European Aerospace Manufacturers - Reducing Aviation’s Environmental Impact Responsibly

  • October 12, 2016

Aviation is recognised as one of the top five advanced technology sectors in Europe. ASD industries achieved a turnover of almost €200 billion in 2014 employing a skilled workforce of nearly 800, 000 of which over half a million were in aeronautics. ASD members collectively spent €20 billion on Research and Development in the year. This supports innovation to enable aviation in its key role to satisfy society’s needs for safe, secure and sustainable mobility in Europe and all over the world.

Strong track record

The aviation industry has an excellent track record of reducing fuel burn, and hence CO2 emissions. Since the start of the jet age over 60 years ago, the industry has reduced fuel burn by around 70%. Aircraft entering today’s fleets are typically 20 decibels per operation quieter than comparable aircraft 40 years ago, which represents 75% less annoyance. New generation of low NOx technology has been introduced to meet three successive increases in ICAO stringency standards and carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and smoke have been siginificantly reduced.

CO2 reduction has been managed effectively through Industry investment in technology and as a result of competitive market forces to deliver a strong record of fuel efficiency improvements. Other emissions have been reduced as a response to the needs of society and to mitigate climate and other environmental impacts.

ASD is a key stakeholder within ACARE (Advisory Council for Aviation Research and Innovation in Europe) which has set very challenging environmental goals for 2050 relating to civil aero products, for technologies and procedures to enable:

  • 75% reduction in CO2 per passenger kilometre,
  • 90% reduction in NOx emissions, and
  • 65% reduction in perceived noise of flying aircraft

(all relative to the capabilities of typical new aircraft in 2000).

Global action on CO2 emissions reduction


Aviation Industry Commitment to Carbon Neutral Growth

Aviation Industry Commitment to Carbon Neutral Growth 2020. (Presented at the 38th ICAO General Assembly Sept 2013 Position Paper – ACI, Canso, IATA, ICCAIA & IBAC)


Technology readiness to meet stringent regulatory requirements

Aviation is a long life cycle sector where aircraft can remain in service for over 25 years and aircraft production cycles can typically run for around 40 years. Although Safety and Reliability is of paramount importance, product designs must also address operability and maintainability issues; market requirements such as payload-range, take-off and landing field length capabilities; emissions and other environmental considerations such as noise as well as additional requirements including recyclability potential. Optimising these numerous requirements is complex and requires a huge effort in engineering excellence.

The design of any regulatory requirements should take this into account to avoid any unintended consequences regarding long-term economic considerations and potential competitive distortions, as well as trade-offs with other environmental and safety requirements.

The aviation sector continues to search for more environmentally friendly alternative technologies. One such technology is alternative fuels including bio-derived fuels that offer potential to further reduce CO2 emissions from aviation. Some alternative synthetic fuels are already approved and are direct physical replacements for conventional kerosene, so called ‘drop-in’ fuels. The air transport sector recognises that the fuel must meet three key criteria – suitability, scalability and sustainability. Feedstocks from waste streams are of particular interest where there is no risk of competition with food production.

At the same time, industry is working hard to take care of future risks such as identifying alternative chemicals and materials that fall within the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation. ASD continues to work in close cooperation with its supply chains and trade association and European policy makers on this important issue to manage risks and ensure compliance with legislation without compromising safety and component life.

Summary Remarks

Industry will continue to innovate through investment in Research and Technology with support from policy makers, to develop efficient and low-emissions products for the future. This will enable the European aerospace manufacturers to continue to reduce the environmental emissions of products and services as well as make further strides towards lessening the environmental impact of their operations.

ASD strongly supports ICAO as the fundamental global forum for agreement on international aviation environmental measures, offering a consistent framework and promoting effective action.

By Naresh Kumar, Chairman of the Environment Commission, AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD).

Article available here.