has the potential to fundamentally change the game to really introduce almost completely net zero emission to a much larger market and actually have a really significant impact in our overall goal, which is to enable many more people to enjoy the benefits of fly but without the environmental impact.”

“Challenge for two generations of engineers”

Describing the journey to net zero as the “challenge for two generations of engineers to pull off” Brian Yutko, VP and Chief Engineer Sustainability and Future Mobility for Boeing, said: “I would like us to meet the challenge of decarbonising aircraft and further eliminating the climate impact of aviation. So going beyond decarbonisation, thinking about the other lifecycle and non CO2 effects.”

“I’d like us to be able to eliminate all of that, while also making aviation available to more people in the world.”

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