The flights were to test operational efficiencies, technology and procedures that will reduce carbon emissions.
The programme, coinciding with Earth Day 2022, included 22 contrail prevention flights over the course of three days.
Tony Douglas, Group chief executive officer, Etihad Aviation Group, said: “We believe this is the most intensive sustainability flight testing programme ever conducted, 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.
“Some of the technologies and operational efficiencies we have tested can be implemented today and we’re well in the process of putting these innovations into standard operational procedures, which we hope to see replicated across the industry, while some technologies are still in their infancy and we’ll continue to work with our partners to test and develop these for future use. However, there are a number of impactful solutions which are ready to go, but require an industry and regulatory response to become practical, that the industry needs to raise to the challenge for.”
Etihad points to Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF), which are in excess of six times more expensive than conventional aviation fuels at the moment and incredibly difficult to the point of impractical to procure, acknowledging that both SAF and Lower Carbon Aviation Fuel (LCAF) are needed for aviation’s energy transition.
“This challenge needs policy changes from Governments, continued R&D, supply chain enhancements and refining improvements,” said Douglas.
“The other big area, which has a simple solution but requires fundamental restructure to the way things currently work, is for the industry, traffic controllers and regulators to modernise flight paths for controlled climbs and continuous descent. In our demonstration EcoFlights we've been able to take at least 40 minutes out of flight times and reduce the CO2 content by around six tonnes, which is incredible.”
Etihad’s newest aircraft and sustainability beacon alongside its established Greenliner programme, the Sustainable50 A350-1000, officially became the first A350 to operate as an EcoFlight.
“Operating EcoFlights on the A350-1000 is a big step forward as an example of the world’s two largest aircraft manufactures working in tandem for the mutual objective of aviation decarbonisation through Etihad’s comprehensive Sustainable50 and Greenliner sustainability programme.”
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