Seven of the world’s leading aerospace manufacturers have committed to making aviation more sustainable and meeting the net-zero carbon emission targets set for 2050. The Chief Technical Officers (CTOs) of Airbus, Boeing, Dassault, Rolls-Royce, General Electric, Safran, and Pratt & Whitney released a joint statement after their joint meeting in London on October 26, ahead of the COP26 climate summit which begins in Glasgow coming weekend. Notably absent is Embraer. Seven CTO’s commit to sustainability targets.

The OEMs confirm the targets recently announced by the Air Transport Action Group, which backed the IATA resolution adopted earlier this month to be net-zero in 2050. But they have each committed to working together on three specific areas.

The first is advancing the state-of-the-art in aircraft and engine design and technology. The aircraft and engine makers have already spent $75 billion in the past five years on research and technology to improve fuel efficiency by some twenty percent. “This relentless push for fuel efficiency is essential to meet aviation’s decarbonization targets, and for this reason, our companies remain focused on achieving similar of greater levels of efficiency gains in the coming years.” Improvements must also come from the optimal operation of aircraft and air traffic management.

The second target is supporting the increased availability of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) and investigating hydrogen as a fuel of the future. The CTO’s statement says that to meaningfully increase the availability of SAFs is a significant challenge “but not an insurmountable one”. It requires a joint effort from the supply chain, which gets full support from the OEM’s. Likewise, the seven CTO’s push for removing technical barriers for the use of 100-percent SAFs. Current regulations limit the use to only fifty percent. The seven companies say they will take an “active role in establishing the certification requirements for aviation fuels comprised of 100 percent synthesized hydrocarbons to allow the phase-out of fossil fuels.” The seven support the deployment of regional policy mechanisms and policy incentives that stimulate the production on SAF.

All seven CTO’s also say “we firmly believe that hydrogen will play a key role in the sustainable future of aviation as a source of cleaner energy, regardless of its final application. (…) Securing an abundant supply of green hydrogen for use in aviation must be a priority.” The statement leaves room for the OEMs to develop their preferred hydrogen technology. While Airbus is at the forefront of hydrogen and wants to have an airliner available by 2035, Boeing foresees a near-term role for SAFs while developing hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Mature novel technologies

The third target mentioned in the joint statement is continuing to mature novel technologies that eventually will enable net-zero while maintaining the safety and quality standards of the industry. “Our companies welcome the opportunity to accelerate the development of new technologies by collaborating across the public sector, industry, and academia. (…) A renewed focus is now required to increase the scale and duration of our collaboration to provide aviation manufacturers with stable support over the long and complex technology development process.”

For new technologies to be successful, it needs support from other stakeholders like suppliers, infrastructure operators, and fuel providers to mature supply chains and support infrastructure. Fresh and creative input from students and universities is most important here.

The seven CTO’s that’s signed the statement are Sabine Klauke (Airbus), Naveed Hussain (Boeing), Bruno Stoufflet (Dassault Aviation), Christopher Lorence (GE Aviation), Francis R. Preli (Pratt & Whitney), Paul Stein (Rolls-Royce), and Eric Dalbies (Safran).

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