Chartering a plane: Optimizing air travel while reducing carbon footprint
Globally, air transport generates 2.8% of the CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. While this figure appears to be a small proportion of total emissions, public pressure on air transport remains high. The flyskam, literally the shame of flying, has emerged in Sweden and is spreading to many developed countries. This encourages the industry to adapt at a rapid pace. The French government recently announced plans to invest €1.5 billion in “clean aircraft” research with the vision of a carbon-free medium-haul airliner by 2035. The long-term goal is still a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.
Over the last 50 years, dramatic breakthroughs in terms of the efficiency of aircraft propulsion systems have been achieved. In addition, environment-friendly improvements by air transport subcontractors are playing a significant role towards an even more virtuous aeronautics industry.
“In 2019, the average air passenger burned 50% less jet fuel than in the 1960s and 20% less than in the 1990s.”
Yet, by its very nature, the airplane is by far the most complex means of transport to be adapted and there are many challenges ahead. What about the development of new forms of propulsion in aeronautics? When will they be introduced into commercial service? How to optimize your air travel and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time?
Innovation in aircraft propulsion
There are many low-emission aircraft projects, most of which are at the prototype stage. To date, none of these modes of propulsion seem to be taking the lead and the race for innovation is on.
- The electric plane
In June 2020, for the first time ever, an all-electric aircraft was certified for public use. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued the type certification for the Slovenian two-seater Pipistrel Velis Electro. Noticeably quiet (60 dBa), it can fly at 180 km/h. Ultralight, its endurance does not exceed 50 minutes of flight time. In addition to its main advantage of being emission-free – assuming that the electricity production is also clean – it offers significant advantages over a conventional powerplant: almost no risk of fire in the eventuality of an accident; much lower maintenance costs due to a simpler architecture, fewer mechanical parts and less exposure to intense physical constraints.
The main weakness of this aircraft or any electric aircraft prototype is their ability to store electricity. In fact, the number and weight of the batteries needed limit drastically the passenger and cargo load.
The e-airplane dilemma:
Until lighter and smaller batteries are designed, aeronautical engineers will have to deal with the complex equation.
At this stage, the trade-off must be made between endurance, battery capacity, and payload.
The lack of ground charging facilities for rapid refills is also a challenge. Setting up such stations in all airports will take time and requires real political leadership.
For the time being, even if the Pipistrel Velis Electro is a light recreational aircraft, it represents a strong symbol that demonstrates the ability of the aeronautical authorities to certify a 100% electric aircraft for public use.
Given the above-mentioned characteristics, this type of aircraft will initially be used for short, ad-hoc missions such as those carried out in the business aviation sector. In a second phase, with the emergence of more efficient engines and a new generation of light batteries, commuting or cargo aircraft (less than 19 seats) dedicated to serving isolated communities will be deployed.
Hydrogen is a very energetic fuel, although difficult to handle because its molecule is light. Its major advantage is that it is one of the most common gases in the universe and, moreover, its combustion generates water! Furthermore, today’s jet engines are easily adaptable to this type of fuel.
Its greatest risk is explosion (contrary to common belief, kerosene does not explode in its normal liquid form) and all stages of hydrogen processing require enhanced protection. From its manufacturing to its combustion inside a jet engine, as well as during its transport and storage, its temperature must be dropped and maintained at -250°C. At last, due to its characteristics and the energy released by its combustion process, the aircraft would require tanks four times as large to perform the same given route.
For the time being, given the current state of knowledge about hydrogen, this type of propulsion remains difficult to consider on the short-run and there currently is no plan for a civil aircraft powered by hydrogen.
- Is hybrid the interim solution?
This technology could be used to overcome the various pitfalls of all-electric vehicles, as it was the case for cars. The adaptation of the concept to air transport relies on the use of the power delivered by the traditional thermal turboshaft engine during the take-off and climb phases. In cruise phases and during descent, the need for power is much less and the electric motors take over.
The main attraction of a hybrid solution is that it combines two different sources of energy and thus guarantees a unique level of safety. On the other hand, it has the advantage of combining the benefits of each energy source.
This approach, which is rapidly achievable, would quickly initiate the transition. This would imply the possibility of retrofitting the existing aircraft with dual propulsion systems.
What would be the medium-term applications? Flight tests of several prototypes are currently in progress and commercial operations should be launched within 5 years. The first applications should concern business jets, high-performance private jets, and then upgrade to business jets available for charter and private jets on longer routes.
Based on current technology, carbon-free air transport is not a medium-term option. The transition is underway, but it will be very gradual because of technological blocks and the indispensable infrastructure for the introduction of these clean aircraft, which are currently lacking.
Until then, we can significantly reduce our carbon footprint by adapting the way we use aviation through private or business charter solutions.
Chartering a plane while limiting your emissions
We understand the dilemma sometimes faced by air travellers concerned about their environmental footprint and we have developed a range of solutions to accurately assess the actual impact of a trip and respond with practical solutions.
The essence of the business aviation industry is to provide on-demand, fully customizable travel solutions. In terms of environmental efficiency, this is ideal because the service provided precisely matches the travel requirements and it does not generate waste. By choosing to fly straight to your destination, we arrange the ideal private jet charter flight that can reduce your footprint compared to a traditional trip on scheduled services that combine several means of transport, hotel nights, ground transfers…
- Within Europe alone, there are more than 8,400 airports and airfields in operation (source: www.ourairports.com). A small proportion of them are served by scheduled flights. However, by using air charter solutions, we can provide a private aircraft or business jet that can operate safely from any of these locations. These aircraft types have been designed for this precise purpose. Besides contributing to the local economy, using these aerodromes has a double advantage:
- Chartering a private jet means you can choose every element of your journey: origin, destination, type of aircraft to rent, schedules… Among the available airfields, you can choose the ones which are the most conveniently located to reduce ground transportation before and after the flight, avoiding traffic jams and, finally, reducing the pollution generated.
- These small aerodromes are often relatively underserved and this allows your business jet to arrive and depart more quickly: with less time spent on the ground taxiing before take-off and straight-in approaches without waiting as it is often the case when using large airports.
- Take benefit from direct flights thanks to the flexibility offered by aircraft charter solutions. Since fuel consumption (and therefore pollution) is at its peak during the take-off and climb phases, connecting two consecutive flights via a hub generates additional pollution that can be avoided by a direct business jet flight. In addition, as connecting flights in airports or to a train station are eliminated, this neutralizes the emissions generated by ground transfers.
- Wherever possible, use larger aircraft and reduce the level of CO2 emissions per passenger carried. To do this, consider offering your colleagues the opportunity to take a seat on board your company private flight. For this reason, when relevant we systematically offer charter solutions for groups using larger business jets, a regional aircraft or even an airliner.
- Take advantage of the flexibility and comfort offered by business aircraft rental to concentrate all your visits and those of your teams during the same trip and thus optimize your travel.
- Adapt your travel arrangements in such a way that you can benefit from the empty leg flights available on the market. In addition to being more affordable, these flights are available on specific routes within a few days of your departure. Using those positioning flights and neutralizing those you would have generated otherwise drastically reduce your footprint while you can totally enjoy the efficiency and the comfort of a dedicated charter flight.
- The average number of passengers carried on business jets in Europe does not exceed 3, whereas most business jets are equipped with at least 4 seats. Among the aircraft available for rent, the key is to choose the type of aircraft whose type of engine, technical characteristics and capacity are strictly adapted to your requirements.
The solutions to fly cleaner are many and already accessible today. Let us discuss them and we will explain how to charter a plane for a group while fulfilling your commitments in terms of social responsibility.
Our role is to ensure that on-demand aviation users and airlines specialising in charter flights work together to create a more virtuous dynamic. Our goal is to restore value for the customer of the air charter industry. To achieve this, we offer you our renowned expertise in air transport.