After completing the world’s most intensive sustainable flight testing program over a period of five days, Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, has completed the world’s most intensive sustainable flight testing program. The airline operated 42 flights to test operational efficiencies, technology, and procedures that will reduce carbon emissions.
This year’s program, which coincided with Earth Day in 2022, consisted of 22 contrail avoidance flights over the course of three days.
“We believe this is the most intensive sustainability flight testing program ever conducted, and the results of which will contribute to reducing aviation’s carbon emissions and environmental impact as the learnings are implemented into standard airline operations across the industry,” said Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Aviation Group.
Some of the technologies and operational improvements we’ve evaluated are already available for implementation, and we’re well on our way to incorporating these innovations into standard operating procedures, which we hope will be copied throughout the industry. While certain technologies are still in their infancy, we will continue to collaborate with our partners to test and develop them in order to make them more widely available in the future. However, there are a number of significant solutions that are ready to be implemented, but which need industry and governmental support in order to become a reality. In other words, the industry must “rise to the task for.”
Etihad cites Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF), which are now more than six times more costly than ordinary aviation fuel and are so difficult to get that it is virtually not worth it to pursue them. But in order for the aviation sector to make the transition to greener energy, both SAF and Lower Carbon Aviation Fuel (LCAF) will be required.
“Policy reforms from governments, continuous research and development, supply chain advancements, and refinement improvements are all required to meet this issue,” Douglas said.
“The other major issue, which has a straightforward solution but necessitates a fundamental reorganization of the way things are currently done, is the need for the aviation industry, air traffic controllers, and regulators to modernize flight paths to allow for controlled climbs and continuous descents in the future. As a result of our demonstration EcoFlights, we’ve been able to save at least 40 minutes off flying durations while also lowering the CO2 content by around six tonnes, which is remarkable.”
A350-1000 aircraft, the Sustainable50 A350-1000, Etihad’s newest jet and a symbol of the airline’s dedication to sustainability in conjunction with its Greenliner program, became the first A350 to fly as an EcoFlight.
“Providing EcoFlights on the A350-1000 is a significant step forward as an example of the world’s two biggest aircraft manufacturers working together toward the common goal of aviation decarbonisation, as shown by Etihad’s comprehensive Sustainable50 and Greenliner sustainability programs.”
Included in the testing were technologies and procedures.
The optimization of flight routes, direct routing, and optimized descent were all coordinated with ANSPs to provide the best possible results.
In cold enough air, water vapour emitted from the engine exhaust condenses, resulting in the formation of microscopic ice crystals. This layer of cirrus clouds is formed when these ice crystals combine with the surrounding atmospheric conditions, creating a “blanket” effect that keeps warmer air confined in the lower altitudes. Etihad, in collaboration with the UK-based SATAVIA, avoids flying into certain places, therefore lowering non-CO2 emissions.
Variable speed during cruise: Pilots employ sophisticated software that recommends the best cruise speed depending on the real atmospheric conditions and weight of the aircraft on the day in question. Etihad is one of a small number of airlines that has partnered with Boeing to create the software used in this system. Each flight results in a fuel savings of around 1.5 percent.
In the case of landing on a runway that is suitably long, utilizing lowered flaps decreases drag and uses less power, resulting in lower fuel consumption and less drag during the approach phase. It also has the additional benefit of reducing noise annoyance near airports. Each strategy saves around 30kg of fuel, resulting in a total savings of roughly 60kg of fuel.
A reduced-engine taxi is one in which the majority of the ground motions are accomplished using the power of just one engine. When an airplane lands, Etihad minimizes carbon emissions generated by 20 to 40% by shutting down a single engine on the aircraft.
During the flight, the cabin lights were turned out for one minute as a symbolic gesture in honor of Earth Day, which was observed across the globe from 8:30pm to 9:30pm. Etihad’s EcoFlight was a first of its kind in the aviation industry.
The Greenliner and Sustainable50 programs, developed in collaboration with Boeing, Airbus, General Electric, and Rolls-Royce, serve as Etihad’s platform to foster industry collaboration and address the most pressing challenges the aviation industry faces in terms of decarbonisation. The programs serve as a testing platform as well as a call to industry, governments, and regulators for solutions-driven collaboration.
These programs, as well as Etihad’s continuing research and testing projects like as EcoFlights, are intended to inspire and engage partners from across the aviation industry to participate in and test sustainability solutions on scheduled 787 and A350 operations. Afterwards, the findings are evaluated and confirmed, with the most sustainable efforts being utilized as a foundation for further improvement of the worldwide airline community’s performance.
During the following weeks, the outcomes and data from Etihad’s Earth Day EcoFlight and Contrail flight testing programs will be created and studied in order to be contributed to the knowledge base that the company has established to assist the aviation sector on its road to decarbonization.