Setting the scene for aviation and environment


The 5th Aviation & Environment Summit took place from September 16-17 in Geneva with stakeholders from all over the world attending.

The opening session started with a welcome speech made by Paul Steele, executive director of ATAG, and the heads of the coordinating associations: ACI, CANSO, and ICCAIA. They passed a common statement, that each referred sector can make a significant difference for environment when driven by innovation. For all speakers, the green air transport was in line with cleaner technologies and global approach. The aviation industry was presented as unique through its clear vision and plan, managing the topic much better and faster than other industries.

First, there was an introductory presentation under the theme of “Setting the scene,” which focused on maximizing technology and biofuel opportunities in order to lower fuel consumption, emissions, noise, ownership, and maintenance disruptions. Mr. Paul Steele, executive director of ATAG, presented industry targets. Those were mainly to improve fleet fuel efficiency by 1.5 percent per year from now until 2020 and by 2050 to keep net emissions half of what they were in 2005. He highlighted that the industry already saved 3.3 billion tons of CO2 compared to technology performance from 1990. In order to achieve the targets, industry has to invest in fleet renewal, adjust infrastructure, maximize operations efficiency, and implement biofuel, which will obtain full certification by first quarter of 2011. Mr. Steele highlighted the importance of governments’ involvement, especially the investments in ATM improvements like NextGen and SESAR and also in research and development of the new technology.

The whole conference consisted of seven panels:

PANEL 1: Maximizing technology and biofuel opportunities

The session focused on breakthrough technologies, where Mr. Steve Csonka, director of Environmental Strategy & Ecomagination at GE Aviation tried to answer questions on how to bridge the divide between evolutionary and revolutionary thinking. Biofuels were one of the key considerations, Mr. J.Woodger, sales account manager of Renewable Energy & Chemicals at Honeywell illustrated for addressing biofuel success: technology, sustainability, uncompromised product quality, and supply chain. The feedstock for them would be algae, ready in 5 to 8 years; camelina, ready now; or jatropha and halophytes, which will be ready in 2 to 4 years. Already commercial, as well as military, planes did some tests, among them: Air New Zealand (jatropha), Continental Airlines (jatropha & algae), Japan Airlines (jatropha, camelina, and algae), and KLM (camelina). During the discussion Robert Nuttall, vice president of strategic marketing at Rolls-Royce plc said that what the industry needs is a comprehensive fuel-testing program. Dr. Ian Maxwell, managing director at Ignite Energy Resources added that stakeholders try to find industry partners and get them involved in the value chain, because on the early stage, it is crucial to have strong players who will participate, also in terms of financial investment. Economy of scale is needed to make the production cost effective, however, local production will be necessary due to the cost of shipment, which will not justify the global supply. Prof. Volker Gollnick, director at the Institute of Air Transport Concepts and Technology Evaluation, highlighted the importance of biofuels popularization in order to establish a market for production, distribution, and operation on a daily basis. That is the biggest problem; the technology and certification is almost there.

PANEL 2: Collaboration on infrastructure
During this session, Mr. Graham Lake, director general at CANSO, used a very accurate comparison between the plane and the train. The infrastructure now is twisted tracks in the air, which causes the capacity crunch. Therefore, only cooperation between partners can straighten the trucks in the air. Easy to realize, the session was dedicated to the air traffic management systems and procedures improvements. Mr. Lake gave an update on what is happening in terms of ATC in regions: Asia and South Pacific have an Initiative to Reduce Emissions (ASPIRE), Middle East agreed on a “RED SEA Vision” for the region, US NextGen Program will reduce the environmental impact of aviation, (AIRE) Program will help to minimize aviation’s environmental footprint, and the Single European Sky initiative is expected to unify the air traffic system, which will be able to cater for the anticipated growth. The ATCs target by 2050 is 96 percent airspace efficiency, which means that planes will be taking only the most efficient routes. Importantly again crucial is collaborative decision making of all stakeholders: air navigation services providers, governments, airports, and airlines. Graham Lake added that it was governments who decided how the airspace is divided, therefore, they should now cooperate in order to make the best use of it.

PANEL 3: Collaboration on operations
At this session, Mr. Tom Windmuller, corporate secretary and senior vice president, and member of government relations at IATA, indicated six potential operational improvements:

– flight operations (like APU fuel savings, pilot technique and flight management, engine out, taxi out);
– flight dispatch (e.g., cost index optimized and pilot & dispatcher additional fuel);
– engineering and maintenance (including APU maintenance, aerodynamic & airframe drag);
– regulatory measures (ground operations and performance based navigation).

The importance of flexible airspace use was highlighted, especially areas reserved for the military. At the same time, the well-known concept of continuous descent was mentioned, as well as performance-based navigation (PBN). John Murphy, director of flight operations at Thomson Airways suggested taxes per passenger, not plane, in order to share the risk of the airline. Captain Alan Stealey, divisional senior vice president for Flight Operations at Emirates reminded that the flight plan is flexible. During long-haul flights, pilots at Emirates prepare new flight plans according to the new wind information.

PANEL 4: Exploring the interdependences
The fourth session focused on interdependences and cooperation as a key to success. Ms. Angela Gittens, director general at Airports Council International (ACI) emphasized that all stakeholders, due to more routes and facilities, have a wider environmental responsibility. Whenever a strong opposition voice appears, that leads to government hesitation, where the best example was recent refusal of a 5th runway for Heathrow airport. Ms. Gittens described interdependencies lead to CO2 reductions, environmental concern increase, and foster investment in alternative energy sources. The noise and emissions are very crucial concerns for communities, therefore, airports should work on the relationship from the very beginning, as when a problem appears, that is too late. Flight path designations due to noise preferential routes, track concentration, and constant descent approach are important to work on, however, airports cannot forget recording and responding to complaints. Angela Gittens reminded that airports need to have communities involved, and then the regulator is more likely to help.

PANEL 5: Stakeholders
This session consisted of wide discussions between different groups of interest, represented by: Simon Evans, chief executive of Air Transport Users Council (AUC); Tim Johnson, director of the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF); Deron Lovaas, federal transportation policy director at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); and Lord Soley of Hammersmith, campaign director of “Future Heathrow.” However, there are many other stakeholders whose interests need to be taken into account by the industry when addressing climate change.

PANEL 6: Developing a global framework for aviation
The discussion concerned implementation of measures that assure a politically-acceptable global framework. All the regulations, starting from multilateral treaties (e.g., Chicago Convention), bilateral air service agreements (e.g., US-EU Open Skies), regional (e.g., European Noise Directive), national (e.g., US Airport Noise Directive) to local ones (e.g., specific airport balanced approach) has to be taken into consideration.

PANEL 7: High-level panel session
A high-level panel was moderated by CNN representative, Adrian Finighan. Aviation leaders were asked to discuss the most important environmental topics today, with the aim to explore the issues raised during the previous panels.

The concluding session summarizing the conference was lead by Paul Steele, ATAG executive director. He presented the key messages that industry would like to convey to policy-makers and states in the upcoming ICAO 37th Assembly and UNFCCC COP16 meetings.

During the conference, a series of announcements took place. These included the SURF Program (The Sustainable Use of Renewable Fuels) started by Cranfield University, Airbus, and British Airways; the ACI Airport Carbon Accreditation Program with 22 airports accredited to date; and the new IATA iFLEX Program helping airlines to shorter routes with better and flexible use of wind.

Paul Steele, at the beginning of the conference, said that industry targets are ambitious and unique; no other industry performs the way aviation does. That is a reason to be proud, but the work has just begun. He said, most importantly, we are on the right track. During the conference, a lot has happened, and a lot was said. No doubt the aviation industry has taken a big step forward during the last few years. It is very important these days that the industry unify and speak with one, strong voice and better use of media in order to make the global society aware of the industry achievements. Hopefully by the next summit in March 2012 that will be achieved.