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

The Airline Industry’s Biggest Climate Challenge: A Lack of Clean Fuel

By Ben Elgin 04/11/24
In a glimmer of progress for the daunting task of reducing air travel’s climate impact, a newly built plant in rural Georgia is expected to begin pumping out the world’s first commercial quantities of a…
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Image By CCR + AI
Highlight Article

Trains Are Cleaner Than Planes, Right?

By Hiroko Tabuchi 04/04/24
Recently, I did something I’ve long dreamed of. I took the train across America. The views were majestic, particularly as we swayed through the West. The Wi-Fi was bad, and the food not much better.…
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Microsoft-Backed Clean Jet Fuel Startup Fires Up New CO2 Converter

By Michelle Ma 02/08/24
Climate technology startup Twelve took a major step towards producing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on Thursday by launching its commercial-scale carbon transformation unit.
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The auto industry’s fight over Tesla chargers is coming to electric aircraft

By Joann Muller 01/17/24
Joby Aviation, the Toyota-backed electric air taxi startup, is splitting from the rest of its industry over how to charge the innovative aircraft.
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Virgin Atlantic Flight from London Makes History as First Transatlantic Jet Using 100% Sustainable Fuel

By Andy Corbley 12/08/23
It’s one thing to power green aviation in Europe where flights take 30 minutes to 3 hours; it’s another thing to send a jetliner across the Atlantic. But that’s exactly what Virgin Atlantic was able…
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Airlines Race Toward a Future of Powering Their Jets With Corn

By By Max Bearak, Dionne Searcey and Mira Rojanasakul 11/30/23
VAST STRETCHES OF AMERICA are dominated by corn, nearly 100 million acres of it, stretching from Ohio to the Dakotas. What once was forest or open prairie today produces the corn that feeds people, cattle…
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A plane fueled by fat and sugar has crossed the Atlantic Ocean

By Nicolás Rivero 11/28/23
For the first time ever, a commercial plane flew across the Atlantic Ocean without using fossil fuels. Virgin Atlantic said the test flight Tuesday from London to New York was powered only by sustainable aviation…
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US Air Force makes ‘historic’ investment in cutting-edge aircraft technology: ‘It is our mission’

By Mike Taylor 11/25/23
Archer Aviation announced on July 31 that it agreed to a “historic” purchase contract with the United States Air Force worth up to $142 million. The Air Force will receive up to six Midnight electric…
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After the pandemic, Americans are flying again in force. Here’s why that’s a problem.

By Shannon Osaka 11/23/23
In the spring of 2020, as the coronavirus swept over the globe, air travel disappeared. Airlines flew empty “ghost flights” to retain airport slots. Airport terminals were deserted. And the planet-warming emissions from aviation also…
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Who said electric air transportation would never fly?

By Enrique Dans 11/04/23
The electrification of aviation is a subject I follow closely, so my attention was caught by a company called Beta Technologies, who have managed to produce an aircraft, the CX300, which is exclusively battery powered…
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Lead pollution from small planes threatens human health, EPA finds

By Timothy Puko and Lori Aratani 10/18/23
The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced it has determined that lead emitted from airplanes is a danger to public health, opening the door for the agency’s first limits on lead fuel in aviation.
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EPA takes step toward regulating lead in fuel for small planes

By Rachel Frazin 10/18/23
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared Tuesday that lead in fuel for small airplanes is a danger to public health, marking a key step toward taking regulatory action.
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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

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

Sustainable Aviation Is a Pie in the Sky

By David Fickling   09/13/23  
One of the first major industries to start selling climate-conscious products to its consumers may be one of the last to actually decarbonize.
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Making aviation fuel from biomass

By Nancy W. Stauffer   08/23/23  
In 2021, nearly a quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions came from the transportation sector, with aviation being a significant contributor. While the growing use of electric vehicles is helping to clean up ground…
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Airports Will Need A Lot More Electricity When Aviation Is Electrified

By Michael Barnard   08/18/23  
Recently I published an assessment of whether a reasonably sized international airport, not Heathrow, Chicago, or Changi, but Edmonton YEG’s smaller one, could power all future aviation energy requirements with its 120 MW solar farm.…
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US Puts $235 Million in Startup Making Low-Emission Jets

By Julie Johnsson   08/17/23  
The US Air Force is investing $235 million in aerospace startup JetZero to build an unconventional plane that burns far less fuel than the aircraft that have long dominated the skies.
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Why high temperatures can make planes too heavy to take off

By Jacopo Prisco   07/22/23  
Our planet’s rising temperatures are making it harder for planes to take off at certain airports, presenting yet another challenge to civil aviation. And as heatwaves become more frequent, the problem could extend to more…
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Biofuels in Aviation: An Emerging Frontier in Renewable Energy

By Lawrence Webb   07/02/23  
Biofuels in aviation are emerging as a promising frontier in renewable energy, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional fossil fuels and contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. As the aviation industry continues to…
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SAF and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: Aligning Aviation with Global Priorities

06/30/23  
The aviation industry is at a critical juncture in its history. As the world grapples with the effects of climate change and strives to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the industry must…
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Asia plays catch-up in race for sustainable aviation fuel

By Akira Kitado   06/26/23  
The Asia-Pacific region is catching up with Europe and North America in the search for ways to reduce airlines' combined carbon footprint, as going easier on the environment has become an overriding priority for the…
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Airline execs predict ‘major changes’ amid pressure to cut emissions: Analyst

By Jared Mitovich   06/25/23  
Aviation executives foresee "major changes" to how people travel as sustainability demands grow, one analyst says. "It is kind of a new era," Callaway Climate Insights Founder and Editor-in-Chief David Callaway told Yahoo Finance Live…
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Want a climate-friendly flight? It’s going to take a while and cost you more

By David Koenig   06/24/23  
When it comes to flying, going green may cost you more. And it’s going to take a while for the strategy to take off. Sustainability was a hot topic this week at the Paris Air…
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By The Numbers: To What Extent Do Airplane Contrails Impact Climate Change?

By Justin Surette   06/23/23  
Condensation trails, otherwise known as “contrails,” are easy to see behind an aircraft on sunny days amidst a clear blue sky. Formed when hot, humid engine exhaust comes in contact with the cold low-pressure air…
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NASA kills its electric plane’s flight plan, citing safety concerns

By Rob Verger   06/23/23  
NASA said today in a conference call with reporters that it would not ever be flying its experimental electric aircraft, the X-57, citing safety concerns that are insurmountable with the time and budget they have…
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Lean green flying machines take wing in Paris, heralding transport revolution

By John Leicester   06/22/23  
Just a dot on the horizon at first, the bug-like and surprisingly quiet electrically-powered craft buzzes over Paris. Its traffic snarls, treating its doubtless awestruck passenger to privileged vistas of the Eiffel Tower and the…
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New firefighting planes sought across the warming planet are on their way, with a little delay

By John Leicester   06/20/23  
Production of a workhorse firefighting plane that is eagerly awaited in Europe to combat worsening mega-blazes fueled by climate change is running “a little bit” behind schedule, and the first will not be delivered before…
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Does Climate Change Impact Aircraft Engine Efficiency?

By Dr. Omar Memon   06/19/23  
Climate change has been a topic of significant interest in aviation. From OEMs to aircraft operators and material suppliers, all processes and products are optimized to minimize carbon footprint. Major contributors to aircraft performance are…
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Planes, Trains, and Decarbonization

By Dayton Martindale   06/15/23  
DAN CASTRIGANO'S LAST FLIGHT was on October 6, 2019. When the grade school teacher and climate activist realized that traveling by air made up 85 percent of his personal carbon footprint, he decided to never…
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Climate crisis leading to more turbulence during flights, says study

By Matthew Taylor   06/08/23  
The climate crisis is leading to more turbulence during flights, driving up costs and increasing the risks for passengers and crew, according to new research. The study found that warmer air, caused by carbon emissions,…
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Bombardier’s New Blended-Wing ‘EcoJet’ Cuts Emissions by 50%—and It’s Hitting the Skies Soon

By Michael Verdon   05/30/23  
The EcoJet project continues to transition from concept to reality after completing the first phase of testing on a small-scale model. Bombardier announced the results of the futuristic-looking business jet last week at EBACE in…
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Will Rising Temperatures Impact Aircraft Takeoffs?

By Justin Hayward and Sumit Singh   05/27/23  
Climate change and its effects on many areas have been a hot topic for some time. While the exact effects, and timescales, may be uncertain and continually debated, it is clear that temperatures are rising.…
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France bans short-haul flights in effort to fight climate change

05/24/23  
Air travel between Paris and regional hubs such as Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux will now be banned. France has formally banned domestic flights on short routes that can be covered by train in less than…
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Climate Coach from The Washington Post

By Michael J. Coren   05/18/23  
Every day, we burn about half a million gallons of leaded gasoline in the United States.
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Boeing’s new tool lets airlines plan for net zero emissions

By Joann Muller   05/17/23  
As the aviation industry wrestles with meeting its net zero emissions goal by 2050, Boeing is offering a new tool meant to help executives, policymakers and other leaders explore the risks and rewards of potential…
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New Technologies May Make a Big Impact on Business Aviation Sustainability

By Ryan Schradin   05/16/23  
With the growing awareness of the global impact of climate change on our planet, many organizations are looking at new metrics that are designed to measure a company’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) programs. ESG…
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UK and US to Strengthen Cooperation in Sustainable Aviation Fuel Development

By George Mwangi   05/16/23  
The UK's Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper is currently in the US to discuss a bilateral partnership on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) at the SAF Investment Summit in Detroit.
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How piloting planes helped lead to climate science research

By Kevin Bryson   05/15/23  
Most people are content with being a passenger in the air. Growing up, Tiffany Shaw and her family loved flying. When she was just 16 years old, she got her pilot’s license. She did not…
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There Needs to Be a Climate Tax for Frequent Fliers

By Sola Zheng   05/04/23  
How many times did you fly in 2019? If you took more than six flights, or three roundtrips, you flew more than 98% of the world population. Consequently, you also contributed much more carbon than…
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Private flights have boomed since the pandemic. Are taxpayers picking up the tab?

By Irina Ivanova   05/02/23  
When the COVID-19 pandemic brought air travel to a halt three years ago, one segment of the travel sector boomed: private jet travel, a super-luxe mode of transportation enjoyed by a fraction of the world's…
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NASA may have just cracked the code for replacing lithium in batteries for electric planes: ‘Double or even triple the energy it can store’

By Tokollo Matsabu   04/12/23  
NASA believes it has cracked the code in the quest to make electric planes a more viable technology.
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One startup is a big step closer to pilotless commercial cargo flights

By Alex Fitzpatrick   04/06/23  
Autonomous flight startup Xwing has submitted a key planning document to federal aviation regulators, Axios is first to report — a significant step in the company's quest toward commercial uncrewed cargo operations.
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Ionblox: The Battery Startup Ready To Change The World

By Will Lockett   03/18/23  
You may have noticed that there is a battery race going on right now. If you can make fast-charging, compact, easy-to-produce, and cheap batteries, then the world is your oyster. This has led to plenty…
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NASA Awardees to Develop Sustainable Aviation Composite Tech

03/16/23  
NASA has issued $50 million in awards to 14 organizations to develop manufacturing processes and advanced composite materials for aircraft structures. These green technologies hold the potential to help reduce aviation carbon emissions. The awards…
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Startup inks $65M deal to help Air Force make ‘sustainable’ jet fuel on bases

By Harri Weber   03/01/23  
Air Company, a startup that turns carbon dioxide into perfume, vodka, hand sanitizer and aviation fuel, is now on the U.S. Defense Department’s payroll, so to speak. The JetBlue and Toyota-backed company struck an up-to…
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America’s airports aren’t ready for climate change

By Adie Tomer and Caroline George   03/01/23  
Later this year, Congress is set to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which opens up the opportunity to modernize and reform the nation’s airports and airlines. While Congress has passed a flurry of unexpected…
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Carbon Calculating: Understanding Your Airline Travel Impact

By Mitch Ratcliffe   02/27/23  
Reducing travel for business and family visits is one of the most impactful choices we can make to reduce our climate impact. When we travel, we should make it count, but we can’t do that…
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Carbon Calculating: Understanding Your Airline Travel Impact

By Mitch Ratcliffe   02/27/23  
Reducing travel for business and family visits is one of the most impactful choices we can make to reduce our climate impact. When we travel, we should make it count, but we can’t do that…
Read more

Boeing Doubles Sustainable Aviation Fuel Purchase for Commercial Operations, Buying 5.6 Million Gallons for 2023

02/15/23  
Boeing [NYSE:BA] has agreements to purchase 5.6 million gallons (21.2 million liters) of blended sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) produced by Neste, the world's leading SAF producer, to support its U.S. commercial operations through 2023. These…
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The no-jet set: they’ve given up flying to save the planet

By Debra Kamin   02/06/23  
With airplanes producing a large amount of climate-warming emissions, a growing number of travelers are signing pledges to keep their journeys on the ground....
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Fully autonomous passenger planes are inching closer to takeoff

By Alex Fitzpatrick   02/03/23  
The world's biggest commercial aircraft makers seem increasingly convinced that autonomous passenger flight is a question of when, not if.
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Zeroavia Makes History With Largest Hydrogen-electric Powered Aircraft

By Brantsen Gill   01/30/23  
On Thursday, January 19, 2023, ZeroAvia successfully flew the world's largest hydrogen-electric powered aircraft. The 19-seat Dornier 228 departed from Cotswold Airport in the UK at 1:53 p.m. local time and completed tests at 2,000…
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JFK Airport’s New Terminal One Gets a Solar Boost

By Sri Taylor   01/26/23  
John F. Kennedy International Airport’s New Terminal One will get the largest rooftop solar array on any US airport — part of a set of sustainability features aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and blunting…
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NASA Issues Award for Greener, More Fuel-Efficient Airliner of Future

01/18/23  
NASA announced Wednesday it has issued an award to The Boeing Company for the agency’s Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project, which seeks to inform a potential new generation of green single-aisle airliners. Under a Funded Space…
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Automakers are pouring millions into “flying taxis”

By Joann Muller   01/05/23  
Nobody's putting wings on automobiles, but carmakers have emerged as key partners for a bevy of aviation startups working on electric "air taxis."
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Meet The Billionaire Who Wants To Build The Tesla Of Airplanes

By Jeremy Bogaisky   12/15/22  
Futuristic electric vertical-takeoff air taxis have grabbed all the headlines—and billions in venture dollars—but Singapore-based investor RICHARD CHANDLER thinks he has a better idea: conventional battery-powered aircraft that are cheaper to fly and more reliable…
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The “flying taxis” of the future are lifting off

By Joann Muller   12/07/22  
Some odd-looking aircraft are flying circles above strawberry and lettuce fields in rural California, as the next era in aviation draws closer. Why it matters: Powered by electric batteries and designed to take off like…
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1 big thing: SAFs are waiting for take off

By Ben Geman and Others   12/07/22  
"Sustainable" aviation fuels (SAFs), which are made from household solid waste, algae and other inputs, could dramatically cut emissions from air travel while also creating thousands of jobs, a new report finds, Andrew writes.
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Delta investing up to $200 million in air taxi startup Joby Aviation

By Joann Muller   10/11/22  
Delta Air Lines is partnering with Joby Aviation, a leading developer of electric air taxis, to make it easier and faster for customers to get to the airport. Why it matters: The partnership is an…
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Meet the “vertiport,” where you’ll go to hail an air taxi

By Joann Muller   09/26/22  
The skies could soon be filled with electric, autonomous air taxis, but they'll need a place to take off, land and recharge — hence the arrival of the "vertiport." Why it matters: These transportation hubs…
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News Release: Catalytic Process With Lignin Could Enable 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel

09/22/22  
An underutilized natural resource could be just what the airline industry needs to curb carbon emissions. Researchers at three institutions—the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT),…
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United doubles down on electric air taxis

By Jacob Knutson   09/08/22  
United Airlines announced Thursday it will invest $15 million into electric aircraft company Eve Air Mobility and purchase 200 of its electric air taxis with options to buy 200 more. Why it matters: The airline…
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The secret way airlines could immediately reduce their climate impact

By Michelle Ma   08/24/22  
Those innocuous-seeming puffs are responsible for more than 50% of flights’ climate impact and up to 2% of total global warming, and yet very little is known about them beyond academic circles. While airlines have…
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