Etihad Airways Operates First ecoFlight of 2021


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(22 Apr 2021)
Etihad Airways operated its first ecoFlight for 2021
on Saturday, continuing research and testing under the Etihad
Greenliner programme to assess environmental sustainability
initiatives during scheduled services.

Etihad’s fourth ecoFlight thus far was operated on
the airline’s signature Greenliner aircraft which is fully offset
for all operations through 2021.

EcoFlight, EY83, departed Abu Dhabi for Rome on 17
April 2021, testing a range of flight and engine optimisation
initiatives, as well as onboard product enhancements to reduce
weight and single-use plastics, with successful trials to be
incorporated into regular scheduled operations.

On board, the trial focused on three key pillars:
sustainable products, incorporating initiatives identified on past
ecoFlights to reduce single-use plastics, and an overall weight
reduction study. The airline also tested initiatives to mitigate the
challenges imposed by COVID19.

Etihad Airways operated its first ecoFlight for 2021 on Saturday, continuing research and testing under the Etihad Greenliner programme to assess environmental sustainability initiatives during scheduled services. Click to enlarge.

Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer,
Etihad Aviation Group, said, “Etihad made a significant and
tangible commitment to sustainability and the future of aviation
over a year ago, first when we launched the Greenliner programme
in partnership with Boeing, GE and other aviation leaders, then
with our commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and
halving our net emission levels by 2035.

“Since then, and throughout the pandemic we have
remained on track, with a number of ecoFlights during 2020, as
well as partnering with Boeing, NASA and Safran on the 2020
ecoDemonstrator programme. Now in 2021 we are stepping up our
efforts so eco testing won’t be confined to quarterly dedicated
ecoFlights, but instead an always on, ever present part of
operations to test, refine and implement sustainability
initiatives. This kind of incremental, real world testing is the
foundation of the Greenliner programme, which will allow us to
continue R&D efforts into decarbonization opportunities.

“This isn’t about solving only Etihad’s emissions,
but about supporting the entire industry to address the biggest
challenge we face over the next three decades.”

The Rome ecoFlight saw the removal and replacement
of 1,731 single-use plastic items from onboard service, with a
weight reduction of 108kg, saving 60kg CO2 emissions.

This follows
efforts on the first ecoFlight to Brisbane in 2019, where 43
single-use plastic items were removed from onboard operations,
resulting in an annual saving of 17 tonnes of waste from landfill
and again in 2020, when the airline operated an ecoFlight to
Brussels, removing 2,639 single-use plastic items from the flight,
equal to approximately 8.8kg in weight reduction.

Feasible initiatives trialed on the latest
ecoFlight will be adapted for standard operations moving forward,
contributing to Etihad’s goal to remove 80 percent of single-use

Based on circular theory efforts, the airline tackled
international waste regulations head on with a recycling
initiative to better manage cabin waste. Strict waste regulations
force international airlines to incinerate all contaminated
materials, and efforts were made to identify suppliers offering
products that will not release harmful emissions in incineration,
such as EcoWare bagasse pots, which are compostable and made from
plants. The flight produced and successfully diverted 8.1kg of
recyclable material from landfill.

Pro-Sustainability Partners

Boasting a range of sustainable suppliers, the
flight focused on avoiding single use items, finding replacements
that are locally produced, UAE sourced and meet the requirement of
being lightweight and non-energy intensive in the cleaning process
or non-impactful in the disposal process.

The ecoFlight showcased Al Ain Water’s sustainable
plant-based water bottles onboard. It also featured Abu Dhabi-based startup ‘The Concept’s’ sustainable inflight meal trays made
from used water bottles, and BambuuBrush, for their highly
sustainable up-cycled Bamboo Toothbrush.

Operational Efficiencies

Operational initiatives trialed continue to
evaluate and confirm learnings from past ecoFlights for flight
path optimisation, including optimised climb and continuous

A previous ecoFlight to Dublin showed when compared to a
standard Boeing 787 flight on that route, the ecoFlight reduced
journey time by 40 minutes and reduced CO2 emissions by three

Flight Optimisation

Following extensive trialing and collaboration
with Air Navigation Authorities globally on previous ecoFlights,
flight optimisation has become an Etihad standard operating
procedure wherever possible. The ecoFlight saw the airline
successfully avoid 1,386kg CO2 through operational efficiencies

The flight also leveraged Boeing’s proprietary
Probabilistic Flight Planning tool to optimise routing and fuel
efficiency by evaluating possible routes, taking uncertainty in
the weather forecast into account to use less fuel, regardless of
the actual winds. This technology has the potential to reduce
Etihad’s fleet-wide annual CO2 emissions by approximately 2
million kgs. (4.4 million lbs.).

“Flight optimisation is one of the first places we
should be looking to for fuel and CO2 savings as an industry. It’s
an elegant, simple solution for massive, incremental savings that
would fundamentally change the industry and put us on the path to
a sustainable future,” said Douglas. “However, simple does not
mean easy to implement. It requires cooperation across the
industry, and importantly, across borders as a coordinated global
response, and that sort of cooperation needs to be led at the
regulatory level.”

Potable Water

Adding valuable testing data to operational
efficiency initiatives such as potable water optimization favours
these trials greatly, with this ecoFlight reducing CO2 emissions
by 189kg from this practice alone.

The results from the flight
will help develop a more efficient method to calculate potable
water requirements for future operations, with a potential annual
impact of up to 800 tonnes of fuel, or 2,500 tonnes of CO2 saved
across the entire fleet.

Engine Foam Wash

The ecoFlight follows the recent announcement of
Etihad’s partnership with GE Aviation, licensing the airline for
the groundbreaking
GE 360 foam wash jet engine cleaning system.

The system will remove more than 7,000 metric tonnes of CO2 in
2021 from Etihad’s GE90 and GEnx fleets. Impacts are already
proving invaluable, with this initiative saving 290kg of CO2
emissions on this flight.

Electric Tractors

The flight once again leveraged electric tractors,
which were successfully trialed on previous ecoFlights and are
permanently deployed to service 37% of Etihad and other airline
flights at Abu Dhabi airport, with a 309.5 tonne CO2 annual
benefit in emissions.

Sustainability and COVID19

With operations still severely impacted by COVID19,
Etihad’s commitment to sustainability remained on track, with the
airline implementing a number of key sustainability initiatives in

Jan 2020: Announcement of 2035 and 2050 net zero
emissions targets.

Jan and Feb 2020: First two eco-flights to
Brussels and Dublin.

Aug 2020: Partnership with Boeing on the
ecoDemonstrator programme, for the first time on a 787-10 aircraft.

Oct 2020: Launch of world’s first Transition Sukuk and first Sustainability-Linked financing in global
aviation, raising USD 600 million by linking terms to Etihad’s
carbon reduction targets.

Dec 2020: Commitment to purchase carbon offsets
to completely neutralise the CO2 emissions of flagship “Greenliner” aircraft throughout 2021.

Feb 2021: Partnership with GE to launch its 360
Foam Wash to remove more than 7,000 metric tonnes of CO2 in 2021
from Etihad’s fleet.

Etihad Greenliner Programme

A key pillar of the Etihad Greenliner programme is the Etihad-Boeing
strategic global partnership, spearheaded by a specially-themed
Boeing 787 Dreamliner to test products, procedures and initiatives
designed to reduce aircraft carbon emissions.

Etihad is actively encouraging and inviting partners from across
the aviation sector to join and test sustainability initiatives on
scheduled 787 operations. The results are then processed and
validated with Etihad and its partners including Boeing and GE,
and the most sustainable initiatives used as a base for improving
the performance of the global 787 operating community.

See also:

Hotel Waste, Single-Use Plastic and Climate Change – Interview
with WWF

What is the IATA Travel Pass, and what does it mean for
travellers, airlines and the global travel industry? Exclusive
video interview with Vinoop Goel

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