On Saturday 7th May, two special flights took off from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport: KLM flight KL0675 to Edmonton, Canada, and KLM Cityhopper flight KL1713 to Porto, Portugal. Taking place within SkyTeam's Sustainable Flight Challenge, the KLM flights incorporated a wide array of innovative sustainability measures. As part of this ground-breaking initiative, Cambridge-based green aerospace company SATAVIA provided contrail prevention capability to minimise aviation's non-CO2 climate impact.
Aircraft-generated condensation trails, or contrails, cause surface warming amounting to two-thirds of aviation's climate impact, almost double that of direct CO2 emissions from aircraft engines. Until recently, technical challenges made contrail prevention difficult or impossible, but SATAVIA's best-in-class atmospheric modelling now enables flight plan optimisation for contrail prevention.
"Our contrail platform DECISIONX:NETZERO supports smarter, greener aviation," said SATAVIA CEO, Dr Adam Durant. "By implementing small changes to a minority of flights, eco-conscious operators can eliminate the majority of their non-CO2 climate footprint with minimal impact on day-to-day operations."
In the lead-up to 7th May, SATAVIA worked closely with KLM Flight Dispatch personnel to optimise filed flight plans for contrail prevention, utilising SATAVIA forecasting and working with Air Navigation Service Providers NATS and EUROCONTROL to avoid contrail-forming atmospheric zones. On the day, only minor modifications were required to avoid contrail-forming regions, in line with scientific research suggesting that over 80% of contrail climate impact can be avoided by modifying just 2% of flights.
Building on SATAVIA's existing twelve-month engagement with Etihad Airways, the SATAVIA/KLM collaboration represents a distinctive contribution to the SkyTeam Sustainable Flight Challenge. "The Sustainable Flight Challenge involves sixteen Airline Alliance members competing to share insight and experience on sustainability," said René de Groot, COO of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. "This spirit of cooperation will drive progress towards greater sustainability in our industry."
After each contrail prevention flight, SATAVIA quantifies achieved climate benefit for conversion into tradable carbon credits. "This new market is worth at least $9bn globally, incentivising operators to cut their climate footprint," said Durant. "As a software solution, contrail prevention can move aviation towards NetZero on relatively short timescales."
SATAVIA applies atmospheric science to make aviation smarter and greener. Rooted in scientific acumen and working with leading players ranging from Microsoft to Etihad, SATAVIA embodies an entrepreneurial mindset with the ambition to transform the relationship between aviation and the environment.