Birmingham Airport switches to renewable electricity

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With ambitions to be net-zero by 2033, Birmingham Airport has made the switch to using electricity generated from renewable sources.

Commenting on the latest step in its lower carbon journey, Tom Denton, Head of Sustainability for Birmingham Airport, said: “This reflects our sustainability ambitions and is a small but important step towards our eventual goal of net-zero carbon by 2033. We’re pleased, but, with so much more work still to do, it’s still way too early to celebrate.”

In recent years, the UK hub has reduced the carbon emissions it controls by 33%, by introducing low-carbon alternatives into its operation, including solar, electric vehicle transition and other energy-efficiency measures.

“We’re excited to be supplying Birmingham Airport with zero carbon, 100% renewable electricity and supporting them in their sustainability journey,” said David Taylor, Sales and Marketing Director of Bryt Energy. “We’re proud to be a part of it and look forward to helping them explore future opportunities for carbon reductions,” he added.

The airport’s contract with Bryt Energ runs until the end of March 2024.

Ground handlers and airports unite to address complex operational challenges

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The Airport Services Association (ASA) and Airports Council International (ACI) Europe have issued a joint statement addressing the complex operational issues faced by ground handlers and airports alike as we enter what the industry is forecasting will be a busy summer travel season.

While ASA’s Managing Director, Fabio Gamba, and ACI Europe’s Director General, Olivier Jankovec, welcome the return of air travel after the devastating impact of COVID-19 on their respective industries, they agreed that the recovery of passenger traffic has accelerated sharply and suddenly. “While still remaining below pre-pandemic (2019) levels, passenger traffic has also become much more concentrated over peak periods,” their statement read. “In fact, at many airports traffic peaks are at, or higher than, pre-pandemic levels.

Coping with this sudden increase in air traffic has proved challenging for airports and their operational partners, in particular ground handlers. It has resulted in an increase in flight delays and cancellations, as well as a degraded passenger experience at many airports, as key processes including check-in, security screening and baggage delivery involve longer waiting times.

The main underlying reason for these disruptions has been the difficulty to scale up staffing to the levels required to accommodate the surge in passenger traffic.

Outlining the reasons for the staff crunch, the two organisations said the cause is: Airports and ground handlers have been forced to lay off staff due to the collapse in air traffic in 2020 and 2021. “The fact that airports and ground handlers received far less financial aid than airlines and that such aid came rather late was a significant contributing factor to their weakened operational capabilities.”

The extremely tight labour market across Europe was another contributing factor. “The fact that security and ground handling jobs have for many years stood at the lower end of the pay scales and also involve working in shifts seven days a week is a clear handicap in attracting people in the current inflationary environment.”

In the case of ground handling in particular, years of liberalisation triggered by the EU Ground Handling Directive, have resulted in a downward spiral that has now become both socially and operationally unsustainable. If low wages and compromised service quality were already a concern pre-pandemic, they are now coming to the fore.

Finally the training and security clearance requirements have also made it impossible to quickly adapt and deploy additional staff. It can take up to 16 weeks between staff recruitment and deployment.

While both associations that in the short-term there is no quick and easy fix to the staffing issues, they highlighted that disruptions could be reduced by: Faster security clearance from competent authorities for airport and ground handling staff; Airlines adapting their schedules to reduce traffic peaks and returning unused slots as early as possible; Effective and even closer dialogue and cooperation between all partners involved.

“In the medium-term, EU rules on ground handling need to be reconsidered with a renewed focus on resilience. It is crucial that no further liberalisation of ground handling is pursued without a robust legal package aimed at guaranteeing a minimum quality of service and the promotion and recognition of the ground handling workers’ skills through, for instance the creation of widely recognised training passports. Also, the ability to set an upper limit on the number of ground handling suppliers based on the size of the market (or airport) would go a long way in addressing both social and operational shortcomings,” the statement concluded.

Cotswold Airport welcomes ZeroAvia’s hydrogen pipeline project

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A leader in zero-emission aviation, ZeroAvia has collaborated with aviation fuel giant Shell, to unveil Europe’s first landside-to-airside hydrogen airport pipeline.

Running alongside ZeroAvia’s hangar at Cotswold Airport in the UK, the 100-m long hydrogen pipeline signals a huge step for hydrogen refuelling infrastructure at airports and for the aviation industry. ZeroAvia will use it alongside an electrolyser  and mobile refueller to develop hydrogen-electric fuel cells . The pipeline will help ZeroAvia demonstrate and explore the operational safety case for hydrogen pipelines and refuelling infrastructure at airports.

ZeroAvia’s zero-emission powertrains use hydrogen fuel in a fuel cell to create a chemical reaction which produces electricity. That electricity then powers electric motors that spin the propellers, while producing no emissions other than water.

The UK Government’s Department for Transport and the Connected Places Catapult as part of the Zero Emissions Flight Infrastructure (ZEFI) programme provided support for the pipeline, as part of their mission to enable airports and airfields to prepare for the future of zero-emission flight operations.

Shell and ZeroAvia have also agreed to develop a compressed, low-carbon hydrogen supply for ZeroAvia’s California facilities and power flight testing. As part of the agreement, Shell will design and build two commercial-scale mobile refuellers for use at ZeroAvia’s research and development site in Hollister, California. The fuel supplier will also provide a compressed low-carbon hydrogen supply to ZeroAvia’s facility and other locations in the Western US.  As well as supporting the development of ZeroAvia’s testing programme in the US, the strategic collaboration will also advance the company’s Hydrogen Airport Refuelling Ecosystem (HARE) on a larger scale.

“Shell recognises the aviation sector has unique challenges in decarbonisation and needs practical and scalable net-zero solutions,” commented Oliver Bishop, General Manager, Hydrogen at Shell. “We believe ZeroAvia’s technology is a viable option, and this agreement will allow us to demonstrate successful provision of low-carbon hydrogen supply while supporting development of codes, standards, and refuelling protocols for hydrogen-powered aviation.”

ZeroAvia will begin flight-testing its ZA600 hydrogen-electric powertrain this summer using its two Dornier-228 testbed aircraft, initially in the UK before replicating the work on the US-based demonstrator at a later date. And earlier this year ZeroAvia announced its partnership with ZEV Station to develop hydrogen hubs at airports throughout California.

“These milestone announcements represent significant hydrogen infrastructure advancement for ZeroAvia and the industry,” said Arnab Chatterjee, VP Infrastructure, ZeroAvia. “Hydrogen-electric aviation is the only practical, holistic and economically attractive solution to aviation’s growing climate change impact. Fuel provision needs to be economical and convenient for airlines to achieve operational cost benefits and ZeroAvia is leading these pioneering infrastructure developments together with leading partners like Shell.”

12 more European airports raise their game on decarbonisation standards

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The Airport Carbon Accreditation has announced that 12 more European hubs have aligned their operations with global climate goals. The 12 airports, which include Basel-Mulhouse in France/ Switzerland, Lisbon, Porto, Madeira, Faro, Flores, Porto Santo, Horta, Maria and Ponta Delgada in Portugal and Stockholm Arlanda and Goteborg Landvetter in Sweden have joined a list of 14 early airports to have achieved Level 4/4+ of the programme.

The recently introduced Levels 4 and 4+ include alignment of an airport’s carbon management with the Paris Agreement, inclusion of additional emissions sources in an airport’s carbon footprint, notably covering all significant operational emissions from third parties including airlines, and enhanced stakeholder engagement geared towards effective partnerships to deliver emissions reductions.

Aligning carbon management strategies and plans with the ambition of the Paris Agreement, according to which global warming should be limited to below 2⁰C and ideally 1.5⁰C, means that airports must define their reduction targets and associated emissions pathways accordingly.

Having met all the necessary requirements to reduce its own carbon emissions  as well as reducing emissions across the entire platform in cooperation with its partners, Basel-Mulhouse Airport has moved to Level 4 ‘Transformation’. The air transport hub reduced its own emissions by implementing a number of initiatives, such as the purchase of 100% green electricity, the replacement of the airport’s vehicle fleet with electric transportation and the gradual connection of the airport to an existing biomass powered district heating network.

In Sweden. Stockholm Arlanda which was among the 17 pioneering airports joining the Airport Carbon Accreditation in its first year back in 2009, achieved Level 4+ ‘Transition’, as did Goteborg Landvetter Airport. All Swedavia airports have been operating fossil-free as of 2020, becoming de-facto net-zero carbon emissions for all their operations. The Swedish airport operator has now mapped out the next steps in its commitment to climate change, by supporting other companies and organisations at its airports in their own transformations. One of the initiatives put forward by Swedavia’s airports was the introduction on 1 January, 2022 of an incentive for all stakeholders active at the Goteborg and Arlanda to start refuelling Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), fossil-free diesel. The goal is for all ground operations at every Swedavia airport to be fossil-free by 2025.

Meanwhile, the nine airports in Portugal, all of which are operated by ANA/ VINCI Airports, have all now achieved Level 4 ‘Transformation’. They are now actively reducing their CO2 emissions, through schemes such as: 100% renewable electricity, fleet electrification and LED deployment, and forging effective partnerships to secure absolute emissions reductions across the airports’ sites.  In June 2021, ANA/ VINCI Airports launched the Stakeholders Carbon Forum, to work with the main partners that operate at their premises to achieve an overall reduction of carbon footprint. The forum is the main platform of collaboration between the airports and their partners, including airlines, handlers, major energy consumers and entities linked to mobility, such as city councils and transport companies.

Commenting on the airports’ achievements Olivier Jankovec, Director General at ACI Europe said: “These achievements mean that airports are not only committed to addressing and eliminating emissions under their own control, but that they also embrace their role as catalysts for climate action across their entire sites. Airports are uniquely placed within the air transport eco-system, acting as the industry’s representation on the ground, connecting a global industry to the local communities they serve. This unique position makes it part of their DNA to serve as platforms for greener, smarter, more climate-friendly operations and solutions.”

Monterey Regional Airport strengthens SAF partnership with Avfuel

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A year after Avfuel started a consistent supply of Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) to Monterey Jet Center at Monterey Regional Airport, the fuel supplier is now doing the same for Del Monte at the California hub.

“Del Monte Aviation is pleased to offer aircraft owners and operators a low carbon alternative at the forefront of the shift toward a sustainable aviation industry,” said Matthew Wright, vice president of Del Monte Aviation. “We are the only FBO in the nation offering the highest available blend of SAF direct to customers because we store our Neste MY SAF in a dedicated tank. This pioneering approach is part of our commitment to help our customers achieve real, immediate, beneficial impacts related to their carbon footprint from air travel. With over 200,000 gallons of SAF delivered so far, Del Monte has proven to be one of the global leaders in our commitment to reducing the CO2 impact of aviation operations through offering sustainable fuels.”

Since Avfuel began supplying SAF to the airport last year, it has provided around 216,000 gallons of the fuel. For Monterey Regional Airport’s operations, this volume of fuel equates to reducing carbon emissions by an estimated 513 metric tonnes. That’s the same amount of carbon emitted from the energy use of nearly 65 homes in a year, or from 111 passenger vehicles.

Del Monte Aviation customer, Matthias Niederhäuser, partner of Diamondo Earthrounding, and consultant and data analyst of Niederhauser Solutions GmbH Aviation, commented: “Having a dedicated fuel truck supplying SAF to us and fellow aviators was a first on our Diamondo Earthrounding route around the globe. With our mission, we are linking and promoting ways to invest into sustainable aviation worldwide and we strongly believe more FBOs should follow Del Monte Aviation’s lead in making SAF physically available in high percentages.”

Meanwhile, Keith Sawyer, Avfuel’s Manager of Alternative Fuels, added: “The entire Monterey community—from the FBOs and the airport, to its businesses and citizens—have been champions for sustainability and a natural launching pad for SAF in the Avfuel Network. We are so pleased to increase SAF’s footprint with additional supply at KMRY through Del Monte Aviation and thankful for its team’s tireless efforts toward reaching sustainable goals.”

Christchurch Airport declares itself climate positive

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Christchurch Airport in New Zealand has marked a new milestone in its lower carbon journey having gone beyond being carbon neutral to become climate positive.

The airport has had greenhouse gas (GHG) footprints independently measured and audited since 2006. It was recognised as  world leading in airport decarbonisation in late 2020, when it became the world’s first airport to achieve Airport Carbon Accreditation Level 4. It now mentors other air transport hubs around the world, including New York’s JFK, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia in the US, as well as Bristol in the UK, Perth and Brisbane Airports in Australia and the Irish Airports Group, on how to reduce emissions.

“Achieving this next level in our journey is critically important, because airports and aviation support economic activities that earn the most export dollars per tonne of carbon and support improved wellbeing for future generations,” said Christchurch Airport’s Chief Executive, Malcolm Johns, commenting on the airports climate positive achievement.

He added that the airport will continue to address its emissions reductions, ahead of science-based targets aligned with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

“This includes working with airline partners to accelerate the decarbonisation of the aviation sector,” he said. “Emissions by aircraft while in the air are a big part of the remaining challenge. Airlines and aircraft manufacturers have plans to accelerate the development and deployment of lower-carbon technology.”

In December 2021, the airport announced its Kowhai Park project – to be New Zealand’s largest solar energy array at 400 hectares on the airport premises.

“By developing renewable energy, we will have the potential to provide 100% renewable electricity or hydrogen for aviation in Christchurch, and a renewable energy source to power low carbon ground transport and industry for Christchurch.

“We see Kowhai Park as a step beyond carbon neutrality and a way we can catalyse the low carbon future of the Canterbury region.”

Christchurch is working with Hamburg Airport in Germany as a leader in applying hydrogen within airport operations to combine their knowledge and accelerate adaptation. The New Zealand hub is also supporting permanent native forestry restoration to remove GHG emissions from the atmosphere with Johns highlighting, “Our ambition is to go beyond ‘neutral’. We want to have a positive net benefit on our environment so are aiming at 25% beyond neutral.”

He concluded: “Investing in New Zealand based permanent native forestry restoration to remove carbon from our atmosphere beyond our own footprint. This will also actively assist biodiversity, habitat restoration, landscape resilience improvements, soil health and water quality.”


Planes have airports but eVTOLs now have an Urban-Air Port

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Monday 25 April saw UK-based developer of ground infrastructure for air taxis and autonomous delivery drones, Urban-Air Port, open Air-One – a world-first demonstration of a fully-operational hub for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles.

With Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) predicted to become a trillion-dollar market within the next two decades the launch of Air-One heralds a tipping point for the age of zero-emission, low-congestion urban transport.

Situated in a car park in Coventry, a short walk from the city centre’s main train station and surrounded by busy roads and a built-up urban environment, getting Air-One up and established has been no feat. Addressing media and delegates attending the official unveiling of his vertiport, Ricky Sandhu, Urban-Air Port Founder and Chief Executive, said the project had been a truly collaborative effort. He credited his entire team of 25 staff, as well as the UK Government, Supernal and Hyundai (who are working with Urban-Air Port to develop plans for AAM, including eVTOL aircraft), Coventry City Council and Coventry University for their support in the establishment and unveiling of Air-One. The international business division of Munich Airport is also closely cooperating on the launch of the infrastructure to help ensure the project becomes a blueprint for future vertiport developments.

“From design, through to fabrication and now into operation, Urban-Air Port has delivered Air-One in just 15 months, setting the standard for deployment globally and opening up a world of possibilities for rapid response air mobility,” said Sandhu.

Introducing his Chief Development Officer, Stuart Bloomfield, to the audience Sandhu also proudly noted that “the order book already contains orders currently valuing £65 million.”

The circular shaped “vertiport” or “urban air port” as Sandhu prefers to call it is a 1,700 sq.m. structure featuring a take-off and landing platform in the centre that can be raised up and down to launch eVTOLs, such as air taxis, as well as drones. In the departure/ arrivals area surrounding the landing platform, passengers and customers will be able to browse carefully selected, sustainable fashion brands and enjoy sustainably sourced food as well as beverages at the Urban Air-Port cafe. Electric charging points for cars will be featured in the car park, so that those dropping off passengers or collecting deliveries can charge their vehicles while waiting.

“Our non-aeronautical brand, Urban-Air Choice, is key to our model. We want customers to come and charge their cars here, grab a coffee and use our app to purchase the brands being showcased here so it can then be dispatched by drone delivery,” Sandhu tells Regional Gateway.

Despite a booming market and a strong pipeline of eVTOLs entering commercial operations this decade, the lack of ground infrastructure remains one of the single biggest barriers to growth, according to analysis by NASA. Air-One demonstrates how purpose-built ground infrastructure can unleash the potential of AAM to decarbonise transport and cut air pollution and congestion, whilst providing seamless passenger journeys and deliveries.

Urban-Air Port is accelerating plans to develop 200 vertiports worldwide with infrastructure already planned elsewhere in the UK, the US, Australia, South Korea, France, Germany, Scandinavia and South East Asia.

Designed to be highly flexible and to cater to different markets, Urban-Air Port vertiports can be deployed at short notice to enable drones and other eVTOL aircraft to collect and transport emergency supplies, equipment and people in disaster situations such as floods or earthquakes. They can also be operated completely off-grid using on-site hydrogen fuel cell, zero-emission generation technology.

The company’s revenue model is based on offering varying models ranging from simply purchasing Urban-Air Port infrastructure, through to a full-service offering that includes site-specific design development and ongoing operations and maintenance for their ground, air and digital infrastructure solutions.

Flights of large cargo drones by Malloy Aeronautics, as well as Skyfarer and West Midlands Police, were demonstrated during the launch.

“Our vision is that AAM and Urban-Air Port infrastructure will be so integrated into our built-up environment that you won’t even see it. They will be like a train station or bus stop – immersed in a city environment, on rooftops, on rivers, city boxes. The cool thing is that this technology and this infrastructure will mitigate drones flying everywhere, as there will be key points to fly to and from. It will become normalised,” Sandhu concluded.

Goldhofer showcases sustainable, perfectly tuned powertrain solution for fleet of electric tow tractors

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Goldhofer has partnered with ARADEX to equip its zero-emission SHERPA-E cargo and pushback tractors as well as its PHOENIX-E towbarless aircraft tractor with battery-powered motors and inverters.

For airport operators, ground handlers and airlines, this solution is integral to offering economical and environmentally friendly baggage and cargo transportation options on the apron, in addition to aircraft handling with a maximum take-off weight of up to 352 tonnes.

Developed by ARADEX, the electric powertrains have been designed to meet the specific requirements of airport operations. They offer high torques as well as balanced and finely tuned power transmission. Offering a space and weight saving solution, the compact power packs are mounted directly on the axle and do not require a gearbox.

“At airports around the world, cargo and aircraft tractors have to satisfy extremely tough requirements each and every day,” said Thomas Vetter, Founder and member of the Executive Board at ARADEX. “This also applies to electrically powered vehicles. I am all the more delighted therefore that, together with Goldhofer, we have succeeded in optimising the configuration of our high-torque drive train so that it is not only very robust but also ensures reliable and balanced towing operations with maximum sensitivity and control.”

Vetter was joined by Goldhofer Head of Airport Technology, Lothar Holder, who said: “Together with ARADEX, we have developed a highly sustainable and perfectly tuned powertrain solution for our fleet of electric tow tractors. It not only provides enormous power, but also develops and delivers it finely controlled.”

Numerous studies and extensive testing at airports including Munich, Zurich and Los Angeles, has shown that emission-free apron handling using the SHERPA-E and PHOENIX-E is both technically feasible and cost-effective. “Since 2019, more and more of our cargo handling customers have been opting for the extremely high-performance solutions integrated in the SHERPA-E. Demand is increasing at a fast pace. Also with the delivery of the first PHOENIX-E to our customer, Lufthansa/ LEOS in December 2021, Goldhofer’s battery-powered solution with ARADEX drive trains is demonstrating its performance capability and efficiency – also in the context of the demanding operational profiles of towbarless towing – and setting the benchmark in this sector,” added Holder.

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Ryanair partners with Neste Holland for SAF supply

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Ryanair has partnered with the sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) supplier, Neste, to power approximately a third of its flights at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) with a 40% blend of SAF.

Speaking of the partnership at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Thomas Fowler, Ryanair’s Director of Sustainabilty, said: “SAF is a cornerstone of our Pathway to Net Zero by 2050 decarbonisation strategy and this new blend will power a third of Ryanair flights at AMS, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by over 60%. We look forward to growing our partnership with Neste as we work toward achieving our goal of operating 12.5% of Ryanair flights with SAF by 2030.

Ryanair has already significantly advanced its commitment to be being net-zero by 2050 by partnering with Trinity College Dublin to ope the Ryanair Sustainable Aviation Research Centre and investing £22bn in its ‘Gamechanger’ fleet, which offers 4% more seats but are 16% more fuel and CO2 efficient and reduce noise emissions by 40%.

Jonathan Wood, Neste’s Vice President Europe, Renewable Aviation, expressed his delight at the partnership, saying: “The aviation sector is now at a tipping point as demand increases, and policy proposals are on the table in the EU and UK to promote demand and supply of SAF. Neste is leading the transformation to SAF and investing as we speak to increase global SAF production capacity to 1.5 million tonnes per annum by 2023. It is great to see Ryanair as the first short-haul carrier take our SAF at Amsterdam and we look forward to our joint journey towards a more sustainable future.”

New Zealand and Singapore join forces to drive development of sustainable aviation

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Singapore and New Zealand have teamed up to drive the development of a sustainable aviation ecosystem. The collaboration, which saw Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) enter a Memorandum of Arrangement (MoA) on Sustainable Aviation with the New Zealand Ministry of Transport and New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, is part of a wider partnership with industry, academia and other stakeholder groups.

The agreement was signed by Han Kok Juan, Director General, CAAS and Her Excellency Jo Tyndall, New Zealand High Commissioner to Singapore. It was witnessed by the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardem, Prime Minister of New Zealand and S Iswaran, Singapore’s Minister for Transport and Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations.

As part of the arrangement, Singapore and New Zealand will collaborate and share information on initiatives to advance sustainable aviation, covering four key areas: policy and regulation; industry development; future infrastructure planning and provision; and workforce transformation. Under the MoA, the two countries will coordinate the research and development, test bedding and trial of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), facilitating the development of secure sustainable fuels, including SAF and hydrogen supply chains in the Asia-Pacific region and studying the scale, costs, technical and commercial viabilities of developing “green lanes” between New Zealand and Singapore to encourage the gradual uptake of SAF-operated flights by consumers.

With sustainability identified by both the MOT and CAAS as a priority for the aviation sector as it re-emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the MoA is also one of the first initiatives under the new Climate Change and Green Economy Pillar under the existing Singapore-New Zealand Enhanced Partnership.

The CAAS is currently developing a Sustainable Air Hub Blueprint, which it will publish in 2023, outlining medium and longer-term sustainability goals and to identify practical pathways to achieving those targets.

Header image: Credit Singapore Ministry of Transport