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Flying green

Satu Dahl reports from Sweden on her ‘Perfect Flight’ experience with Swedish regional airline BRA with the lowest possible carbon emissions

Thursday 16 May began with beautiful sunshine, providing excellent weather conditions for the ‘Perfect Flight’ arranged by Swedish regional airline BRA in collaboration with Air BP, ATR and Neste. The chosen departure location for the flight, Halmstad City Airport in southern Sweden, was also more than fitting – Halmstad City Airport was one of the first airports in Sweden to offer its customers sustainable aviation fuel, all of its ground vehicles are 100% fossil free and it has solar panels on its terminal roof which produce electricity for the airport’s usage.


72 passengers were welcomed on board the ATR 72-600 (turboprop which has excellent environmental credentials), and after a very smooth hour-long journey, the flight arrived into Stockholm’s Bromma airport. The day was a proud moment for the Swedish regional aviation industry – according to BRA, this was the first time ever that every element of a flight was optimised to keep carbon emissions to a minimum. The flight was powered by 50% sustainable aviation fuel, which is currently the maximum allowed blend. It was revealed at the end of the day that the flight had managed to reduce net emissions of CO2 by a very impressive 46% compared to the same flight with fossil fuel and, in doing so, it became the world's most climate-efficient passenger flight with current technology.


Up and away

BRA, Sweden’s well-established regional carrier, is well known for its efforts to reduce its impact on the environment. BRA says that in April this year, it became the first commercial airline in the world to compensate for all of its emissions, with the cost included in the ticket price. This is by no means the only green initiative for the airline. Anna Soltorp, Head of Sustainability at BRA, explains that in March, the airline launched a new scheme called the ‘Environmental Class’ which allows passengers to make a greener choice when booking their flights. Flying in Environmental Class costs passengers an additional SEK 300 (around £24/€27) and includes a choice of using biofuel to reduce fossil carbon dioxide emissions in addition to including emissions compensation, with BRA investing in projects that reduce carbon dioxide emissions at the same level as the flight’s emissions. By choosing the environmental flight class, passengers are able to significantly reduce their personal net emissions.


According to BRA, a fully climate-optimised flight is achieved by considering many different factors, which include flying with the most fuel-efficient aircraft available, using the maximum 50% allowed quantity of sustainable aviation fuel, as well having a fully booked flight. Johan Molarin, captain of the ‘Perfect Flight’, says that in addition, it is important that the flight is taking the most direct route and that descent is performed with low thrust.


We want to continue to fly ‘perfectly’ in the future. To achieve this, it is important that we can access sustainable aviation fuel in sufficient quantities and at the right price. For that we need political initiatives. We intend to continue the development of sustainable flying to make every flight as close to perfect as we possibly can. As a society we need to take action to combat climate change and drastically reduce emissions, aviation must play its part in this. Today, we have demonstrated what can be achieved through more efficient flying without compromising connectivity. It is another positive step forwards,” Soltorp states.


Fuelling sustainability

The sustainable fuel for the flight, which is developed from non-palm renewable and sustainable raw materials, was produced by Neste and supplied by Air BP. Air BP, the aviation division of BP and Neste, and the world's largest producer of renewable diesel, refined from waste and residues, entered into an agreement in October 2018 to explore opportunities to increase the supply and availability of sustainable aviation fuel for airline customers. Tom Parsons, Air BP’s Biojet Commercial Development Manager, commented on the day of the flight: “At Air BP, we are committed to working across the industry to meet our collective carbon reduction goals. This flight has highlighted what is possible when we all work together and we are proud to have been the supplier of sustainable aviation fuel for this perfect flight. We will continue to look for ways to reduce emissions in our own operations and for our customers.” Air BP, which has supplied its BP biojet-branded sustainable aviation fuel to commercial airlines customers at over 10 airport locations, was the first to supply sustainable aviation fuel at Oslo airport in Norway through the existing airport fuelling infrastructure. It also supplies several other Nordic airports, including Kalmar Airport in Sweden.


Neste, which has refineries in Finland, the Netherlands and Singapore and was placed third on the Corporate Knights 2019 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations list, announced in December last year that it is investing in an additional renewable products production capacity in Singapore to meet growing global market demand for low-carbon solutions. The company said the investment will extend Neste’s renewable product overall capacity in Singapore by up to 1.3 million tonnes per annum, totalling close to 4.5 million tonnes annually in 2022.


Neste and Air BP also recently announced that the companies will be offering sustainable aviation fuel at Stockholm Arlanda and Caen airports in support of the business aviation sector’s Sustainable Alternative Jet Fuel (SAJF) initiative. “We are extremely happy to be able to offer sustainable aviation fuel to the business aviation community. In decreasing emissions from aviation, sustainable aviation fuel represents the only viable alternative to fossil liquid fuels for powering commercial aircraft. Collaborating with Air BP, we can find the best ways of developing robust supply chains to ensure that sustainable aviation fuel is more widely accessible to aviation customers”, said Peter Vanacker, Neste’s President and CEO.


Perfect aircraft

The aircraft used on the day was the ATR 72-600, with BRA’s fleet featuring several of the type. It was an ideal choice for the flight – according to ATR, the European turboprop manufacturer, its 72-600 has an environmental advantage compared to other types of aircraft, producing 40% fewer carbon emissions per trip compared with regional jets and saving 4,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per aircraft per year. ATR says its ATR 42 and the ATR 72 are the best-selling aircraft in the market segment of 90 seats or less and that, compared with other turboprops, ATRs offer an advantage of 40% on fuel burn, 20% on trip cost and 10% on seat cost, whilst offering the lowest noise emissions. According to ATR, turboprops are more efficient on short flight as they accelerate the air using less power, resulting in less fuel consumption.


ATR is also active in other areas of sustainable development and is continuously exploring ways to minimise the company’s impact on the environment. In December 2018, the manufacturer announced that it had won the Gold award at the Ecomobility Trophies ceremony which aims to highlight companies that have put in place transport plans that are considered exemplary when it comes to sustainable development. In 2016, ATR strengthened its environmental ambitions by reviewing its transport plan, an economic, social and environmental initiative designed to rise to the challenges of sustainable development and improve working conditions for employees. To achieve this, ATR introduced several measures for promoting environmentally friendly travel, such as a new fleet of electric company vehicles and installing electric charging points with free access.


In addition to the ‘Perfect Flight’, the manufacturer’s work on sustainability with its other airline customers has also been making news. In November 2018, ATR and Air New Zealand announced that the companies had signed an agreement to explore the future of a regional aviation ecosystem which includes hybrid aircraft. The companies will investigate the development of new solutions in this field and the required systems to support them, including airport and regulatory infrastructure, maintenance and ground and flight operations.


However, while there is a lot of buzz around electric aircraft development, sustainable aviation fuel has a huge role to play in sustainable aviation, says Tom Anderson, Senior Vice President, Programmes and Customer Services at ATR. “ATR is an enthusiastic proponent of this kind of fuel,” Anderson says, stating that sustainable aviation fuel, put together with ATR aircraft, results in a substantial decrease of carbon emissions, as was demonstrated by the ‘Perfect Flight’. Once the flight had taken place, Anderson commented on the impressive first of-its-kind experience: “Today, using existing technology and available solutions, we have pushed the boundaries even further. This great achievement wouldn’t have been possible without using an ATR aircraft, as our ATR 72-600 version uses 40% less fuel and emits 40% less CO2 than a regional jet. “


“We are delighted to have taken up this challenge and demonstrate what is possible, which will hopefully set an example for other communities around the world”, Anderson stated, reaffirming the manufacturer’s commitment and desire to continue its valuable work on reducing aviation’s environmental footprint.

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