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.”




Pure Electric

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

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

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All-Electric Air Mobility

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Boeing jets emissions data highlights industry’s green challenge

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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

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

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

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

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.


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

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United Partners with Corporate Customers to Fund Sustainable Aviation Fuel

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United Airlines to Lead Industry Switch to Sustainable Aviation Fuel with Global Corporations, Customers

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Is Elon Musk About To Make The Aviation Industry Obsolete?

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Electric Aviation Could Be Closer Than You Think

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Airbus announces concept designs for zero-emission, hydrogen-powered airplanes

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JetBlue is the First U.S. Airline to Commit to and Achieve Carbon Neutrality for All Domestic Flying

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