The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has for the first time certified an aircraft for CO2 emissions, applying a new process and methodology and so progressing towards its vision for an ever safer and greener civil aviation.
The new certification process provides an assessment of an aircraft’s fuel efficiency and therefore of the CO2 it emits while in operation. In precise terms, the fuel efficiency in cruise flight is certified, which is influenced by the engines, but also by the aircraft’s aerodynamic characteristics and weight. This certification is a key milestone on EASA’s roadmap to establish, by 2022, an environmental label for aviation. Amongst other values the label will use CO2 emissions data to provide a comprehensive assessment of the environmental performance of an aircraft.
“This is a new and important factor for environmental certification in light of the global efforts to decarbonise the aviation industry,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky. “There is a long way still to go to reach this goal, but every step is important in demonstrating that aviation is moving determinedly towards that objective.”
Airbus voluntarily applied for the CO2 certification of the A330-900 following a call from EASA in late 2019. The CO2 standard was finalised by ICAO CAEP in February 2016, adopted by the ICAO Council in March 2017 and implemented into the EASA Basic Regulation in July 2018. Airbus will be the first manufacturer to apply this certification requirement and its experience will contribute to improving and further developing the standards set by ICAO which will benefit the entire industry.
In comparison to the CO2 measurement for cars (e.g. fuel consumption in Litres fuel per 100km), the CO2 certification for aircraft is complex, due to the way in which an aircraft is operated. Fuel consumption depends not only on speed, but also on the flight altitude and on the weight of the aircraft, which is higher in the beginning of the cruise phase than towards the end of it, as fuel is burned during the flight.
The certification requirements therefore set out to evaluate the technological performance of the aircraft with respect to fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions, which is compared to a limit defined by the ICAO Aeroplane CO2 Emissions Standard contained in ICAO Annex 16 Volume III.
Based on various expressions of interest to date, EASA anticipates that more manufacturers will be seeking early CO2 certification in the immediate future.