Aviation Sustainability and the Environment, CAPA 24-Feb-2020


British Airways outlines sustainability measures

London Heathrow Airport gains carbon neutral status for infrastructure

Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport unveils six commitments achieved in 2019

Brussels Airport commits to strengthening UFP reduction actions

This CAPA report features a summary of recent aviation sustainability and environment news, selected from the 300+ news alerts published daily by CAPA. For more information, please contact us.

British Airways outlines sustainability measures

British Airways announced (22-Feb-2020) it is forensically assessing its entire operation to identify amendments to sustainability. Key details include:

  • First class duvets are now made from 19 recycled plastic bottles;
  • Replacing seats on short haul aircraft with light weight versions, saving 9100 tonnes of CO2 p/a;
  • Taxi with a single engine on short haul services, saving 3700 tonnes CO2 p/a;
  • Introduction of light weight trolleys, saving 5000 tonnes of CO2 p/a;
  • Retract landing lights earlier on A320 fleet, burning less fuel and saving 8000 tonnes of CO2 p/a;
  • Replacing twizzle sticks with bamboo versions, saving 45 tonnes of plastic p/a;
  • Replacing plastic wraps on bedding with rubber bands, saving more than 19 millions pieces of plastic. [more - original PR]

Original report: Hrh the Prince of Wales Is Shown How British Airways’ Eye for the Detail Means It Can Think Big in Its Sustainability Plans

HRH The Prince of Wales has toured British Airways’ engineering base in Cardiff, seeing first-hand the changes, large and small, which the airline is making as it works towards more sustainable flying.

In front of more than 400 BA staff, His Royal Highness was shown the nose-to-tail focus on sustainability from the heavy-weight investments in new fuel-efficient aircraft, to the smallest detail of using a light-weight solder in aircraft repairs, bringing down the carbon footprint of each journey.

British Airways is forensically assessing its entire operation to find the little changes which add up to a big change of direction.

  • Each First-Class duvet is now made from 19 recycled plastic bottles
  • Replacing seats on short-haul aircraft with new lighter weight versions saves 9,100 tonnes of CO2 per year. That’s equivalent to more than 350 return flights from London to Berlin
  • We now taxi to the runway using a single engine taxi on short haul flights, saving 3,700 tonnes of CO2 per year, equivalent to more than 100 return flights from London to Madrid
  • Our lighter cabin trolleys save 5,000 tonnes of CO2 per year; that’s a saving equivalent to more than 300 return flights from London to Paris
  • We now retract our landing lights earlier on our A320 fleet, burning less fuel and saving 8,000 tonnes of CO2 per year; a saving equivalent to 150 return flights from London to Athens
  • We have replaced plastic swizzle sticks with bamboo versions, saving 45 tonnes of plastic per year
  • The plastic wraps on bedding have been replaced by paper bands. That adds up to more than 19 million pieces of plastic which have been removed

His Royal Highness was shown around a Boeing 787-9, one of the world’s most efficient aircraft, with the airline investing in a further 73 fuel-efficient and quieter aircraft to arrive before 2024.

Apprentices who work at British Airways Maintenance, Cardiff showed off the inside of the aircraft’s engine, explaining that work has now started on a project to convert household waste into sustainable aviation fuel. And on board the aircraft, he saw how many single use plastics were being replaced by sustainable alternatives.

As the event came to a close, HRH unveiled a plaque created from recycled aircraft parts to mark the visit.

British Airways’ Chairman and Chief Executive, Alex Cruz, who led the tour, said:

“It has been an honour to showcase our work in this area to His Royal Highness today.

Every decision we make at British Airways now starts with a simple question: what does that mean for our sustainability aspiration?

We’re now offsetting carbon emissions on all our flights within the UK, and were the first airline group to commit to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

We’ve got a lot of work to do, but keeping an eye on the detail as well as the bigger picture is the only way to get there.”

Louise Evans, Director of Communications & Corporate Responsibility said:

“From new, quieter and more fuel efficient aircraft to sustainable swizzle sticks that eliminate the use of single use plastic, we’re carrying out a huge transformation of the way we fly.

“His Royal Highness opened this engineering base 26 years ago, and we were delighted to welcome him back to our engineering base here in Cardiff so he can see for himself the steps we are taking to a sustainable future.”

London Heathrow Airport gains carbon neutral status for infrastructure

London Heathrow Airport gained (21-Feb-2020) carbon neutral status for its infrastructure efforts. The airport has targeted zero carbon by 2030 and has invested GBP100 million to improve energy efficiency, leading to a 93% emissions reduction from airport buildings and infrastructure since 1990. It will offset the remaining 7% through tree planting projects in Indonesia and Mexico certified through the Verified Carbon Standard. [more - original PR]

Original report: Heathrow Airport gains Carbon Neutral Status

Heathrow Airport (LHR/EGLL) has announced that it has gained Carbon Neutral status for its infrastructure.

The UK’s busiest airport has also become the first major airport in the world to target zero carbon by 2030.

The airport has invested £100 million in projects which improve the efficiency of energy use as well as sourcing renewable energy from suppliers.

Overall this has led to a reduction of carbon emissions from the airport buildings and infrastructure by 93% compared to 1990. Heathrowwill offset the remaining 7% of airport infrastructure emissions through tree planting projects in Indonesia and Mexico certified through the Verified Carbon Standard.

Heathrow Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye, said: “Making our infrastructure entirely carbon neutral is a significant milestone and a testament to the determination of our airport to help spearhead a new era of sustainable aviation. Our sights are now set on working with the global aviation industry to deliver on net-zero by 2050, at the latest. We can and will cut the environmental cost of flying whilst keeping the benefits of travel for future generations.”

The announcement comes as Heathrow Airport announced a further investment of £1.8 million for 2020 to kick-start UK nature-based carbon-saving projects to help to kick-start the restoration of natural UK carbon sinks.

These include peatlands, woodlands and farming soils which could save 43 megatonnes of carbon annually by 2050 if significant investments are made.

Heathrow Airport says that it can’t create this saving alone though, and will use its position to encourage others within the aviation industry to invest in these types of initiatives across the UK.

The UK Aviation Industry as a whole has committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport unveils six commitments achieved in 2019

Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport announced (20-Feb-2020) the airport achieved the following 2019-2021 commitments:

  • Achieve year-on-year improvement in injury statistics and aviation safety performance;
  • Delivery 1.5 days of training per employee p/a;
  • Continue to meet regulatory compliance requirements for noise and air quality;
  • Maintain 30% average annual use of recycled water at Terminal 1;
  • Remove plastic straws and single use plastic bags from terminals;
  • Recycle landside organic waste at Terminal 1. [more - original PR]

Excerpt from original report: Sustainability Report 2019

2019-2021 Sustainability commitments

Delivering on our commitments

Our 2019-2021 commitments embedded sustainability in all aspects of our business in line with the pillars of our strategy. Our flagship initiatives support these pillars and focus attention on issues where we can drive a step change in our performance. 

Responsible business

Being ethically responsible and transparent in how we do business.

Brussels Airport commits to strengthening UFP reduction actions

Brussels Airport announced (21-Feb-2020) plans to bolster actions to reduce ultrafine particle (UFP) emissions and ground noise from engine test runs. In addition to measures already being carried out, such as reducing taxiing times and electrification of ground infrastructure, the airport aims to implement the following measures:

  • Use of electric taxiing;
  • Differentiating airport charges based on emissions and noise;
  • Joining an EU research programme to provide sustainable aviation fuel;
  • Collaboration with researchers to apply innovative technologies for the reduction of UFP, such as UFP capture. [more - original PR]

Original report: Brussels Airport strengthens its actions to reduce ultrafine particle emissions and moves its engine

Brussels Airport strengthens its actions to reduce ultrafine particle emissions and moves its engine test run site.

Within the scope of Forum 2040, the open dialogue regarding the long-term development of the airport, Brussels Airport has committed to conducting further research in the fields of ultrafine particles (UFP) and of ground noise from engine test runs. From the ultrafine particles measurements carried out in 2019, it seems that, for UFP, the results are comparable to those from the study carried out four years earlier by the Flemish Environment Agency and to those at other airports. The average results are also comparable to those measured in built-up urban areas. Improving local air quality is part of Brussels Airport’s sustainability policy and a priority for the airport. Several measures to improve air quality have already been implemented. For instance, aircraft taxi time has been shortened, and passenger and service vehicles at the airport have been replaced by more eco-friendly vehicles. Moreover, Brussels Airport has decided to move the engine test run site to reduce the noise nuisance for people living near the airport.

1. Ultrafine particles

Emissions of ultrafine particles (UFP) are a global phenomenon. All fossil fuel-based traffic is a source of UFP, as well as many other forms of human activities. Studies carried out by the Flemish Environment Agency in 2015 have shown that road traffic in Flanders is the largest source of (ultra) fine particulate matter. Locally, air traffic contributes to increasing concentrations of ultrafine particulate matter. Worldwide, scientific research on UFP is still in its early stages. No threshold has been set by the World Health Organisation or other bodies yet. Brussels Airport is at the forefront of this research and was the first major airport to have measurements carried out outside its own airport site.

At the request of Brussels Airport, the VITO (Flemish Institute for Technological Research) has mapped out the emissions of ultrafine particles at 8 measurement points at and around the airport, over the course of two months in summer and two months in winter. The results are completely in line with an earlier study carried out by the Flemish Environment Agency in 2015, as well as with the results measured at other airports.

The average concentration of UFP in the airport's vicinity is 10 to 20 000 particles/cm³. This is comparable with measurement points in built-up urban areas. Locally, short peaks occur at times which can be up to 7 times higher. The highest peaks were measured on the runways themselves at take-off or landing. The concentration of UFP decreases rapidly as the distance to the airport site increases.

Ten measures to reduce ultrafine particles (UFP)

Brussels Airport did not wait for this study's results to act. Sustainability is a strategic priority of the airport and improving local air quality is part thereof. Brussels Airport has already implemented various measures to improve air quality around the airport and has launched several initiatives which will have an additional effect in the future.

This is how Brussels Airport is reducing UFP:

  1. All passenger transport on tarmac is carried out by electric buses since 2018.

  2. Service vehicles using diesel/petrol as fuel are being replaced by CNG service vehicles.

  3. Aircraft are immediately connected to the 400Hz ground power unit at their stand which allows to cut the aircraft engines as soon as possible and only restart them at the last possible moment.

  4. The taxi time of aircraft is kept as short as possible. An aircraft only leaves the gate after it can be guaranteed that it can taxi to the runway and take off immediately. This prevents various aircraft with running engines from having to wait for their turn at the runway. Aircraft are also held at the gate until it is known that they can land at their destination as quickly as possible. This prevents aircraft from needlessly circling in the air until allowed to land.

  5. There are differentiated rates for airlines based on noise performance. Thus, we wish to encourage the use of more modern and therefore less polluting aircraft. The noisiest aircraft pay up to 3 times more take-off and landing fees.

  6. Aircraft only taxi using a single engine. Even if that engine has to work a little harder, it produces fewer emissions than two engines.

  7. The possibilities of using electric taxiing are being examined. We are examining how we can apply this at the airport.

  8. The use of more modern and less polluting aircraft will be stimulated even more by further differentiating charges based on emissions and noise.

  9. Together with a number of international partners, Brussels Airport is the leading airport to join in an EU research programme to provide sustainable fuel (biofuel, synthetic fuel) at the airport and plays an active role in offering this to its airlines.

  10. Brussels Airport is collaborating with scientific researchers to apply innovative technologies for the reduction of UFP at the airport. For instance, the possibility of capturing UFP as close to its source as possible is being investigated.

The first six measures are already in place today. With the last four, Brussels Airport wants to help examine and implement sustainable innovative developments, to achieve even more improvement in the future.

2. Reducing ground noise during engine test runs

In another study, Brussels Airport mapped the impact of ground noise from engine test runs at two locations on the airport site: the current test run site, and the test run site that can be used as an alternative if the other one is not available. Engine test runs, which are required to guarantee the safety or aircraft operations, are carried out on average some 270 times a year. These engine test runs are compulsory among other things after maintenance on the engines of an aircraft. As an environmental measure, Brussels Airport stipulates that engine test runs may only take place between 7 am and 10 pm.

Over two weeks, measurements were carried out at 11 measurement points at and in the vicinity of the airport. The observed values varied greatly depending on the weather conditions. During some engine test runs, no significant increases in noise were observed at various measurement points in the vicinity. With other test runs, noise peaks of between 50 and 75 dB were measured. eThese measurement results form the basis for the search for alternatives to reduce noise pollution.

Brussels Airport has decided to move the engine test run site. The new location, in combination with the provision of noise mitigation measures, such as noise barriers, will reduce noise pollution for local residents. Technical studies and simulations are currently being carried out in order to obtain the best possible design at the most suitable location. At the same time, research is being carried out into innovative technological measures that could contribute to further noise reduction. The new engine test run site will be operational by the end of 2021.

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