Icelandair plans to operate carbon-free domestic flights by 2030

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All talk of sustainability has 2050 as the target date for net-zero commercial flights. Not wanting to wait 28 years, Icelandair blew that away by announcing plans to operate all domestic flights carbon-free by the end of this decade.


Here’s some real action on net-zero

Photo: Avmax

As London’s Financial Times (FT) reported yesterday, Icelandair CEO Bogi Nils Bogason said the airline plans to tap into Iceland’s abundant and cheap renewable energy to power domestic flights, either by battery or hydrogen fuel cell technologies. Bogason told FT:

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“We are focused on eliminating carbon from our domestic operations by the end of this decade. We believe it is realistic that this will happen within a few years, and we will be the first airline, or the first country, to have carbon-free domestic aviation.”

The airline plans to use clean energy from Iceland to power the plane, either by powering batteries or generating hydrogen for use in fuel cells. At this point, Bogason doesn’t specify what kind of technology will be, saying it’s “realistic to operate a carbon-free aircraft by the end of the decade, and our plans are for that, whether hydrogen aircraft – aircraft powered or partially powered by electricity.”

Icelandair flies to three domestic destinations, Egilsstadir, Akureyri and Ísafjördur, all within an hour of Reykjavik Keflavik Airport (KEF). Unlike its close neighbor, Norway’s Widerøe, Icelandair avoids nine-seater planes and targets the Heart Aerospace ES-30.

With current battery technology, the 30-seat all-electric ES-30 has a projected range of 125 miles (200 kilometers), and hybrid-electric technology extends that to 250 miles (400 km). Heart Aerospace has collected nearly 100 letters of intent for the ES-30, including from Icelandair, Braathens Regional Airlines, SAS and Sounds Air in New Zealand.

Hydrogen or electricity is ok with Bogason

Photo: Air Iceland Connect

Icelandair has also signed a deal with Universal Hydrogen, which said it would convert the airlines’ existing Dash 8-200s to hydrogen. This proposal is even more ambitious, as it wants to start decarbonizing Icelandair’s domestic operations “as early as 2026”.

According to ch-aviation.com, Icelandair has a fleet of 45 planes, mostly jets. It has three De Havilland DHC-8-Q200s with seating for 37 passengers and two DHC-8-Q400s with 76 seats. Most of the flight is performed by ten Boeing 737 MAX 8s and four MAX 9s, supported by a mix of Boeing 757 and 767 passenger and freighter aircraft.

Icelandair has a relatively old fleet, and despite its 14 MAX being around three years old, the average age of its fleet is 21.5 years. The average age of the Dash 8s is around 24 years old, while the 18 757-200s are approaching 26 years old, so adding next-generation aircraft would also help reduce emissions.

Photo: Vincenzo Pace I simply fly

An important natural advantage of Icelandair is the plentiful supply of cheap, carbon-free electricity produced from Iceland’s geothermal energy sources. This access to carbon-free renewable energy means the country can produce green hydrogen, giving Icelandair a head start on the path to net-zero hydrogen operations.

It is refreshing to see an airline and its leader laying out definitive short-term goals and, in effect, “nailing its colors to the (sustainability) mast”. Icelandair is shining a light on what can be done and is ready to start where it can, rather than waiting until 2050 to arrive.

What do you think of Icelandair’s goal for carbon-free domestic flights by 2030?

Source: Financial Times

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