The global aviation industry produces around 2% of all human-made CO2 emissions and is responsible for over 12% of CO2 emissions from all sources of transport – according to the Air Transport Action Group. With these numbers in mind, the industry has worked hard to reduce its environmental impact in the form of alternative fuel sources to power airports, the introduction of sustainable aviation fuels, the inclusion of new technologies and much more. Moreover.
Over the years, SITA has developed new technologies to support emission reduction for industry and infrastructure to improve operational efficiency. The company’s commitment to reducing its environmental impact led to the setting of a carbon neutrality goal by 2022, although ambitious, the company was able to achieve this goal a year before the target date.
Following carbon neutral certification, the company strives to further reduce emissions, maintain its annual certification renewal and help the industry on the path to reducing its carbon emissions.
We speak with Sergio Colella, President of SITA Europe, to discuss the solutions the company offers to the industry as well as what more the industry should do to achieve a more environmentally friendly future.
Frankie Youd (FY): The company has been certified carbon neutral, what steps have been taken to achieve this status?
Sergio Colella (SC): Today, it is more important than ever for airlines to operate in a more sustainable financial and environmental manner. SITA is well aware of these financial and environmental challenges, and we are delighted to do our part.
We have set ourselves the ambitious goal of becoming a carbon neutral company by 2022, an ambition that I am pleased to say we officially achieved this month when we were certified as a CarbonNeutral company. ® (in accordance with CarbonNeutral Procotol, the leading global standard for carbon neutral programs) one year ahead of our target date. This is the result of decisive actions taken to reduce all emissions related to business operations by 2020.
At the same time, we wanted to help our customers become more sustainable. We have adapted our portfolio and introduced new or supplemented solutions that help our customers reduce their fuel consumption and their carbon footprint on the ground, with solutions that optimize flight paths and limit taxiing times on the runway, for example in the skies thanks to flexible flight planning and precise fuel evaluation. The results are immediate and concrete.
At present, what solutions does SITA offer the industry to further support it in its objective of becoming more respectful of the environment?
Our current goal is to help the industry meet its carbon reduction commitments. We are working on the development of the following technology to support the reduction of CO2 emissions:
SITA airport management has introduced an optimization function that measures, predicts and reduces carbon emissions in various areas of the airport, including the rotation, landing and take-off cycles of aircraft (e.g. example, stand allocation and taxi times), operating infrastructure such as the airport terminal and ground transportation systems. This feature allows significant CO2 savings for an airport and can be easily implemented overnight.
We acquired the digital solutions start-up Safety Line to strengthen our sustainable aviation portfolio. The integration of a green technology solution, OptiFlight, with our pilot application eWAS, will offer greater efficiency to our customers. Using machine learning performance models, accurate 4D weather forecasts, and personalized recommendations to pilots for each flight, these easy-to-use guidance solutions help avoid inclement weather, reduce fuel consumption and limit aircraft CO2 emissions at key stages of flight. For example, for a Boeing B777, we can achieve estimated fuel and carbon savings of 234 kg per climb with a reduction of 214 tonnes of CO2 per year per aircraft tail.
FlightFolder is another solution we introduced to the market this year that digitizes pilot briefings and improves situational awareness. Not only are digital flight briefings completely paperless – less weight on the plane and therefore less fuel consumption – but they are also instantaneous. This means less delays and faster decision making as opposed to the wait for traditional paper upgrades. When integrated with complementary tools like our eWAS Pilot app, pilots gain a higher level of situational awareness to make even better and faster decisions about carbon and fuel savings.
Transavia used OptiClimb and OptiDirect, which resulted in fuel and carbon emissions savings estimated at 82 kg per climb, with a reduction of 223 tonnes of CO2 per year per aircraft tail.
More recently, business jet maker Bombardier announced that its brand new challenger 3500 relies on the eco-powered application powered by SITA, an innovative tool that combines SITA’s eWAS Pilot and OptiFlight solutions to specifically optimize flight plans and reduce fuel consumption, further decreasing the aircraft’s environmental footprint.
What more do you think the industry could / should do?
Covid-19 has led to huge demand on our industry – and indeed many other industries – to cut costs, do more with less, and streamline operations. It is also a real opportunity for the industry to simultaneously achieve greater profitability, while making progress in reducing carbon emissions in the short term.
Measures that help improve operations, such as efficient procedures and weight reduction measures; and improving infrastructure, such as airplanes and associated infrastructure, represent the greatest opportunities for airlines today.
“Covid-19 has led to huge demand on our industry to cut costs, do more with less, and streamline operations. It is also a real opportunity for the industry to simultaneously achieve greater profitability while making progress in reducing carbon emissions in the short term. “
The efficiency of flight operations can be greatly improved through real-time air-ground collaboration. Today, the processes are complex and time-consuming. The multiple stakeholders in the field often work in organizational silos at different airport sites and, in the case of dispatchers, sometimes even from their homes.
We saw an opportunity, in collaboration with Microsoft, to develop our Mission Control application. Using the Teams platform, which many employees are already familiar with, it facilitates real-time collaboration between cockpit, ground control, gate and runway personnel. It helps airlines better manage operational variability, optimizing turnaround times while minimizing fuel consumption and ultimately carbon emissions.
Using this tool, a pilot facing a rerouting, for example, can inform an aircraft refueller that they need less fuel than initially expected for the upcoming refueling process. This saves on transporting unnecessary fuel for the next flight, optimizing the refueling process, not only reducing costs for the airline, but leading to a more sustainable use of fuel.
Another key area where we believe technology can have a major impact is theft. Before Covid-19 hit, the real congestion challenge was not on the ground but in the airspace at large.
What would you like the future to have in store for the industry in terms of reducing its carbon footprint?
Aviation is vital for modern society and the global economy, therefore, building a more sustainable industry is essential for associated sectors like commerce, tourism and business.
“Pressure on the airline industry to become more financially and environmentally sustainable has accelerated due to the impact of Covid-19. “
Pressure on the airline industry to become more financially and environmentally sustainable has accelerated due to the impact of Covid-19. Airlines are increasingly turning to technology to reduce fuel consumption in order to cut costs, while reducing their carbon footprint.
Through technology, significant cost and carbon savings can be achieved through operational and infrastructure efficiencies that reduce fuel consumption. Efficiencies such as: Weight reduction and more durable flight by optimizing flight paths and accurately evaluating fuel.
For airports, flights tend to be the primary source of an airport’s emissions. An external scientific study reports that over 97% of an airport’s annual emissions are linked to flight arrivals and departures. As such, operational efficiencies such as aircraft rotation and landing and departure cycles remain critical.
Do you think the industry should be subsidized by government agencies / authorities to further assist changes beneficial to the environment?
Government investment will play a critical role in the airline industry’s path to net zero, especially in funding technology projects that promote sustainability and digitization. These projects will help the industry to decarbonise faster.
We also see that passengers demanding a more sustainable aviation model, especially in Europe, will reward companies leading the way in reducing their environmental impact.