In 2005 the four sectors of the UK aviation industry – manufacturing, airlines, airports and air traffic control – created Sustainable Aviation (SA), a unique industry coalition aiming to deliver cleaner, quieter, smarter flying.

The vision was clear, to enhance the benefits of air transport, while removing or minimising any impacts on the local and global environment.  A strategy was agreed and goals set supported by an independent Advisory Board.  Since then, SA has been developing detailed Road-Maps on CO2, noise and sustainable aviation fuels to demonstrate substantial opportunities to decouple growth in UK aviation from growth in carbon emissions and noise out to 2050.

Ten years on, the UK industry presented its latest two-yearly progress report, demonstrating how we have saved 20 million tonnes of CO2 and reduced noise contour areas at major UK airports by 14% through the introduction of new aircraft and operating procedures.

SA 10 year timeline

SA has more recently looked at the socio-economic contribution of UK aviation, summarising for the first time its wider contribution to the UK. The report concludes that the UK aviation sector generates turnover of over £60 billion, contributing £52 billion to UK GDP; supports 961,000 UK jobs, many of them highly skilled; supports 3,500 apprenticeships; and invests over £15 million annually in charity, community and good causes. A further £1.7 billion is invested in Research & Development annually, with significant spin off benefits flowing out to other sectors and industries

These are impressive achievements that the industry is rightly proud of. And we are committed to achieving even more, working together to deliver a truly sustainable industry.

Over the next two years, with Ian Jopson, NATS’ Head of Environment & Community Affairs in the chair, SA will be working to support and enable the wider industry’s efforts, in particular making the case for airspace modernisation, ensuring the best use of modern aircraft capabilities to reduce carbon emissions and noise.

We will be re-visiting the SA CO2 Road-Map to ensure we are still on track to deliver a lower CO2 future.  This will include capturing the latest picture of emerging aerospace technology and its introduction into airline operations; and looking at what else may be possible to further streamline and improve UK airspace and aircraft operating techniques.

SA will also look at air quality, gathering information on efforts by the UK aviation industry to reduce emissions and understand the context of this work within the wider complexities of local air quality.

We will also continue to call for clear UK policy support for developing sustainable aviation fuels as set out in SA’s Sustainable Fuels Road-Map, working with Government to deliver an environment that allows us to realise the opportunities.

Working together has enabled SA to achieve results we could never have achieved individually, and there’s plenty more for us to do.  SA demonstrates that collaboration across industry, Government and the wider stakeholder network can have a significant impact; exploring barriers and opportunities and helping to the set the direction of policy to ensure that UK aviation remains a success story.


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