AVIATION

AVIATION

Aircraft produce the same types of emissions as cars and trucks. In particular, aircraft jet engines produce carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapor (H2O), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), oxides of sulfur (SOx), unburned or partially combusted hydrocarbons (also known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs), particulates, and other trace compounds. Aircraft engine emissions are roughly composed of about 70 percent CO2, a little less than 30 percent H2O, and less than 1 percent each of NOx, CO, SOx, VOC, particulates, and other trace components.

As with surface vehicles, aircraft produce carbon dioxide through combustion of petroleum-based fuel. Aircraft can have complex effects on climate through contrail formation and by emitting water vapor into the dry stratosphere. Aviation accounts for about 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in the U.S., or about 2.7 percent of total national greenhouse gas emissions.

Change is coming as the industry works to come to terms with climate change, but, by all measures, it will be slow. A wide range of technologies and innovations are being designed in a bid to tackle aviation’s environmental footprint. For example,

  • NASA is researching ideas that could lead to the development of electric propulsion-powered aircraft, which would be quieter, more efficient and environmentally friendly than today's commuter aircraft.
  • The U.S. Air Force's Agility Prime program is working with private industry to explore building innovative aircraft, such as “flying taxis”, also being developed by United Airlines.
  • Emitting 90% less carbon dioxide than a standard airplane, blimps are also coming. Bill McKibben found the best description of what they might feel like, in a new world of aviation, in Kim Stanley Robinson’s brilliant sci-fi novel, The Ministry for the Future. "In the novel", he writes "that takeoff felt strange, lofting up over the bay, bouncing a little on the wind, not like a jet, not like a helicopter. Strange but interesting. Dynamic lift; the electric motors, on sidecars up the sides of the bag, could get them to about two hundred kilometers an hour over the land, depending on the winds.”

CREDIT: EPA

CURRENT NEWS

KEY RESOURCES

Pure Electric

02/07/22
Meet Alice, the world’s first all-electric commuter aircraft. Built to make flight the sustainable, affordable, quiet solution to regional travel.

White House targets 20% lower aviation emissions by 2030

09/10/21
 The White House on Thursday said it is targeting 20% lower aviation emissions by 2030, as airlines facing pressure from environmental groups to lower their carbon footprintpledged to use more sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Advances the Future of Sustainable Fuels in American Aviation

09/09/21
President Biden is taking steps to coordinate leadership and innovation across the federal government, aircraft manufacturers, airlines, fuel producers, airports, and non-governmental organizations to advance the use of cleaner and more sustainable fuels in American…

DHL Orders 12 Electric Cargo Planes

08/13/21
Even as electrification has taken off in everything from cars to lawn care, the idea of removing fossil fuels from such an energy-intensive—and weight-sensitive—application as aviation felt like a far-fetched dream. Yet slowly, we have…

new tri-wing aircraft concept by SE aeronautics could revolutionize commercial aviation

08/03/21
alabama start-up SE aeronautics has unveiled the ‘SE200’, an all-new green widebody airplane design with a tri-wing configuration that could potentially revolutionize the world of commercial aviation. the innovative aircraft concept will carry up to 264 passengers, flying more…

All-Electric Air Mobility

07/29/21
We all want to spend less time traveling and more time living. At Joby Aviation, we’re making that possible with our pioneering electric aircraft. It’s a faster, cleaner, and smarter way to carry people through…

Boeing jets emissions data highlights industry’s green challenge

07/28/21
 Commercial jets delivered by Boeing Co (BA.N) last year will account on average for emissions equivalent to 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each over their 20-year-plus lifespans, a new report from the planemaker shows.

Which Flight You Choose Has a Huge Impact on Emissions

07/22/21
Air travel has an undeniable carbon footprint: some estimates suggest roughly 2.4% of global carbon dioxide emissions come from commercial aviation and passenger aircraft emissions increased 33% between 2013 and 2019.12
BBC

Climate change: Airbus aims for ‘climate-neutral’ flights by 2035

07/22/21
Aircraft that produce zero emissions will be flying by the middle of this century and Airbus's Flintshire plant will play a "critical" role, according to a senior manager.

United Airlines to buy 100, 19-seat electric planes from Heart Aerospace

07/13/21
United Airlines (UAL.O) said on Tuesday it would buy 100 19-seat ES-19 electric planes from Swedish start-up Heart Aerospace, as the U.S. carrier eyes battery-powered aircraft for regional routes.

San Diego International Airport Goes 100% Renewable Electricity

07/13/21
San Diego International Airport may be the home base for an enormous amount of emissions from all the airplanes flying in and out of there, but the airport itself is becoming one of the greenest…

Blimp Comeback: Are Eco-Friendly, Electric-Powered HAVs Here To Stay?

07/08/21
The blimp, forever besmirched due to the Hindenburg explosion in 1937—when one of the first commercial blimps caught on fire—never really fulfilled its potential as a commuting vehicle.

MORE NEWS

Carbon Offsets Alone Won’t Make Flying Climate-Friendly

By Gregory Barber   07/27/22  
JET A-1, A straw-colored, kerosene-based fuel used in most big airplanes, is a difficult substance to replace. It’s packed with energy; per unit of weight, at least 60 times as much as the lithium-ion batteries…

Analysis: Aviation sector feels heat on emissions at air show

By David Sheperdson and Others  Photo: Ralph Orlowski, Reuters   07/21/22  
Record temperatures at the Farnborough Airshow this week have ratcheted up pressure on global aviation to shrink airplane emissions and turn a raft of potential solutions - many of which are yet to be proven…

You might be flying like a pelican in a few years

By Joann Muller  Photo: Regent Craft   07/08/22  
Better batteries, lighter-weight materials and other innovations — plus huge capital investments — are opening the door to novel and lower-emissions transportation solutions like flying taxis, drones and seagliders.

Airliners Powered by Sustainable Fuel Remain a Distant Goal

By Peter Wilson  Photo: Chris J. Ratcliffe   06/29/22  
One day late in 2023 an almost-empty commercial airliner is expected to lift off on a trans-Atlantic flight between Britain and the United States that Prime Minister Boris Johnson casts as a once in a…
BBC

The giant hangar poised for an aviation revolution

By Mark Piesing   06/22/22  
Sergey Brin turned internet search into one of the world’s most valuable businesses more than two decades ago. Now he intends to improve a technology which had its heyday long before he was born. Brin…

Look! Up in the sky! It’s an air taxi. They’re coming to Los Angeles

By Rachel Uranga  Photo: Garrett King , Archer Aviation   06/19/22  
Imagine avoiding that soul-crushing, hourlong slog — say from Santa Monica to downtown L.A. on a Tuesday morning. Instead, you hail a high-tech cab that will hop over the gridlock and get you there in…

The Black Carbon Cost of Rocket Launches

By Ramin Skibba   06/16/22  
Could a similar scenario now play out in the real universe, minus the faster-than-light engines? Atmospheric scientist Christopher Maloney believes so. In a new study, he and his colleagues modeled how black carbon belched out…

FAA unveils climate rules for commercial planes

By Andrew Freedman  Photo: Nicolas Economou , Getty Images   06/15/22  
Why it matters: Aviation is a rapidly growing source of greenhouse emissions, including carbon dioxide, and has not been subjected to federal regulations under the Clean Air Act or other statutes.

Just one of 50 aviation industry climate targets met, study finds

By Damien Gayle  Photo: Jason Reed , Reuters   05/10/22  
A report commissioned by the climate charity Possible assessed every target set by the industry since 2000 and found that nearly all had been missed, revised or quietly ignored. The charity says the findings undermine…
FAA

FAA, U.S. Airports Team up to Meet 2050 Net-Zero Climate Challenge

04/22/22  
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. airports have launched an Airport Climate Challenge to help achieve the Biden-Harris Administration goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Airports can take advantage of several…

Inside Delta’s Strategy to Capture the Premium Traveler

By Brian Sumers   03/31/22  
Delta CEO Ed Bastian, who left the company briefly in 2005, loves to tell the story about why he quit. At the time, Delta was pursuing a discount strategy that he didn't like. Not long…

First A380 powered by 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel takes to the skies

Photo: A Doumenjou , Master Films   03/28/22  
Airbus’ A380 test aircraft MSN 1 took off from Blagnac Airport, Toulouse, France at 08h43 on Friday 25 March. The flight lasted about three hours, operating one Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine on 100% SAF.

Salesforce Announces New Partnership With JetBlue For Sustainable Aviation

By Felicia Jackson   02/02/22  
Salesforce’s Net Zero Cloud (formerly Sustainability Cloud 2.0) is supporting the decarbonization of air travel, with news that JetBlue is using it to provide emissions travel data to the airline’s Sustainable Travel Partners. The agreement…

Airlines flying near-empty ‘ghost flights’ to retain EU airport slots

By Arthur Neslen  Photo: Joan Valls/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock   01/26/22  
Analysis from Greenpeace finds deserted flights are generating millions of tons of harmful emissions

Lufthansa, Air France join forces against EU’s climate plans for aviation

By Ilona Wissenbach  Photo: Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach   01/24/22  
An alliance of airlines and airports called for changes to the European Union's planned climate change legislation on Monday, arguing it will make them less competitive with non-European rivals.

Cutting-edge ‘seagliders’ will be built in Rhode Island

By Alexa Gagosz  Photo: Regent Craft   01/13/22  
The Moore Brothers Company, a composite manufacturing, research, and development firm, will join forces with Boston-based Regent Craft to create a new, cutting-edge seaglider, an innovation that will combine “speed, comfort, and navigation systems of…

The future of air mobility: Electric aircraft and flying taxis

12/19/21  
What new modes of air transportation will exist in 2030? Could eVTOLs replace cars by then? Will passenger aircraft be piloted or autonomous—or somewhere in between? McKinsey’s Kersten Heineke, Benedikt Kloss, and Robin Riedel imagine…

Move over, electric cars: E-boats are coming — and investors are on board

By Maria Gallucci   12/08/21  
Andy Rebele has spent much of his life on boats, fishing in lakes near his childhood home in San Diego and, now, cruising the waterways near his house in Seattle. He knows well that, along…

Aviation hunts for the Tesla of the skies to drive electric revolution

By Howard Mustoe  Photo: ZeroAvia   11/21/21  
Carmakers are racing ahead in developing faster, cheaper electric cars. The industry is on track to create one that costs less to run overall than a petrol car within the decade....

Delta Air Lines announces $1B deal to buy sustainable aviation fuel

By Monique Beals   09/30/21  
The fuel would lessen the airline company’s carbon footprint as it seeks to replace 10 percent of its conventional fuel use with sustainable fuel by the end of 2030, according to a press release from…

This Software Aims to Make Your Flight Smoother—and Help the Planet

By Aarian Marshall   09/28/21  
Fastening the seat belt buckle and knowing your flight is on its way to its destination: Nice. Getting stuck in a tarmac traffic jam and waiting for your flight to take off: Not so nice.…

Follow the Money: Are electric flying cars ready for takeoff?

By Eric Wesoff  Photo: Corbis via Getty Images   09/27/21  
Canary Media just covered the tidal wave of cash going into grid-scale energy storage and the bubble building up around the more speculative subset of long-duration energy storage. This rush toward energy storage is not…

New Declaration Calls for a ‘Decade of Climate Action’ in the Travel Sector

By Mary Mazzoni   09/27/21  
Well over a year into the coronavirus pandemic, and anyone who loves to travel is undoubtedly missing the adventure of exploring parts unknown. While it will likely be years before global travel returns to pre-pandemic…

US airlines are planning to unnecessarily burn 20,000 tons of CO2 per day because of FAA rules

By Nicolás Rivero, Clarisa Diaz & David Yanofsky   09/24/21  
A proposed rule change from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has prompted airlines to change their schedules and dramatically increase their carbon emissions by burning millions of gallons of jet fuel. It’s the result…
CNN

The climate can’t wait for electric planes. Sustainable fuel may be the answer

By Hanna Ziady   09/23/21  
More than 50 airlines, oil companies and other companies, including Delta (DAL), BP (BP) and Boeing (BA), pledged on Wednesday to replace 10% of global jet fuel supply with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2030.…

Biden administration sets goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050

By Ian Duncan  Photo: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg News   09/09/21  
The administration says boosting the use of fuels made from waste or plants could cut emissions from flying 20 percent by the end of the decade

DOE Announces Nearly $65 Million for Biofuels Research to Reduce Airplane and Ship Emissions

09/09/21  
As part of a White House roundtable to launch the Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) Grand Challenge to decarbonize the aviation sector by 2050, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $64.7 million in funding for projects focused on producing cost-effective, low-carbon biofuels. These investments will advance technologies to create replacements for petroleum fuels used in heavy-duty forms of…

Electric air taxi start-up Joby Aviation surges in trading on NYSE after SPAC merger

By Lora Kolodny and Leslie Josephs  Photo: Andrew Kelly | Reuters   08/11/21  
Shares of electric aircraft maker Joby Aviation surged more than 20% after opening at $10.62 in their first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange after the company’s SPAC merger. Founded in 2009…

Severe storms prompt hundreds of flight cancellations at O’Hare Airport.

By Jesus Jiménez  Photo: Jon Durr   08/09/21  
More than 300 flights were canceled at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on Monday after severe weather prompted a ground stop and an evacuation of the airport’s control tower.

Will Hydrogen Find Its Niche With Aircraft?

By Steven Novella  Photo: Business Wire   07/23/21  
When it comes to cars, the technology competition between batteries and hydrogen has been won. The future of cars appears to be battery technology. There are some hydrogen-fueled cars, but they are a tiny slice…

Electric Planes Are Inevitable

By Johnna Crider   07/03/21  
In a short documentary about airlines, Wendover Productions shares why electric planes are inevitably coming. “It doesn’t currently make sense for airlines to care about climate change,” the narrator of the video said. These are…

United Airlines aims to suck carbon dioxide from the friendly skies

By Steven Mufson   06/25/21  
United Airlines is investing in a venture that doesn’t make airplanes, transport passengers or ring up frequent-flier miles on the company’s credit cards. And even as it posts losses stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, United is providing…

Aerospace Giant Rolls-Royce On the Flightpath to the Net-Zero Economy

By Tina Casey   06/24/21  
In another sign that the great pivot to net-zero emissions is well under way, the legacy aerospace and defense contractor Rolls-Royce Holdings has just announced a raft of new programs aimed at bringing down the…

Airline Industry to Weigh Goal of Net-Zero Emissions by 2050

By Christopher Jasper and others   06/24/21  
The airline industry’s global trade group will propose eliminating carbon emissions on a net basis by 2050, as pressure builds to improve the climate goals of a segment that’s come under increasing criticism for its…

It’s More Than Just Rain and Snow. Climate Change Will Hit Air Travel in Surprising Ways

By Justin Worland  Photo: Chandan Khanna—AFP/Getty Images   06/24/21  
For those watching U.S. air travel spike as the COVID-19 pandemic fades, American Airlines’ recent announcement that it would trim its flight schedule may have come as a bit of a surprise. More and more…

Hydrogen planes, electric propulsion and new regulations: Aviation is changing

By Anmar Frangoul  Photo: Getty Images   06/15/21  
From the Wright brothers’ historic flight in 1903 to the development of supersonic aircraft, the history of aviation has been driven by technology and ambition. Now, as the 21st century progresses, the sector continues to…

GE, Safran developing cleaner energy aircraft engines that could work with hybrid technology, hydrogen

By Leslie Josephs  Photo: Getty Images   06/14/21  
General Electric’s aviation unit and its joint venture partner Safran of France on Monday said they are developing new airplane engines that aim to cut emissions by more than a fifth of today’s levels. GE…

What Is a Flying Car?

By Cade Metz and Erin Griffith  Photo: Jason Henry   06/12/21  
It was sleek, cone-shaped, a little confusing — like something Hollywood would give a sci-fi villain for a quick getaway. It wasn’t a helicopter. And it wasn’t an airplane. It was a cross between the…

Taking Off in Two Directions at Once

06/10/21  
Right at the start of “The Great Electric Airplane Race,” a thought-provoking NOVA documentary that aired on PBS at the end of May, correspondent Miles O’Brien admits that aircraft are “the high-hanging fruit” in decarbonization.…

We Don’t Need Supersonic Travel—in the “New Normal,” We Should Slow Down

By Bill McKibben  Photo: Cover Images / AP   06/09/21  
An interesting question: Did the pandemic break something in the heedless momentum of human acceleration, or are we really going straight back to normal? An interesting test case: United Airlines’ announcement that it will buy…

United Airlines’ Supersonic Jet Is a Bad Idea

By Kate Aronoff   06/04/21  
United Airlines announced this week that it will purchase at least 15 supersonic Overture jets, at $200 million a pop, from a startup called Boom, which—having yet to put a single one of its fast…

Blimp Promises Low-Carbon Air Traveling

By Eduardo Garcia   06/02/21  
A British company plans to start flying a 100-seat airship by 2025, offering passengers sustainable inter-city transportation and some amazing views. Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) envisions covering routes 200 to 300 miles away, such as…

A Big Climate Problem With Few Easy Solutions: Planes

By Niraj Chokshi and Others  Photo: Sebastian Hidalgo, The New York Times   06/02/21  
The worst of the pandemic may be over for airlines, but the industry faces another looming crisis: an accounting over its contribution to climate change. The industry is under increasing pressure to do something to…

Airships for city hops could cut flying’s CO2 emissions by 90%

By Rupert Neate   05/26/21  
For those fancying a trip from Liverpool to Belfast or Barcelona to the Balearic Islands but concerned about the carbon footprint of aeroplane travel, a small Bedford-based company is promising a surprising solution: commercial airships.…

Electric aircraft maker BETA gets $368 million to become the alpha of aviation

05/18/21  
Apparently, Amazon and its Climate Pledge Fund ❤ electric aircraft — or more specifically the electric aircraft built by the upstart, Vermont-based aircraft manufacturer, BETA Technologies.

Business travel has disappeared. Will it ever come back?

By Will Godley and Charles Riley   05/17/21  
For countless executives and salespeople, business trips have been a bedrock of corporate life — loathed by some, loved by others but accepted by all as a necessity (sweetened by millions of frequent flyer miles).…

This New 8-Seat Electric Airplane Costs 80% Less to Fly Than Conventional Aircraft

By Daniel Bachmann  Photo: Bye Aerospace   04/26/21  
Bye Aerospace’s eFlyer 800 is a clean-sheet design that will carry eight people, including one or two pilots. The 800 will have two motors, powered by a grid of electric cells across the airframe. This…

Aviation global warming forcing is worse than just CO2 emissions

By Michael Barnard   04/21/21  
Recently, someone asked me if methanol were a viable fuel replacement for aviation kerosene. I explored the question to assess the potential value of it. In doing so, I went down the rabbit hole of…

Alaska Airlines and SkyNRG sign partnership to advance sustainable aviation fuel made from municipal solid waste

04/14/21  
Alaska Airlines and SkyNRG Americas today announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) committing to increased investment in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The MOU builds on a long history of Alaska leadership advancing SAF…

United Partners with Corporate Customers to Fund Sustainable Aviation Fuel

By Sami Grover  Photo: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin / Getty Images   04/14/21  
Airlines have been talking about sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) for about as long as people have been conversing about the impact of flying on the climate. Given the limited supply of waste fuel stocks, the…