Etihad Airways was the first airline in the Middle East to announce it would target net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050. In order to identify and test sustainable technologies to help it on the way, Etihad has its Greenliner program. Most recognize the special 787-10 with its shades of green in service of the program, but what exactly does it do?
The green dream
In November 2019, Etihad Airways launched the Greenliner program in collaboration with Boeing and General Electric. It is the umbrella under which all Etihad sustainability initiatives fall. Meanwhile, the Abu Dhabi-based carrier’s designated Greenliner aircraft is a themed Boeing 787 that, similar to Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator program airplanes, assists in researching new green technologies and sustainable initiatives.
Etihad officially took delivery of the 787-10, its eighth of the type, on January 21, 2020. Two days later, it touched down in the UAE, having been ferried from Boeing’s facilities in Charleston, South Carolina, to Abu Dhabi International. The aircraft is registered as A6-BMH and is painted in a version of Etihad’s regular livery, featuring a multitude of shades of green and turquoise.
— Etihad Airways (@etihad) January 23, 2020
Love aviation? Find out what the future holds at the Future Flying Forum 2021, book your seat today.
SAF blends and flight optimization
The delivery flight itself operated on a 30% blend of advanced biofuels. In addition, three separate initiatives were tested on the trip across the Atlantic towards the Middle East. Pilots and engineers used the Jeppesen FliteDeck Advisor – a mobile application that provides real-time advice on how to adjust the flight path for optimal efficiency.
The Boeing subsidiary markets the flight-optimization application as a cost-saving and on-time performance-enhancing tool. However, what is good for fuel efficiency is also good for the planet, providing ample proof that financial profit and environmental responsibility can not only coexist but also support one another.
Fuel measurement and continuous descent
Onboard engineers also applied Boeing’s nautical air-mile evaluation (NAME) for the first time on a jet operating on a biofuel-blend. The mechanism continuously measures fuel milage and consumption based on performance and fuel flow.
On approach, the Etihad crew descended continuously towards AUH rather than a conventional, staggered descent. Continous descents have been proven in trials to offer exceptional fuel savings. Moreover, they are less polluting and generate significantly less noise. Etihad has stated it plans to use the approach whenever conditions allow.
The Greenliner aircraft operates flights on Etihad’s schedule just as any other of the 39 Boeing 787s currently in the airline’s fleet. Most often, it can be found on routes to Europe, touching down in Paris, Milan, Frankfurt, and London.
‘Most sustainable flight yet’ this week
On October 23, Etihad will operate a special ‘sustainable flight’ with the Greenliner between London Heathrow and Abu Dhabi to celebrate the program’s two-year anniversary. Flight EY20 will take off from LHR at 13:10 and land at AUH at 22:55. It is reported to be Etihad’s most eco-friendly flight yet and is bookable via Etihad’s website.
“The Sustainable Flight on October 23 will be a celebration of everything that has been achieved in the past two years and a great flight for Etihad’s guests who will get to see what the future of commercial air travel looks like,” Mohammad Al Bulooki, chief operating officer at Etihad Aviation Group, said in a statement.
On this particular occasion, the aircraft will be powered by 38% sustainable aviation fuel. All remaining carbon emissions will be 100% offset, as is the case for all of A6-BMH’s flights for the duration of 2021. The flight will also feature 80% fewer single-use plastics.
Contrail reduction and engine foam wash
Etihad’s Sustainable Flight is also trialing flight planning data analytics software by UK firm Satavia. The company’s DECISIONX: NETZERO system enables operators to forecast and, to a large extent, mitigate climate impact caused by contrails. Satavia claims its artificial intelligence algorithms can help eliminate as much as 60% of aviation’s climate impact.
Meanwhile, in partnership with the airline, General Electric has developed a new jet engine cleaning system for its GE90 and GEnx-1B engines. GE says that the technology, known as the 360 Foam Wash, reduces Etihad’s emissions by more than 7,000 tonnes per year. It does this through improving engine performance due to less build-up of deposits, lowering engine temperature, and improving compressor efficiency.
Overall, the flight will emit 72% less CO2 than the carrier’s first ecoFlight. Passengers are also encouraged through various incentives to fly without checked-in luggage. The in-flight menu is sourced with sustainability in mind, including vegan options while excluding environmentally taxing products such as beef and palm oil. For every passenger onboard the flight, Etihad will plant a mangrove tree in Abu Dhabi.
Etihad has previously operated a series of four ‘ecoFlights
‘ within the framework of the Greenliner program, the latest one taking place in April this year in celebration of Earth Day. The flight focused specifically on reducing single-use plastics. To that end, Etihad removed 1,731 pieces of single-use plastic from service.
The airline also targeted excess weight in the cabin – reducing the aircraft’s total weight by as much as 108 kg. This directly translated to a CO2 reduction of 60 kg. An additional 190 kg of CO2 was saved through onboard water optimization – something that, if applied across the fleet, could save the airline 800 tonnes of fuel per year.
SAFs and hydrogen
Other initiatives evolving from the program have been in-flight smart trays to combat the pressing matter of food waste. The airline will also halve its net carbon emissions compared to 2019 levels by 2035. Earlier this month, Etihad announced it had raised $1.2 billion with a loan linked to environmental targets, and in October 2020, the airline sold a $600 million Islamic bond linked to carbon reduction.
Etihad is also working together with Siemens, Abu Dhabi-based clean energy firm Masdar, and Japanese company Marubeni to explore sources of SAF feedstock in Abu Dhabi, but also the future production of green hydrogen.
What do you think of Etihad’s Greenliner program? Will initiatives like this make a difference? Should other airlines engage in similar activities? Leave a comment below and tell us.