As the global aviation industry looks to the future, one thing becomes clear: Sustainability is the challenge of our time. We can also agree that the aviation industry will continue to play a crucial role.
That’s why the aviation industry is addressing climate change. A recent notable outcome was at the 41st International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) general assembly, where member states adopted the climate goal of net-zero CO2 emissions from commercial flights by 2050. This long-term aspirational goal follows similar commitments made by airlines and equipment manufacturers.
We believe aviation can’t decarbonize without Sustainable Aviation Fuel, and it is the biggest lever to pull in reaching net-zero by 2050
In our continent, the European Green Deal looks to reduce transport emissions 90 per cent by 2050. Europe’s aviation sector has unveiled its flagship sustainability initiative – Destination 2050 – which lays out a vision and path for CO2 emission reduction efforts.
Reducing CO2 emissions is a must, but the status quo won’t do. And while revolutionary technologies for aircraft and engines are needed to reach our net-zero ambition, this requires global solutions and global participation, and Europe must play its part. For example, incentives that foster infrastructure to make alternative fuels more available and affordable are key to mature such disruptive technologies.
Having said that, what is Avio Aero, a GE Aviation company, doing to lead decarbonization in aviation?
First, our track record of innovation means we have products and services available now to help customers reduce CO2 emissions. GE and CFM International* engines produced today are 40 per cent more fuel efficient than those manufactured in the 1970s and 1980s. Current GE tools that reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions include advanced engine cleaning systems, flight management systems, and software to optimize aircraft operations. Furthermore, all GE engines can operate on approved Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) today.
Second, to accelerate the near-term uptake of alternative fuels, GE is collaborating across the industry. In addition to continuing to test our engines with 100 per cent SAF, we joined Europe’s Renewable and Low-Carbon Fuels Alliance focused on boosting alternative fuel production and supply. We believe aviation can’t decarbonize without SAF, and it is the biggest lever to pull in reaching net-zero by 2050. New aviation technologies in development are critical but won’t replace the need for SAF.
Finally, we’re already working on important future technologies, announcing disruptive propulsion development programs. GE and Safran unveiled the CFM RISE (Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines) program in June 2021 to demonstrate and mature disruptive technologies, including hybrid electric and the open fan architecture. CFM’s RISE program is targeting more than 20 per cent lower fuel consumption and 20 per cent fewer CO2 emissions compared to today’s most fuel-efficient engines.
Avio Aero contributes to development of open fan architectures under Europe’s Clean Aviation program in collaboration with Safran Aircraft Engines. We also contributed to Europe’s Clean Sky 2 program, exploring multiple architectures for hybrid electric, which we will continue in Clean Aviation, as a founding member. Our new Catalyst engine is the first turboprop in aviation history made with 3D-printed components, designed, and developed in Europe, enabling a lighter and more fuel-efficient engine, reducing CO2 emissions.
CFM and Airbus are also collaborating on a hydrogen demonstration program that will take flight around the middle of this decade, and we joined the Alliance for Zero-Emission Aviation, supporting the introduction of new technologies with zero emissions during flight.
As a group, GE spent US$1.6 billion in 2021 on aviation R&D, including maturing technologies to reduce CO2 emissions from flight. We need everyone to play – industry, governments, academia – and we at Avio Aero and GE are ready to lead in this commitment.
*CFM International is a 50-50 joint company between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines
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