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BA’s first A350-1000 in London (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

How British Airways Is Moving Closer To Sustainability

Technological and scientific research for effectively operating sustainable aircraft is becoming increasingly prevalent in the airline industry. As a result, many airlines have in recent months and years unveiled a variety of different proposals and projects aimed at achieving carbon neutrality. 

British Airways has become one of the revolutionary players in this transition. Recently, the London-based carrier officially announced a partnership with ZeroAvia to rapidly progress its operations towards hydrogen-powered aircraft. 

“British Airways is committed to a sustainable future and achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. In the short-term, this means improving our operational efficiency and introducing carbon offset and removal projects, while in the medium to longer-term we’re investing in the development of sustainable aviation fuel and looking at how we can help accelerate the growth of new technologies such as zero-emissions hydrogen-powered aircraft,” Sean Doyle, CEO of British Airways, said in a statement. 

ZeroAvia’s Mission

In September 2020, ZeroAvia made notable progress by completing the world’s first hydrogen-powered flight with a commercial aircraft. 

“Earlier this year, we proved passengers will soon be able to board an emissions-free, hydrogen-powered aircraft for commercial services. In the years to come, we will scale that technology up to power larger aircraft over long distances,” Sergey Kiselev, ZeroAvia’s Head of Europe, said in regard to the accomplishment. 

ZeroAvia will focus on embedding itself in the airline to work on contributing to research and development. Its contributions will include exploring British Airways’ possible solutions for rapidly moving towards hydrogen-powered aircraft and away from traditional fossil fuels. 

Kiselev added, “ZeroAvia’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to truly zero-emissions flight, and we believe hydrogen is the best way to quickly and practically achieve this. We are delighted to be working with British Airways, one of the world’s iconic airlines, and the Hangar 51 program to explore how hydrogen-electric aircraft can power the fleet of the future. That promising future is closer than ever.”

Next year, ZeroAvia plans to use the findings for longer flight distances and larger aircraft. In addition, the company plans to input its technology into aircraft. This will occur as early as 2023 for flights of up to 500 miles in aircraft with up to 20 seats. By 2027, it plans to have active powerplants to power commercial flights of over 500 miles in aircraft with up to 100 seats and by 2030 more than 1,000-miles in aircraft with 100 or more seats.

British Airways’ Fleet

Earlier this year, the United Kingdom’s flag carrier made the fateful decision to end Boeing 747 operations.  British Airways recently retired its final Boeing 747 — commonly referred to as the Queen Of The Skies — due to the effects of COVID-19 and cost inefficiency. The airline’s final 747 took flight on Dec. 11 from Cardiff Airport. Its new home will be eCube Solutions in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales.

“This final 747 journey is a bittersweet moment for the many thousands of British Airways customers and crew who have flown the world on these Queens of the Sky over the last five decades,” Doyle said in a statement, a belief that will be preserved for future generations as the airline closes this chapter in its history.

However, the carrier has replaced its now-retired fleet with more modern Airbus A350s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners. As a result, its partnership with ZeroAvia will further establish the importance of the prevalent, aircraft within the fleet. These widebodies serve as the powerhouses for the airline’s long-haul operations. 

Certainly, British Airways’ research and development partnership with ZeroAvia is a step forward toward the goal of operating fully hydrogen-powered aircraft. While it is a completely different approach to minimizing the effects of its fleet on the environment, there is still a substantial amount of research to complete. But with British Airways offering a unique perspective to the prevalent issue, the future for its modern, efficient fleet could be closer than anticipated.

Benjamin Pham
Benjamin Pham
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