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Making aviation sustainable

by Neil Robinson Manchester Airports Group

Aviation is a UK success story. We have the largest aviation network in Europe, providing more than £22bn to the UK economy and directly providing hundreds of thousands of highly-skilled jobs.

Pilots are flying more passengers than ever and we have seen passenger numbers reach 250m in 2016. That’s an increase of nearly 30m since 2014, with further growth expected over the coming years. That growth however needs to be delivered in a sustainable way.

We are at a critical juncture. The UK Government is developing a new Aviation Strategy which places safe and sustainable growth at its heart; we prepare to enter the CORSIA scheme from 2020; and an increased focus on limiting global temperature change to 1.5 degrees.

It has never been a more important time for our industry to meet these challenges. This week Sustainable Aviation – the coalition of airlines, airports, aerospace manufacturers and air navigation service providers –launched its latest report on how we are responding. It shows that we have disconnected that rate of growth from that of carbon emissions and noise over the last two years.


Pilots have been vital in helping with these achievements thus far. In particular, they’ve helped us increase the number of continuous descents by more than 63 thousand this year, and that’s led to a reduction in CO2 emissions and noise.

But there is more to do.  As I assume the role of Chair of Sustainable Aviation, we are as committed as ever to playing our role.

Over the coming years we will look at the potential of market based measures, work to unlock the huge potential of sustainable aviation fuels and update of our carbon roadmap in 2019.

We will set out the way new techniques and technologies can reduce the impact of aircraft noise. And pilots are vital in that work. We look to pilots to help ensure this technology is embraced and utilised to maximum effect. At the same time, we will work with Government to find innovative ways to introduce low and zero emission vehicles to airports.

And we will set out our vision for aviation in 2050 looking at the innovative and emerging technologies on the horizon which have a potentially transformative effect on our industry. Ours is an innovative and vibrant industry and we will be looking at all those involved for their thoughts and ideas.

But we can’t achieve sustainable growth without the support and action of Government. The Industrial Strategy and Aviation Strategy are good opportunities for Government to take a proactive approach in this area. We urge the Government to be ambitious and positive about what the industry can achieve and how it can continue to support our economy.