Aviation industry focuses on sustainability and innovation at Dubai Airshow

Dubai Airshow was the largest aerospace trade event to be held globally since the COVID-19 pandemic and the first since the aviation industry was hit by this worst crisis in its history.

Aviation industry experts gathered for the four-day event to reconnect with each other and move towards a sustainable recovery. It’s seen as a positive indicator for an industry that has had a turbulent two years.

The International Air Transport Association predicts the COVID-19 crisis will cost the global aviation industry €175bn in losses between 2020 and 2022.

Hope on the horizon

Timothy Hawes is the Managing Director at Tarsus Middle East, the group that organises the Dubai Airshow. He said that the event was a signal of the aviation industry coming back together and being welcomed back in Dubai as well as a show of confidence for the industry.

Airlines have slowly reopened their networks as travel restrictions gradually lift and they see a return to some normality.

In a promising sign of recovery, Airbus predicted that the aviation industry would require around 39,000 aircraft in the next 20 years, which would require more than 550,000 new pilots and over 710,000 highly skilled technicians to be trained.

Although the industry is optimistic, one looming threat to recovery is the risk of surging global COVID-19 infections leading to further lockdowns. The sentiment from the event is that the industry is robust and is turning a corner from what has been its most challenging period ever.

From airways to waterways

As the Glasgow climate pact was agreed in the final hours of the COP26 summit, a pioneering project of ‘smart’ canals has been set up in the city to counteract the effects of climate change.

Glasgow played an integral role in Britain’s industrial revolution, where the use of coal brought about carbon emissions, eventually contributing to climate change around the world.

Coinciding with COP26, Europe’s first smart canal was launched to combat flooding in one of Britain’s wettest cities. The chief engineer of Scottish canals said forecasts indicate that Glasgow’s rainfall will rise by another 30 per cent in the next 50 years.

Peter Robinson, Head of Engineering at Scottish Canals, said they have applied 21st-century thinking to an 18th-century asset:

“The smart part is using the data that’s coming from the forecasting and then measuring the levels and the flows on the canal network, the water quality, analysing that so it will, in advance of a flood event, lower itself behind us so the water will leave and it’ll be in the sea before it starts raining.”

The spare capacity created can then retain some of the rainwater to prevent flooding of the city centre, which is about 15 minutes away by foot.

Pushing for sustainable travel

One of the main focuses at COP26 was reducing carbon emissions, a complex issue in the global aviation industry, which is responsible for about 2.5% of CO2 emissions. At the Dubai Airshow, many of the 1200 exhibitors were focusing on embracing new technology to bring in a period of sustainability and innovation.

It has been a difficult two years for the aviation industry, but many have seen this as an opportunity to turn towards a greener and more sustainable future.

Last month, the International Air Transport Association announced that the global air transport industry hopes to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Colin Mahoney, President of Customer and Account Management at Collins Aerospace, said they were developing improved systems. “Our avionics people make sure the airplanes fly as efficiently from A to B as possible. If you look at our aerostructures, we’re now investing in and developing, streamlined aerostructures that can operate in different temperature ranges,” he explained.

Saab was one of the many exhibitors at the air show that pledged to apply the U.N. sustainability goals. Anders Carp, Deputy CEO, Saab said, “We have joined the race to zero, where the science-based targets for actually reaching the goals are set up in there. We now look forward to the next phase where we will define exactly how to do it.”

Manufacturers and airlines were keen to point out that these environmentally friendly adaptations will be unnoticeable for passengers, but will be part of an ongoing journey towards more sustainable travel.

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