As the Prime Minister arrived in Cornwall for last week’s G7 meeting, he declared “the UK is actually in the lead in developing sustainable aviation fuel, and one of the points in the 10 point plan of our green industrial revolution, is to get to ‘jet zero’ as well.”

So what is the UK doing to deliver ‘jet zero’ and reduce emissions from aviation? And how is NATS playing a part?

One area is the FlyZero project, led by the Aerospace Technology Institute, a Government-led research body supported by secondees from industry and academia, including Airbus, Rolls-Royce, GKN Aerospace, GE Aviation, Mott MacDonald, easyJet and NATS.

As the NATS secondee, my role is to help the UK realise zero-carbon emission commercial flight by the end of the decade and the role airspace plays in that. We’re currently four months into the project, with the initial 12-months looking at the design challenges and market opportunity of potential zero-emission aircraft concepts.

We are also looking into future Air Traffic and Flight Operations where I am sharing some of my expertise from nearly 20 years working in aviation, most recently supporting airports with airspace solutions for enhanced capacity, long term planning and sustainability.

Using my experience, and speaking to colleagues at NATS, as well as to other external stakeholders, I am looking at how we may need to adapt our airspace to incorporate the next generation of zero-carbon aircraft, which might differ from today’s aircraft in performance and airspace requirements, and what that may also mean for air traffic controllers.

The new concepts will call for a new design of every aspect of the vehicle, from fuel or propulsion type right through to the wings and cabin. I have been working closely with airline and airport operations specialists to support other teams within the project such as the Sustainability Team and the Whole Aircraft Integration Team, merging the flight operations aspects with aircraft design and sustainable operations. This work will also provide information to the Government and the wider UK aviation sector regarding flight operations and related solutions to other emissions including noise.

As we head towards the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow later this year, the Fly Zero team will be working hard to show that a zero-carbon emission aircraft is possible by the end of the decade, and ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of development in aviation. I feel incredibly privileged to be part of something that is helping to reach our national climate change commitments.

FlyZero is an independent, non-commercial project that aims to share its findings and recommendations with the wider UK aerospace sector with the aim of supporting the UK to stand at the forefront of sustainable aviation in design, manufacture, technology and skills for years to come. FlyZero’s vision is to realise zero-carbon emission commercial flight by the end of the decade. Decarbonising aviation is a remarkable prospect and NATS is proud to support this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity created by FlyZero. 


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