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One million flights powered by sustainable hybrid fuel by 2020

Published: Wednesday 28 February 2018

By Adrian Bishop

Within seven years, one billion air passengers could have travelled on jets powered by eco-friendly blended fuel.
By 2025, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the trade body representing 280 plus airlines around the world, aims to see one billion passengers having travelled on flights powered by a mix of jet fuel and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), which can cut flight carbon emissions by up to four-fifths.
It is expected that one million flights will be powered by sustainable hybrid fuel by 2020 – when the industry aims to achieve carbon-neutral growth and to cut net carbon emissions by 50% compared to 2005.
The one billion passenger target was identified on the 10th anniversary of the first flight to blend sustainable aviation fuel and ordinary jet fuel. But it will only be reached with the help of more government backing, says the IATA.
On 24th February 2008, a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 flew from London to Amsterdam with sustainable aviation fuel in one of its engines. The flight demonstrated the viability of drop-in biofuels, which can be blended with traditional jet fuel, using existing airport infrastructure.
The sustainable fuel mix can reduce carbon emissions on each flight by up to 80%.
Plane at a airport
IATA’s Director General and Chief Executive Officer, Alexandre de Juniac, says, “The momentum for sustainable aviation fuels is now unstoppable. From one flight in 2008, we passed the threshold of 100,000 flights in 2017, and we expect to hit one million flights during 2020. But that is still just a drop in the ocean compared to what we want to achieve.
“We want one billion passengers to have flown on a SAF-blend flight by 2025. That won’t be easy to achieve. We need governments to set a framework to incentivize production of SAF and ensure it is as attractive to produce as automotive biofuels.”
Airlines including Cathay Pacific, FedEx Express, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Qantas, and United, have already made significant investments by forward-purchasing 1.5 billion gallons of SAF. Airports in Oslo, Stockholm, Brisbane and Los Angeles are already mixing SAF with the general fuel supply.
At present levels, it is anticipated that half a billion passengers will have flown on a SAF-blend powered flight by 2025. But if governments, through effective policy, help the sustainable fuel industry to scale-up its production, it is possible that one billion passengers could experience an SAF flight by 2025, says the IATA.
The steps needed to deliver this include:
  • Allowing SAF to compete with automotive biofuels through equivalent or magnified incentives
  • Loan guarantees and capital grants for production facilities
  • Supporting SAF demonstration plants and supply chain research and development
  • Harmonized transport and energy policies, coordinated with the involvement of agriculture and military departments.  
Mr de Juniac admitted that some sources of biofuels for land transport have been criticized for their environmental credentials, but he emphasized strongly the determination of the industry to only use truly sustainable sources for its alternative fuels.
“The airline industry is clear, united and adamant that we will never use a sustainable fuel that upsets the ecological balance of the planet or depletes its natural resources,” he says. 

New horizons: passenger demand to travel to Bulgaria set to double as UK's top airports also see passenger numbers soar to record levels.

The IATA reports that passenger demand for air transport in Bulgaria is set to double over the next two decades. Servicing this demand, while ensuring safety, and managing costs, CO2 emissions and delays, requires Bulgaria to further modernise its airspace and Air Traffic Management (ATM) network.

Successful airspace modernisation for Bulgaria is expected to create significant benefits, generating an extra €628 million in annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 11,300 jobs annually by 2035.

The IATA and BULATSA, the Bulgarian Air Navigation Service Provider, have agreed to develop and implement a Bulgarian National Airspace Strategy, aimed at delivering benefits to the travelling public, while supporting national economic growth and the competitiveness of the Bulgarian aviation sector.

BULATSA and IATA have committed to work together and with all aviation stakeholders to deliver and implement the National Airspace Strategy in support of the Single European Sky (SES) initiative. The main aspects of the strategy cover leadership and a collaborative stakeholder approach, airspace management, and technical modernization of the ATM system.

Alexandre de Juniac commented on the initiative: "Bulgaria will occupy an ever-more important position in European airspace as East-West traffic increases in the coming years. And Bulgaria itself is a fast-growing economy, which will see a significant passenger surge. Ensuring that the airspace is optimised to cope with increased traffic will benefit not only Bulgaria but the wider European traveling public.”

He continues, “As Bulgaria takes up its Presidency of the European Union, this commitment to building a National Airspace Strategy is a concrete sign of the nation fulfilling a strategic leadership role."

The Bulgarian National Airspace Strategy will include:
  • Enhancement of coordination for more efficient flightpaths;
  • Airspace optimization at regional level as well as between regions;
  • Increased capacity while ensuring safety levels;
  • Improved punctuality of flights;
  • Better sharing of information across the European air transport network.
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