Farnborough Air Show: A Green Mobility Roundup

Amid the scorching and record-breaking heat, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, aircraft financiers, and everyone otherwise interested in the aviation industry convened at the Farnborough International Airshow for exhilarating demonstration flights, headline aircraft orders, and post-lockdown networking. Here is our overview of some of the 15 most important Green Mobility developments from FIA 2022.

McKinsey Report Outlines Shift Towards Sustainable Aviation. A report by McKinsey & Company states that funding and investment in sustainable aviation grew from just 2% of sector funding in the first half of 2021 to 23% in 2022.  Much of this growth can be attributed to the capital intensity of manned eVTOL and other clean sheet designs, in addition to myriad efforts aimed at redesigning propulsion systems to utilise hydrogen fuel cell, battery electric, and hybrid power technologies. Whilst funding towards sustainable aviation has increased in the first half of 2022 compared to the year prior, special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) -related deals have dwindled from 2.8bn USD in 2021 to 800m USD in 2022. Finally, the consulting firm also believes that following significant investments and funding in the future air mobility industry in 2021, the sector may see a pause in inward investment for some time.

Airbus and CFM International Launch a Flight Test Demonstrator for Advanced Open Fan Architecture. Airbus and CFM have announced a collaboration to flight test open fan engine architecture on the airframer’s A380-derived test bed. The scheme is set to achieve several objectives which include, among other things, enhance understanding of engine/wing integration and aerodynamics and validate performance benefits of the open fan design, including a potential reduction in CO2 upwards of 20%.

Boeing and Alder Fuels Partner to Scale Sustainable Aviation Fuel Globally. Boeing and Alder Fuels have announced a new partnership to expand the global production of SAF and to use Boeing Aircraft to test and qualify Alder’s SAF offerings. According to a Boeing press release, Alder Fuels’ proprietary technology enables the efficient conversion of abundant, sustainable forest residues and regenerative biomass into a low-negative carbon “greencrude” for jet fuel conversion. “Alder’s technology offers a future of gathering energy to power aircraft, instead of drilling for it, by converting widely available sustainable biomass into a sustainable product for refining into SAF,” said Alder Fuels CEO Bryan Sherbacow. “We can now scale up supply to meet the aviation industry’s demand. This partnership with Boeing will expedite SAF availability around the globe, advance policies that ensure sustainability and foster environmental justice, and cultivate local economies.”

easyJet and Rolls-Royce Partner to Develop Hydrogen Combustion Engine Technology with the H2ZERO Scheme. The two British companies have committed to collaborating on a series of engine tests on the ground, starting later this year and have a shared ambition to take the technology into the air, with the eventual aim to demonstrate that hydrogen has the potential to power a range of aircraft from the mid-2030s onwards. According to a Rolls-Royce press release, the agreement follows a research project dating back to 2021 which aimed at developing a market analysis, driving specifications, investigating infrastructure and regulatory requirements to support the use of hydrogen in aviation. Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet, said: “In order to achieve net zero by 2050, we have always said that radical action is needed to address aviation’s climate impact. That’s why today, we are so pleased to announce this partnership with Rolls-Royce. The technology that emerges from this programme has the potential to power easyJet-size aircraft, which is why we will also be making a multi-million-pound investment into this programme”.

Airbus Invests in a Clean Hydrogen Infrastructure Fund. The Hy24 fund, a joint venture between Ardian and FiveTHydrogen, is one of the largest clean hydrogen infrastructure funds and large-scale green hydrogen infrastructure projects world-wide. According to Airbus, the airframer’s involvement in the fund “assures its commitment to the scaling up of a global hydrogen economy, a prerequisite for the successful entry-into-service of its zero-emission commercial aircraft by 2035.”

Widerøe First Airline to Join Embraer’s Energia Advisory Group. Norwegian airline Widerøe has signed an MoU with Embraer that will see the companies working together to define and establish the real-world requirements for sustainable, emission free, and commercially viable, aviation. The agreement follows a previous project between the airline, the Brazilian airframer, and engine manufacturer Rolls Royce which aimed at studying a truly zero emission aircraft (zero NOx and other greenhouse gases) with a capacity of 50 seats. Arjan Meijer, President and CEO Embraer Commercial Aviation, said, “We’re proud of our association with Widerøe, who have become a powerful voice globally in the drive for sustainable aviation, and were recently named ‘Eco-Airline of The Year’ by Air Transport World. Widerøe’s expertise in, and commitment to, sustainable aviation is unrivalled. The experience they and subsequent group members bring to the program will be a key foundation of Energia’s successful development.”

ZeroAvia and PowerCell Sign an MoU Regarding Joint of Fuel Cell Stacks for Aviation. ZeroAvia and PowerCell have signed an MoU that will see joint development and deliveries of at least 5,000 aviation-optimised Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell stacks between 2024 and 2028. As part of the agreement, PowerCell will establish a UK production facility for the first time. Speaking on the MoU, Richard Berkling, CEO, PowerCell Sweden AB, said: “Working with ZeroAvia has been a core plank of our entry into the clean aviation market, which is a very large future market for fuel cell technology.”

Boeing Secures Customers for the Jeppesen FliteDeck Advisor (FDA); a Digital Tool Which Can Optimise Operational Efficiency and Reduce Fuel Consumption. Virgin Atlantic, Corendon Dutch Airlines and Albawings have selected the FDA to measure aeroplane-specific performance metrics which enables flight crews to make real-time adjustments to their airspeed to optimise fuel use and minimise the carbon footprint of each flight. According to Boeing, Virgin Atlantic found that the FDA delivered cruise fuel savings of 1.7%, saving approximately 1,900 kilograms of CO2 per flight across the three-month trial on the carrier’s 787 aircraft. “We know that our customers are committed to achieving sustainability targets for their aircraft, and our suite of digital solutions are ready to deliver fuel reductions and track emissions,” said Duane Wehking, vice president of Digital Aviation Solutions at Boeing Global Services.

GE Digital, Microsoft, and Teradata Partner to Reduce Carbon Emissions in the Aviation Industry. The three American companies have partnered to develop a selection of digital tools aimed at providing aircraft operators with the data they need to record, report, and reduce emissions. According to a GE press release, GE Digital will provide high fidelity flight data and fuel efficiency analytics to identify specific opportunities to reduce fuel and emissions, Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability will enable reporting across aircraft operation stakeholders through its common data model and streamlined data capture and Teradata’s Vantage multi-cloud data and analytics platform via Flight Data Link will allow for the integration of additional operational and financial data sources via the airline industry’s data model, as well as powerful analytics to understand root cause of non-adherence to fuel saving opportunities. Andrew Coleman, General Manager of GE Digital Aviation Software. “While new technologies are key to achieving that in the long term, we need to make progress now. We have the data and solutions that can help the industry make strides by leveraging data airlines already have.”

Qantas Chooses GE Digital to Help Improve Airspace Efficiency. GE’ Digital’s Airspace Insight suite of solutions have been chosen by the Australian airline in order to identify and quantify airspace inefficiencies to reduce overall flight time, fuel burn, and carbon emissions. According to a GE press release, it is estimated that a typical flight emits 900 to 1,000 kg of excess carbon per flight due to inefficient airspace design and air traffic control practices, and the tool will allow Air Traffic Control (ATC), airlines, airports, airspace designers, and communities) to not only identify inefficiencies in an airspace, but also to recognize unnecessary flight paths over environmentally sensitive areas, helping reduce the impact of noise and pollution. ​

Airbus, Air Canada, Air France-KLM, easyJet, International Airlines Group, LATAM Airlines Group, Lufthansa Group and Virgin Atlantic sign Letters of Intent to explore carbon removal solutions for aviation. Major airlines such as Air Canada, Air France-KLM, easyJet, International Airlines Group, LATAM, Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic have signed letters of intent with Airbus to further explore a future supply of carbon removal credits from direct air carbon capture technology. As part of the agreement, the airlines have committed to explore and negotiate the pre-purchase of verified and durable carbon removal credits in 2025 to 2028 which will be issued by 1PointFive, a subsidiary of Occidental’s Low Carbon Ventures. Speaking on the matter, Michael Avery, 1PointFive’s President, said “We’re excited to partner with Airbus. Carbon removal credits from direct air capture offer a practical, near-term and lower cost pathway that enables the aviation industry to advance its decarbonisation goals,” whilst easyJet’s Director of Sustainability, Jane Ashton, noted “direct air capture is a nascent technology with a huge potential, so we are very pleased to be part of this important initiative. We believe that carbon removal solutions will be an essential element of our pathway to net zero, complementing other components and helping us to neutralise any residual emissions in the future.”

Boeing Unveils Model to Show Best Routes to Zero Carbon Future. Boing has announced a new data modelling tool called Cascade which is capable of showing the most effective scenarios to reach the aviation industry’s climate objectives. According to a Boeing press release, the Cascade model takes into account the airframer’s four-pillared path to reducing the industry’s emissions which include fleet renewal, renewable energy sources such as sustainable fuel, hydrogen, electric propulsion, operational efficiency improvements, and new advanced technologies. Boeing Chief Sustainability Officer Chris Raymond said “There are multiple ways to a future where aviation has zero climate impact. We created Cascade on a foundation of credible data and analytical models to allow users to explore various pathways to net-zero. We think this model will help our industry visualise, for the first time, the real climate impact of each solution, from beginning to end, and to inform the most probable and effective strategies”.

Boeing Announces Aviation Impact Research Project with the University of Cambridge. Boeing has partnered with the University of Cambridge on the Aviation Impact Accelerator (AIA); a group which produces interactive, evidence-based models to understand the pathways to net zero flight. Prof Rob Miller FREng, Director Whittle Lab & AIA Lead said “We are excited that Boeing is partnering with the Aviation Impact Accelerator. Achieving an aviation sector with no climate impact is one of society’s greatest challenges and it is only through a true partnership between industry, academia, and government that we will be able to understand the whole system and accelerate change. Boeing will be a central partner in the project, joining experts from around the world in business, human behaviour, policy, as well as technology with the goal of helping better inform decision makers and the public, and driving forward the path to zero emission aviation.”

Airbus Signs a Partnership Agreement with Cranfield University to Build Future Skills. Cranfield University is the latest university to join the Airbus Academic Programme (AAP), a scheme which aims to foster long-term collaboration in all areas of mutual interest, including the development of strategic competences, notably in the fields of decarbonisation, digital transformation, software engineering and cyber technology, in addition to creating a talent pipeline. Professor Dame Helen Atkinson DBE FREng, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the School of Aerospace, Transport Systems and Manufacturing at Cranfield, welcomed the partnership: “Cranfield has a long association with Airbus and this is a huge strategic partnership for us, both in research and development but also in employment. We are looking forward to helping rebuild the industry as we regenerate after a very difficult time.”

Boeing Becomes Founding Member of UK Innovation Hub to Drive Sustainable Aviation Fuels Development. Boeing has become the founding member of the University of Sheffield’s Energy Innovation Centre, which will help test and certify new sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and investigate different methods of producing SAF. The partnership was backed by £7 million of UK Government funding. Aviation Minister Robert Courts MP said: “This new partnership is a great opportunity to boost the use of sustainable aviation fuels. The University of Sheffield has two of the world’s greatest research facilities which Boeing, and hopefully many more, can now use – a crucial step towards a jet zero future. Decarbonising the aviation industry remains one of the Government’s top priorities, and earlier this year we set out plans for the first transatlantic flight powered by sustainable aviation fuel to take to the skies in 2023.”

Bonus: How “Green” Was the 2022 Farnborough Airshow? Our Editor’s Take: Based on the 15 deals, announcements, and sustainable aviation developments outlined above, one could be made to believe that green aviation was among the most prominent themes at the show. However, the mood on the ground was quite different, and sustainability, overall, felt quite muted. Perhaps because of the war in Ukraine, the defence sector’s attendance at the show was omnipresent and overshadowing, and much of the commercial aviation sector’s attention was, understandably, focused on rebuilding from the catastrophic lockdowns of years prior. Moreover, the lack of an awe inspiring, cheer-inducing, sustainable aviation announcement from an established manufacturer, such as a nearly certification-ready open-fan engine or major electric or hydrogen aircraft development, for example, and the modest presence of SAF producers or other energy suppliers, did little to add to the dampened sustainability theme. The significant presence of the future air mobility sector, such as Eviation, Lillum, Vertical Aerospace, and Supernal, to name a few, did, however, provide a glimpse into a better, greener, aviation sector. However, for the Green Mobility Magazine team, something big was missing at the show between the aviation sector’s near-term recovery, and its ambitions and visions for the future.