ACE21: Surviving the pandemic and beyond

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This week has seen the Air Charter Expo (ACE) take place as a hybrid event with those attending the expo at London Biggin Hill joined by delegates from around the world online. Proving a popular event, this year’s expo recorded some 1,100 physical attendees with hundreds of additional delegates tuning in online for the conference sessions.

Sustainability was a key focus on the agenda with VoltAero flying in it’s hybrid-electric Cassio 1 demonstrator (the second time the aircraft has crossed the English Channel) for the static display. VoltAero’s CEO and Chief Technology Officer, Jean Botti, also took part in the conference’s Green Charter 2021 panel discussion. He was joined by Faradair’s Neil Cloughley and representatives from Tecnam to discuss new electric aircraft technology and how operations can become more environmentally sustainable.

Green charter

A session on green operations saw Air bp discuss the role of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in helping the industry reduce its carbon emissions and highlighted the fuel supplier’s ‘book and claim’ solution. The initiative enables Air bp to deliver SAF into the supply chain at one airport location and ‘book’ the carbon reduction associated with it into a registry. A customer can then ‘claims’ those carbon reductions by purchasing the benefit of the lifecycle carbon reductions that have been registered alongside their traditional jet fuel.

Meanwhile, 4Air’s President, Kennedy Ricci, revealed his organisation’s ratings framework to help organisations meet and even exceed the industry’s sustainable goals. He described the ratings framework as an opportunity to “look at the pillars of sustainability and build those into an adaptable and flexible programme.” Nicholas Kroll, Luxaviation’s recently appointed Head of Sustainability added that “the first step operators need to take when addressing sustainability is to look at their operational environment and engage with the different stakeholders (customers, suppliers, employees and local residents),” as he underlined that climate change is a problem that affects everyone across the supply chain.

Sustained growth

Looking at the overall state of the industry Wingx’s Managing Drector, Richard Koe, described the forecast for the business aviation sector as looking extremely positive. Despite a 71% drop in activity in Q1 2020 compared to 2019 movements, business aviation has since seen a strong rebound in traffic with activity now exceeding the levels seen in 2019. Similarly cargo activity is now exceeding 2019 traffic and special missions such as crisis missions and medical shipments have also seen strong growth. Scheduled activity however is still trending around 42% behind 2019 figures, which is primarily due to travel restrictions, lack of demand and aircraft being grounded. Through July 2021 Koe stated that the European charter market has an estimated worth of €1.58 billion.

Looking at what the longer term growth forecast is for the charter sector, VistaJet’s Executive Vice President, Programme Sales, Francesca Swan, pointed out that having a global fleet has meant that VistaJet has been able to shift its fleet around in response to market demand around the globe, which has served the company well over the last 18 months. She also revealed that the company is seeing enormous growth in North America and Europe and is currently 50% up on 2019 figures with ad-hoc acquisitions planned to support this continued growth. She also noted that “pre-pandemic 90% of customers who could afford to weren’t flying privately. However, with commercial routes still not fully recovered and some having been stopped for the foreseeable future these passengers are turning to private aviation.” And while she believes the industry will see sustained growth going forward, certain regions will be more cautious than others.

Clive Chalmers, VP Charter, UK, AirPartner, commented on the balanced demand he is seeing explaining that while some markets have dropped off, others have picked up. “For example traffic from the events and entertainment sector has disappeared, but because scheduled services have been less reliable we’ve seen a pick up in traffic from the energy and sporting sector,” he said. Admitting that the industry still faces a harsh winter as corporate travel still hasn’t recovered he did however say that he had a “positive and optimistic outlook for long-term growth.”

And in line with the East Midlands Airport-based airline RVL Group’s plans to gear up for new commercial opportunities, David Lacy, RVL’s Head of Business Development, stated that being flexible with operations and having an “eclectic fleet of aircraft” has been key to their growth during the pandemic. “July through September 2020 we doubled our cargo revenue due to COVID charters for medical shipments and even the transport of waste water.” He added that the number of COVID tests being transported has meant regular flights every day to accommodate those thousands of tests. Concluding that the cargo market is still showing signs of growth beyond COVID shipments Lacy stated that he forecasts “sustained growth, but with peaks and troughs” with strains in global supply chains creating challenges as well as opportunities for the charter market.

Header image: From left to right: David Lacy, RVL Group, Clive Chalmers, AirPartner, Francesca Swan, VistaJet and Richard Koe, WINGX.

Air bp’s book and claim solution makes SAF more accessible for all

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Certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB), Air bp’ book and claim solution provides customers with wider market access to SAF across a number of locations.

One of the big challenges with SAF, according to Air bp, is that current volumes and existing supply points are limited. Subsequently, delivering SAF far from those supply points can be an expensive process. In addition, long supply chains can create increased carbon emissions, which would reduce the overall carbon savings form the use of the SAF. With SAF only currently available at a small number of locations across Europe and North America, Air bp’s book and claim solution allows customers to access SAF carbon reductions without being physically connected to the supply site.

Essentially this means that bp is able to deliver the SAF into the supply chain at one airport location and ‘book’ the carbon reduction associated with it into a registry. Then the customer at another location can ‘claim’ those carbon reductions by purchasing their traditional jet fuel along with the benefit of the lifecycle carbon reductions that have been registered in that registry.

A global multi-stakeholder organisation that supports the SAF and wider bioeconomy sector with sustainability solutions, partnerships and certification, RSB will certify Air bp’s book and claim SAF sales based on its’ own robust procedures and manage the book and claim registry.

The solution is particularly relevant to the private aviation sector where volumes are smaller and typically purchased over a wide number of locations. So, if SAF isn’t available at the location a customer is flying from, they still have the opportunity to purchase the carbon reductions for SAF that is placed into the supply chain where it is most cost effective and where carbon emissions from the transport of the product can be reduced. The book and claim customer is then issued a certificate by the registry showing the volume of SAF delivered and the corresponding lifecycle carbon emission savings. In addition to providing a wider range of customers access to the benefits of SAF, book and claim also helps Air bp to develop a greater understanding of SAF demand.

London City welcomes cleaner, quieter newcomer as it pursues ambitions for sustainable growth

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Thursday 2 September saw Helvetic Airways make its first commercial flight with an Embraer E190-E2 into London City Airport. As well as catering for leisure passengers and those visiting family and friends, the aircraft, which had flown from Zurich to London in 1 hour and 20 minutes, has re-established an essential link for the global financial community.

Operated by Helvetic Airways on behalf of its partner company Swiss International Air Lines, the flight carrying 110 passengers was welcomed by a water salute from London City Airport’s fire service. The Embraer E190-E2 is described as being particularly suitable for operations at the legendary Thames-side airport, which has a runway length of only 1,508 m and descent angles of up to 5.5 degrees.

“Thanks to a reduction of almost 20% in fuel consumption and a noise footprint at take-off that is 63% smaller than our previous -generation aircraft, the E190-E2 delivers not only significant reductions in emissions but also a much quieter experience for local residents,” said Cesar Perreira, Embraer’s VP Sales and Marketing EMEA.

London City Airports’ COO, Alison FitzGerald, also commented on the arrival of the newcomer saying: “Welcoming Swiss and Helvetic back, and with the newest LCY-capable aircraft, Embraer E190-E2, is a significant milestone for London City. It demonstrates how we are collaborating with manufacturers and airlines to introduce more low-emission, low-noise aircraft to our airport, as well as re-establishing a vital business connection which we believe will go from strength to strength as the UK Government begins to further reduce barriers to travel. Our ambition is to be one of the most sustainable airports of our size in Europe, and it is my expectation that we will be welcoming more of these aircraft with more airlines as the industry recovers from COVID-19.”

Embraer aircraft already account for nearly 90% of all movements at London City Airport. As well as offering cleaner, quieter flights the E190-E2 almost doubles the available range from the airport to more than 4,000 km, bringing destinations such as Istanbul, Casablanca and Moscow within reach for the first time.

“With this world premiere, we are particularly proud to be able to offer a product of the highest level in terms of comfort, quiet and sustainability,” concluded Tobias Pogorevc, CEO of Helvetic Airways. “We are convinced that the Embraer E2 is perfectly suited to the requirements of business customers flying between the financial centres of London and Zurich.”
Helvetic Airways has a fleet of 12 Embraer E2 aircraft and is currently the largest Embraer E-Jet operator in the world.

British Airways collaborates with bp to source SAF during the UK’s COP26 summit

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British Airways has launched its BA Better World sustainability programme, which it describes as it’s ‘most important journey yet.’ It is has also revealed a new collaboration with bp to source sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for all its flights between London, Glasgow and Edinburgh during the UK COP26 conference taking place at the end of October.

The airline was the first to report its carbon footprint in 1992 and last year it became the first major airline to voluntarily offset all emissions from its domestic flights. This latest announcement further reiterates British Airways’ commitment to put sustainability at the heart of its business. The airline’s sustainability programme will include reducing emissions and waste and positively contributing to the communities it serves, as well as creating a more resilient responsible business.

In line with its sustainability goals the airline is also collaborating with fuel giant bp to source SAF with respect to all its flights between London, Glasgow and Edinburgh during the UK’s COP26 climate change summit being held in Glasgow later this year.

In a UK first, British Airways has also announced that as of 7 September its customers can purchase SAF to reduce their carbon footprint via its not-for-profit organisation Pure Leapfrog. This is in addition to customers being able to offset their emissions.

“We’re thrilled to collaborate with British Airways by supplying SAF with respect to all of its flights from London to Glasgow and Edinburgh for the COP26 event,” said Martin Thomsen, CEO of bp’s aviation division. “Our companies have a long-standing relationship and will continue to work together on SAF supply initiatives on an ongoing basis.”

He added that at bp, “we want to help decarbonise the aviation industry and we will continue to collaborate with industry stakeholders and governments to explore viable options to help scale up SAF more broadly.”

British Airways’ CEO and Chairman, Sean Doyle, explained that with BA Better World, the airline is on its most important journey yet – “to a better, more sustainable future and one which will ensure the long-term success of our business.” He also commented that the airline’s commitment for COP26 to source enough SAF for its flights between London, Glasgow and Edinburgh during the summit “is in addition to the mandatory carbon trading we already operate in the UK and our own further voluntary carbon offsetting of our UK domestic flights.”

It has partnered with Airbus to paint one of its most modern, fuel-efficient short-haul aircraft, an A320neo, in its new sustainability programme colours.

At a launch event for its BA Better World programme on 7 September the airline showcased some of the initiatives it has introduced to improve sustainability in the air and on the ground, including switching from diesel to renewably powered electric pushback vehicles and removing weight from its aircraft by introducing lighter seats and trollies, inflight magazines and paper flight manuals. It also outlined its efforts to remove single-use plastic and source more products from recycled materials.

Altalto sustainable fuels project awarded grant of up to £2.4m

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The UK Department for Transport (DfT) has awarded sustainable fuels technology company, Velocys, a grant of up to £2.4m for its Altalto Immingham waste-to-sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) project. Of the total £2.4m grant, £1.2m is subject to progress by the DfT in developing policy support for SAF.

A collaboration between Velocys and British Airways, the Altalto project aims to convert hundreds of thousands of tonnes per year of residual waste in sustainable fuels, mainly aviation fuel. Planning consent for the plant was granted in 2020 and the project is now ready to proceed to the final stages of engineering prior to construction, subject to policy progress and third party project funding.

“We are very pleased to have this enhanced level of support from the Department for Transport for the Altalto project,” said Henrik Wareborn, CEO, Velocys. “The momentum for SAF in the UK and around the world is growing, demonstrated here by the recent consultations on the path to net zero aviation and on a SAF mandate. This grant demonstrates that the Altalto project is a key part of the strategy to accelerate a SAF industry in the UK.

British Airways Chairman and CEO, Sean Doyle, added: “Plants like this one would be a game-changer for our industry, not only delivering sustainable aviation fuel, but also creating hundreds of highly skilled jobs while increasing economic growth around the UK.

“Our parent company, IAG, was the first European airline group to commit to powering 10% of its flights with SAF by 2030 – purchasing one million tonnes of SAF each year, equivalent to taking a million cars off Europe’s roads every year. Projects like this one are part of our journey to that SAF target and we look forward to pushing it forward.”

Exeter and Cornwall champion arrival of Ampaire’s hybrid electric aircraft

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A pioneer in hybrid electric aircraft technology, Ampaire has this week launched demonstration flights between Exeter Airport and Cornwall Airport, to showcase the benefits of sustainable aviation, by driving down costs and emissions on short regional routes.

“We are incredibly excited and proud to be supporting this initiative and to see Exeter Airport play a central role in demonstrating and developing this important technology,” said Stephen Wiltshire, Operations Director, Exeter Airport.
Flying between the two regional hubs, which are located 85 miles apart on a combination of battery and piston power, Ampaire’s flights are part of a series of government-backed trials aimed at moving the UK towards green aviation.

Demonstration flights will be operated by its Electric EEL technology aircraft. The modified US-built six-seat Cessna 337 Skymaster, features a battery-powered electric motor at the front and conventional combustion engine at the rear, enabling a reduction in emissions and operating costs by as much as 30%.

Ampaire is currently developing hybrid electric power train upgrades for 9 to 19-seat regional aircraft, including the Cessna Grand Caravan and Twin Otter. Last year the company received £2.4 million from the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) £30 million Future Flight Challenge towards the consortium’s £5 million 2ZERO (Towards Zero Emissions in Regional Aircraft Operations) programme. The programme involves the operation of hybrid electric aircraft on regional routes in South West UK, together with a study of the ecosystem required to enable the future of electric aircraft within existing airport and airline operations.

“Low-emission aircraft are vitally needed on short haul regional routes to meet the UK’s net-zero objective for aviation,” said Dr. Susan Ying, Ampaire’s Senior VP for Global Operations. “We are developing commercial aircraft now that will begin this revolution in sustainable aviation with service entry planned for 2024.”

The EEL will be based at Exeter Airport from where it will fly on two CAA-approved routes, taking it over the dramatic expanse of Dartmoor, or on a more southerly flight path along the stunning Devon and Cornwall coastline, before touching down at Cornwall Airport Newquay.

“The EEL flies very much like a conventional aircraft, with some new instrumentation for power management,” said demonstration pilot, Elliot Sequin. “We have flown it nonstop from Los Angeles to San Francisco and now the length of the UK without any difficulty. It is the forerunner of a new generation of efficient aircraft that will be easy to fly for pilots and cost effective for airlines.”

Pete Downes, Managing Director at Cornwall Newquay Airport commented: “We’re passionate about being part of the solution in terms of the sustainable future of aviation and are incredibly proud to be partnering with Ampaire in this exciting project. At a time when domestic regional travel is stronger than ever, it’s vital we work together to find the most sustainable way to deliver this in the future.”

Bristol Airport and easyJet collaborate to align on net-zero initiatives

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Bristol Airport has teamed up with easyJet to trial a range of initiatives with a long-term ambition to achieve net-zero operations at the airport.

The partnership will involve a series of trials geared towards the overall ambition to achieve a zero emissions turnaround at Bristol alongside taking steps to contribute positively towards reducing easyJet’s overall carbon footprint.

In line with the collaboration, easyJet will use Bristol Airport as a test-bed to trial and implement the latest technological and innovative solutions for decarbonising its operations and reducing waste. It’s hoped that any successful results from the trials will have the potential to be rolled out across easyJet’s network which spans 150 airports across 35 countries.

The partnership will explore various projects and trials involving expert associates and partners throughout the aviation industry to help reduce and eliminate emissions from aircraft ground operations, as well as challenging industry to work together to develop affordable and achievable technological solutions to reduce carbon emissions.

Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), electric Ground Power Units, electric passenger transport, recycling and waste management, employee carbon-saving initiatives, aircraft descent approaches, zero carbon emissions aircraft turnarounds and neo aircraft deployment as well as fleet optimisation are all areas that will be explored.

“As an airport we are taking our commitments to address climate change seriously and we have made great progress already,” said Simon Earles, Sustainability and Corporate Affairs Director, Bristol Airport. “By the end of 2021 we will be a carbon neutral airport for emissions under our direct control, exceeding our own target, four years ahead of schedule.”

He added: “The easyJet commitment follows on from the work we have already started in announcing an Aviation Carbon Transition (ACT) programme with a starting fund of £250,000. The ACT programme will support initiatives and projects reducing direct and indirect emissions from airport infrastructure to enable lower/ zero emissions; research and development of decarbonisation or alternative fuels for use by airlines; design and develop processes and procedures to eliminate emissions and demonstrating our commitment to working with others to support innovation in relation to decarbonising transport and flight emissions outside of our direct control.”

easyJet’s Director of Sustainability, Jane Ashton, remarked that the partnership with Bristol Airport “is a good example of how we can look at every aspect of our operations, really challenging how we do things by implementing the newest technological solutions across a series of decarbonisation and waste reduction trials over the coming months.”

She also noted that easyJet already offsets the carbon emissions from the fuel used on its flights as an interim measure while it continues to champion the development of new technology. “We will continue to optimise our operational fuel and carbon-efficiency and review what further measures we can take to reduce our emissions across our operations,” she concluded.

Europe’s aviation sector puts forward pact for decarbonisation targets

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The European Commission has outlined proposals aimed at reducing net EU greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 55% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2030 in its ‘Fit for 55’ legislative package published on Wednesday 14 July.

The proposals represent a major stepping stone to reach the EU’s climate goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 and is in line with the aviation sector’s objectives of achieving net-zero CO2 emissions from all flights within and departing Europe by 2050.

In support of the ‘Fit for 55’ initiative, Europe’s airports, airlines, air navigation service providers and manufacturers have put forward the development of an EU Pact for Sustainable Aviation – a joint roadmap for industry and policymakers to align their actions towards realising the 2030 and 2050 climate goals. Led by the European Commission, the pact would set out a shared vision, common aspirational targets and high-level principles for joint aviation and policymaker action.

Earlier this year Europe’s aviation stakeholders launched the Destination 2050 initiative – a combination of measures across four pillars that can be used to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 205o. These include: improvements in aircraft and engine technologies; ramping up production and uptake of sustainable aviation fuels; implementation of smart economic measures; and improvements in air traffic management (ATM) and aircraft operations.

In a statement, the five associations (ACI Europe, ASD Europe, Airlines for Europe, ERA and CANSO) behind Destination 2050 said: “European aviation supports the Commission’s climate ambitions and Destination 2050 is our sector’s contribution to their implementation – but the roadmap clearly shows that we cannot do this alone. Realising our ambition and achieving a net-zero European aviation requires fully aligned and enabling policy, regulatory and financial frameworks – both at EU and national level. For this reason, we call on the European commission to support and take the lead in the development of an EU Pact for Sustainable Aviation to drive these proposals forward. We stand ready to engage with the European Commission to define such a Pact and hold regular exchanges to ensure its implementation.”

Study on electric air route between Umea and Are Ostersund Airport underway

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Swedish airport opearator Swedavia is taking part in a feasibility study for fossil-free aviation in northern Sweden, which has been granted SEK 9.5 million by the Swedish Energy Agency. Part of the study involves investigating an electric air route between Umeå Airport and Åre Östersund Airport.

The project is being run in partnership with the Municipality of Umeå, BioFuel Region, RISE Research Institutes of Sweden and RISE Processum. The project’s aim is to investigate the conditions needed for aviation powered by biofuels, electricity and hydrogen. The overall goal is to map out the conditions required for green aviation and to survey sustainable value chains as well as studying what the conditions at the airports are like for introducing fossil-free fuels.

“For many years, Swedavia has been involved in and driven the transition to fossil-free aviation, which is absolutely crucial to the transport of the future, which includes aviation,” said B-O Lindgren, Airport Director at Swedavia’s Umeå Airport.

We have driven this work through a number of initiatives and in collaboration with the rest of the aviation industry, with a focus on increasing the potential to choose sustainable aviation fuel. We are also working to prepare our airports for handling electric aircraft when these are available in the commercial market. We consider it very positive that the project is now starting up with our partners. It will be an important piece of the puzzle in the continued work to achieve fossil-free aviation – regionally, nationally and internationally.

Swedavia, which operates and develops 10 state-owned airports in Sweden, previously adopted a strategy for electric aviation to enable all the airports in its portfolio to handle electric aircraft and that the first commercial electric air route can be placed in service in around 2025.

In the Autumn of 2020, Åre Östersund Airport became the first of Swedavia’s airports to test and prepare the infrastructure to enable a transition to the increased electrification of aviation, under the electric aviation project, Green Flyway.

Farnborough offers ongoing supply of SAF for all aircraft

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Farnborough Airport in the UK has partnered with Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel and World Fuel Services to offer sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to all aircraft using the airport.

Having been named the world’s first carbon neutral business aviation airport in 2018, the ongoing availability of SAF at the airport allows the reduction of flying emissions by up to 80% and marks a significant next step in the airport’s work to support the decarbonisation of the wider aviation industry.

“The introduction of SAF at Farnborough Airport is a major milestone in our sustainability programme and we are pleased to be able to offer Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel by working with our fuel provider World Fuel Services,” said Simon Geere, CEO, Farnborough Airport. “We are fully committed to a sustainable future and are delighted to offer our customers the opportunity to make a greener choice and work with us to play an integral part in delivering against the UK Government’s targets for net-zero carbon emissions.”

In line with its status as a carbon neutral airport, Farnborough has reduced its controllable emissions by over 70% over the last 10 years and is committed to minimising its environmental impact and improving environmental performance throughout its operations.

Produced from 100% renewable and sustainable feedstock and residual raw materials such as used cooking oil and animal fat waste, the Neste MY SAF avaialable at Farnborough Airport reduces up to 80% of greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuel over its lifecycle.

Commenting on the partnership with Farnborough and Neste, Duncan Storey, Vice President Supply Europe, World Fuel Services said: “World Fuel Services was the first company to have blended SAF in the UK and worked with Farnborough Airport to make SAF available during Europe’s inaugural SAF demonstration at EBACE 2019.”

He added, “we applaud Farnborough’s leadership in sustainability and look forward to continuing our relationship by delivering a regular SAF supply to the airport. World Fuel services remains committed to supporting Farnborough’s sustainability initiatives by providing carbon-reducing options for business aircraft and continuing to aid in the procurement of sustainable fuels.”