As the world anticipates monumental changes in air travel, the focus turns toward sustainable aviation solutions. With the environmental impact of aviation projected to surge by 50 percent in the next two decades, accommodating a forecasted 10 billion annual passengers by 2050, the urgency for innovation has never been more critical.
In the aerospace arena, there is a pressing need to call for a paradigm shift to go above carbon neutrality. “COP28 can be the ideal catalyst, steering the industry toward a greener horizon as the stakeholders will unite for innovative solutions, embracing sustainability as a collective responsibility,” says Ashish Modi, President of Honeywell India.
Sustainability in the aerospace sector needs to go beyond reducing carbon emissions from flights. It should entail a holistic transformation, from manufacturing to flight operations, involving innovative materials, processes, and cutting-edge technologies. The aerospace industry has witnessed pivotal progress from Urban Air Mobility (UAM) to advancements in propulsion, communications, and automation.
“Honeywell’s focus on sustainability is deeply rooted in a portfolio that spans from pioneering Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) to exploring groundbreaking technologies like hydrogen fuel cells and hybrid electric power generation. These initiatives are not just visionary; they are practical steps toward a sustainable aviation future,” adds Ashish Modi.
Honeywell’s aerospace products, present virtually across commercial and defense aircraft, aren’t just part of the future; they are shaping it. From driving advanced air mobility to electrifying aircraft, Honeywell’s Aerospace division is globally leading the charge toward a more sustainable, efficient, and connected future.
The United Nations COP28 meeting that convenes in the UAE is widely expected to confront the latest assessments that the world is making insufficient progress in reducing the impact of climate change. The COP28 delegates are expected to agree on further measures to fast-track the introduction of decarbonized energy sources in all aspects of human activity, including aviation.
Tuesday’s transatlantic flight by a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 airliner powered entirely by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is clearly intended as a statement of intent ahead of the COP gathering in Dubai. Virgin’s Dreamliner took off from London Heathrow Airport for New York John F. Kennedy Airport filled with a dual blend of 88 percent fuel derived using the hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) process, produced by Air bp, and 12 percent synthetic aromatic kerosene—supplied by Virent and made with plant sugar byproducts from corn.
The well-publicized flight is further evidence that operating with unblended SAF is now technically possible and safe. What remains more complex is how supplies of the fuel can be boosted at sufficiently exponential rates to fulfill their role as a stepping stone to net-zero flying.
In the longer term, this will also depend on advances in propulsion alternatives that are expected to include hydrogen. Legally binding measures such as mandates for SAF availability at airports are just the sort of political leadership the industry will be looking to COP28 delegates for, but the jury is out on whether they can count on it materializing at the end of the meeting on December 12.
Business Aviation in the Firing Line Again:
Virgin Atlantic and its partners were largely able to accentuate the positives of the first transatlantic airliner flight with 100 percent SAF. However, a less positive prelude to the COP28 meeting arrived last week, with business aviation once again making the whipping boy for those who remain unconvinced by the industry’s commitment to decarbonize.
According to a report by The Guardian, flights since the start of 2022 by 200 prominent private jet travelers generated as much carbon dioxide as the total emissions from almost 40,000 British citizens. The report is far from the first time that business aviation has found itself demonized by critics of environmental policy in 2023.
“It is regrettable that The Guardian’s article selectively cherry-picks a few particular cases to shape a narrative on wealth inequality, neglecting the broader perspective on business aviation that presents a different story,” commented Róman Kok, senior communications manager with the European Business Aviation Association.
Environmental sustainability has long been a major concern for an industry that has responded by achieving a 40 percent reduction in emissions over the past four decades. “Today, our sector remains a leader and catalyst for innovation as we enter a new sustainable era for aviation,” Kok concluded.
As the aviation industry takes center stage at COP28, the spotlight is on a transformative journey toward sustainability. From pioneering sustainable aviation fuels to embracing cutting-edge technologies, stakeholders are aligning their efforts to shape a future where the skies are not just a means of travel but a testament to environmental responsibility.
The journey, however, is not without its challenges. The pressing need to go beyond carbon neutrality requires a collective commitment to innovation, regulation, and international collaboration. The transatlantic flight by Virgin Atlantic’s Dreamliner, powered entirely by sustainable aviation fuel, serves as a symbol of intent, a tangible reminder that sustainable aviation is not just a distant goal but an achievable reality.
As the world convenes at COP28, the aerospace industry stands at a crossroads, where decisions made today will echo in the skies of tomorrow. The urgency of addressing climate change has never been more apparent, and the actions taken within the aviation sector will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in steering our planet toward a more sustainable future.
In the words of Ashish Modi, President of Honeywell India, “COP28 can be the ideal catalyst, steering the industry toward a greener horizon as the stakeholders will unite for innovative solutions, embracing sustainability as a collective responsibility.” The journey to a sustainable aviation future is not just about reducing emissions; it’s about redefining the way we soar through the skies—a shared commitment to leaving a lasting legacy for generations to come.
As the discussions unfold and decisions are made, let us remember that the challenges we face are also opportunities for transformation. Each milestone achieved, every innovative solution embraced, brings us one step closer to a future where aviation is not only a marvel of human ingenuity but a beacon of environmental stewardship. Together, let us soar to new heights, where the blue skies above reflect a commitment to a sustainable and interconnected world.