(01 Nov 2021)
Etihad Airways operated its most sustainable flight
ever on 23 October, leveraging the efficiencies developed over the
last two years of its comprehensive sustainability programme to
reduce carbon emissions (CO2) by 72% in absolute terms, compared to
the equivalent flight operated in 2019.

The London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi flight is part of
the Etihad Greenliner Programme – a two-year partnership between
Etihad and Boeing using Etihad’s Boeing 787 fleet as a test bed
for sustainability improvements in partnership with organisations
across the industry.

The flight required
coordination with airspace management for optimised flight
routing, new technology flight deck tools, sustainable aviation
fuel (SAF), contrail reduction and airport handling processes.

In an industry-first, EY20 was the first
commercial flight to explore contrail-avoidance. Working with
UK-based SATAVIA, the team identified potential areas of ice
super-saturated regions in the atmosphere where harmful contrails
are likely to form, and the flight route was adjusted to avoid
those areas.

Based on the original and adjusted flight plan, the
strategy avoided the production of approximately 64 tonnes of
CO2e, with a fuel penalty of only 100kg, or 0.48 tonnes CO2.

“These are noteworthy savings,” said Mohammad Al
Bulooki, Chief Operating Officer, Etihad Aviation Group. “When
Etihad committed to achieve net zero, it was acknowledged that it
was only possible if the airline worked collaboratively and
positively with our industry partners. That is exactly what Etihad
has done with the Sustainable Flight. Of equal importance, Etihad,
Boeing and its partners – airports, ANSP, and suppliers – used the
flight to learn where further improvements could be made.”

The contributions covered three phases, planning,
in-flight and post-flight. This included preparing the aircraft,
engines and route planning systems to optimise take-off, en-route
and landing flight paths and trajectories, minimising contrail
formation, working with our guests to reduce their luggage and
rewarding those that travelled light.

Etihad provided catering that was appropriately
sourced and served on sustainable crockery and with light-weight
cutlery. The crockery itself is part of a circular recycling
process where they are returned to the manufacturer at the end of
their serviceable life and ground down to its raw material and
remade. Guests were also provided with environmentally friendly
plant-based water bottles and limited-edition tote bags from
upcycled aircraft materials. 80% of all single use plastics were
eliminated.

Once the aircraft arrived in Abu Dhabi, it was
serviced by Etihad’s new fleet of electric vehicles for ground
logistics such as baggage unloading. Where electric vehicles were
unable to be used, Etihad purchased bio-diesel to fuel equipment
such as the airline’s passenger coach service between Abu Dhabi
and Dubai, meaning all passengers, including those transiting to
Dubai, were completely carbon neutral for the entirety of their
journey.

The data gathered from the aircraft’s sensors was
added to Etihad’s growing database on flight performance, and
analysed using tools from Greenliner partner, GE Digital to
improve understanding of flight performance and allow quick
recognition of unsustainable activities.

“A fundamental part of the Greenliner programme is
to explore the art of the possible. It is well known that SAFs are
a credible alternative to current fossil fuels, however they are
currently very expensive, and difficult to source and load onto
the aircraft. EY20 was a dramatic example of those constraints
wherein Etihad was unable to directly load the 38% SAF blend into
the aircraft given inherent infrastructure constraints at Heathrow
Airport. Instead, the SAF purchased by Etihad was loaded into the
fuel hydrant system, which serves all airport users. While the
EY20 did not in itself realise the full potential of the SAF, the
potential benefit in CO2 reductions is real. Industry and
governments must work together to address these issues through the
funding of the research and development of SAFs and other parts of
the planning and operating of flights. Etihad is looking forward
to working on these issues,” Al Bulooki said.

Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer,
Etihad Aviation Group, said, “The entire emissions reduction we
achieved on this flight was through the operational steps and
efficiencies employed and did not rely on off-sets. Nonetheless,
off-sets, if done rigorously, also play a part in our sustainable
future. The UAE has a large stock of mangroves which present
nature-based solutions. In addition to their ability to reduce
pollution from water and the atmosphere, if maintained properly,
mangrove forests have the potential to avoid the release of CO2
into the atmosphere. That is why each guest on board this Etihad
flight will have a tree adopted for them in Abu Dhabi’s Jubail
Island Mangroves plantations. Adoption involves the maintenance
and reforestation of existing forests with carbon storage
potential. This is an important initiative for greening the UAE.

“I want to
pay particular tribute to our partners; Boeing, NATS, Eurocontrol,
GE Aviation, Vitol, SATAVIA, deSter, Sola The Netherlands,
ButterflyCup, Agthia, Jubail Island Mangroves and DNata Catering.
This is only possible when we all work together, and we all commit
to making whatever savings we can.”

See also:

The contribution of global aviation to anthropogenic climate
forcing for 2000 to 2018.


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