Sustainable Aviation: The future of flying
The world of aviation has always been a domain of innovation. From the Wright Brothers' pioneering flight at Kitty Hawk to the development of supersonic jets and electric aircraft, aviation has continually pushed the boundaries of what is possible. Now more than ever, as we face new sustainability challenges, the future of aviation lies in the innovative minds that will shape the next chapter.
Discover the future of flight with some experts in the field, exploring the possibilities and challenges that await us in the aviation industry.
We contacted a group of aviation experts to ask a short yet complicated question:
"What future do you see for aviation?"
Their answers have unveiled many ideas, technologies, and trends that are set to redefine how we fly.
What future do you see for aviation?
"The future of air travel is not just technological."
Senior Mobility Manager at Carbone 4
"The future of air travel is not just technological. We must also reflect upon our relationship to aviation, travel, and the utility of travel. For example, does a weekend break to Tenerife have the same social value as an immersive cultural trip for a young person who is spending six months in South America?
It may be taboo today, but it will come to the table in the coming decade. Because once again, if we forget the sufficiency lever, we will not succeed. The sector in a century has made so much progress; it has achieved so many feats. I believe we can invent a new model that will allow aviation's dream to continue by making it accessible to most people.
But we need to set limits. I think this debate is very important to have."
"The real challenge for the air transport industry will be its social acceptance"
Professor of strategic management at Ecole Polytechnique and Director of the Chaire Pegasus
"I guess the real challenge for the air transport industry will be its social acceptance. I like KLM former president Pieter Elbers’ speech in which he argues that we should not fly more but learn to fly better. This means thinking about when it is relevant to fly, go by train, or use a videoconference. And in a way, there are many routes (especially short-haul ones) that are not profitable, and keeping airplanes on these routes is an ecological and economic nonsense.
In my opinion, the future of aviation will thus be about learning how to combine different transportation modes and reallocate aircraft to more profitable and relevant routes."
"The vision is to mobilize all this research capacity into supporting the sector in its recovery and future"
Professor at the University of Waterloo
"Before the pandemic, we had impending shortages of personnel. We had growing environmental emission issues and a growing flygskam movement. And we also had a rapid evolution of technologies. Our sector was struggling to integrate these safely and efficiently into operations. When the pandemic hit, I focused on how I could mobilize the research capacity specifically to support some of these big priorities aligned with the three pillars of sustainability so that when the sector would eventually recover, we could help support a more sustainable recovery and a more sustainable future.
I have just recently approved a new research institute called the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics. The institute will have more than 75 different professors from all disciplines across the university. The University of Waterloo is known for its powerful focus on technology, computer science, and engineering. We also have an entire faculty of environment. Its core foundation is to draw together innovations from all of these disciplines. The vision is to mobilize all this research capacity into supporting the sector in its recovery and future.
However, the only way it can be effective in doing that is through collaborations with industry, government, policymakers, and other academics. I think the stake for the research field is not to keep behind big walls and closed doors but to really break those barriers down and form a bridge between the needs of the sector and the academic capacity. And that’s what I hope we can do."
"This is a trade-off between two aspects"
Professor at ISAE - Supaero - Dpt. of Aerodynamics, Energetics and Propulsion University of Toulouse
"Hard to know! This is not just a question for me, this is a question to ask everyone. What do you want for aviation? Is it mandatory to still see some aircraft in the sky in the future? I don't know. Maybe.
There are indeed plenty of advantages to being able to power aircraft and travel across the sea. Yet, at the same time, there is a price to pay: aviation's carbon and environmental footprint. So, this is a trade-off between these two aspects. This question should be addressed from a societal point of view, not just from industry, not just from research, not just from students, but we should all have a common debate that is clearly not emerging at the moment.
My personal vision for aviation in the future? Definitely something environmentally friendly."
"We have many solutions to make the third dimension travels quite acceptable in nuisance"
"Aviation will be bright. We have many solutions to make the third dimension travels quite acceptable in nuisance, whether it is noise or CO2.
The technological potential will help us, but it will take time, effort, and financial means.
Carbon taxes will help us to succeed in this transformation. These new technologies allow us to develop new ways of flying. We will gradually move towards autonomous flight, i.e., without a pilot. It will take some time, but it will come. This will allow us to put many more planes in the air, and if they are less polluting and less noisy, they will be more easily accepted.
I am enthusiastic and very confident that the use of the third dimension of our travel will accelerate with these new technologies."
"Green aviation will drive greater cultural, economic and societal exchange"
James Mc Micking
ZeroAvia's VP Strategy
"If, as a sector, we make rapid tangible progress in developing sustainable solutions, then the future looks encouraging with flight continuing to connect the world and expand in new and exciting ways.
By eliminating combustion altogether, hydrogen-electric aviation can fundamentally make better regional connectivity possible. It will be clean, lower cost, lower noise and less polluting, enabling more connections to be made between communities and regions, bringing clean growth and prosperity.
Green aviation will drive greater cultural, economic and societal exchange."
"Aviation will continue to grow"
CEO of Nordic Electrofuel
"Aviation will continue to grow. After the Covid-19 pandemic, everybody will want to travel again.However, maybe we will see a reduction of business trips as many meetings can be made virtually.
However, it is different to meet people personally, and I think it is essential to travel to look people in their eyes."
"We have set ambitious targets to reach Net Zero in 2050 and to comply with the Paris Agreement"
Sustainable Aviation Fuel Manager at Air France
"Public opinion is putting pressure on aviation for its environmental impact. As an industry, we have set ambitious targets to reach Net Zero in 2050 and to comply with the Paris Agreement. To do so, all levers will need to be activated. More efficient aircraft with newer engines and designs, optimization of their usage (more direct routes, less weight on board, ecopiloting…), and of course, the generalization of SAF usage in our aircraft.
In order to keep this essential means of transport, essential for the people and the economy, it is crucial that the whole industry and our partners (states, oil suppliers, …) embrace these sustainable objectives.
So, I do see a sustainable future for aviation!"
Related content >> Fly Net-Zero 2050: how airlines use data to improve fuel efficiency?
"I think we'll see more impressive fuel efficiency and aircraft designs"
Manager of Flight Technical at Porter Airlines
"It is very promising to see the new technologies that are coming out and hear about electric aircraft for example. Some are flying out on the West Coast and I am looking forward to seeing that scale-up. I think the battery storage and weight will be a major consideration but as that continues to get refined, we'll have more and more options and I think we'll see more impressive fuel efficiency and aircraft designs.
There’s also NAV Canada and our air traffic control which are really interested in continuing to modernize the air space. There are a few situations where we have our hands tied currently. For example, when we are not able to do constant descents or there are longer arrivals than they typically would be. But with the various performance-based navigation specifications, we will be able to have tunnels in the sky or very defined paths with very consistent results that both controllers and pilots can understand and appreciate. And then we'll be able to use the airspace even more efficiently.
So that's probably the area that I'm most curious about: seeing how we can modernize the airspace and drive the fuel efficiency from there because it's a win-win situation. Pilots are cutting off miles and saving time, passengers get to their destination faster and it is fewer fuel emissions. So I think, reducing some of the barriers to modernizing the airspace is a great goal."
"Aviation is reliant on the energy transition and the need to move away from fossil fuels"
Head of Aviation Sustainability at Eurocontrol
"The strong recovery of air traffic shows that passengers want to fly but we also know that aviation must transform and reduce its emissions. Like other sectors, aviation is reliant on the energy transition and the need to move away from fossil fuels.
In aviation, technology solutions of the future lie in electric, hybrid or hydrogen-powered aircraft. To produce hydrogen, we need electricity. To produce synthetic fuel - via captured CO2 and hydrogen - again we need electricity. So just like rail, aviation will be 100% dependent on renewable energies and electricity in a few years.
It is also evident that rail cannot replace air transport – especially when it comes to remote regions, emergency transport, areas that are not easily accessible via land transport etc. In the future, we will need better multimodal solutions that combine air and rail and are highly attractive in terms of optimizing sustainability and improving connectivity."
"The new long-term vision is clear: the new era of aviation is clean and carbon-free"
"In view of the ecological situation, new regulation and consumer expectations, the new long-term vision is clear: the new era of aviation is clean and carbon-free. This new era coincides with the maturity of many pro-environmental technological innovations and strong political will. SAF is a great example of innovation mixed with political regulations.
At the same time, the aviation industry can rely on industry pioneers to continue breaking down barriers through electric propulsion and fuel cells. I am sure that we will see electric 19-seater aircraft before the end of the decade. This will strongly transform the way we travel on short distances."
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