Sustainability: Flying cleaner

Aircraft and engine manufacturers are looking at how to make their products more efficient so air cargo can fly further and cleaner.

Picture credit: Euroavia

Modern aircraft are much more efficient than the previous generation and upgrading fleets is one way for airlines to improve their environmental performance.

At the Caspian Air Cargo Summit, representatives from Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, GE Aerospace and Rolls-Royce explained how their products had developed so air cargo can reduce its carbon footprint.

John Skelly, Business Development Director Freighter Aircraft at Airbus, told the audience that the A350 Freighter, which is based on the A350-1000, has 53 commitments, of which 39 are confirmed orders, from eight customers.

This gives Airbus a 42% market share less than two years after the A350F was announced.

The A350F will have two variants, one which can carry 109 tonnes and fly 4,700 nautical miles, and the other has a payload of 111 tonnes and a range of 4,550 nautical miles. It has the largest maindeck cargo door on the market and a strong cargo floor.

“We have designed it to take everything that the competition can take and more. It is a digital native freighter, it has more capabilities to monitor and track cargo, and will be able to connect to any future digital equipment this industry will come up with,” said Skelly.

The A350F will be certified as the A350-1000F so does not need a new type certification. The main differences from the passenger variant are the extra large maindeck cargo door, the cargo loading system and the barrier wall. Skelly said this simplifies the design process.

The airframe is made largely of composite materials and advanced materials including titanium. Seventy per cent of the aircraft is made from advanced material giving it a more robust design and means no corrosion or fatigue.

It has been designed to be light and easy to repair in any temperature without a hangar.

“I invite you to Toulouse, we will give you a panel of an A350 and a mallet and we will let you hit that panel as hard as you can and see if you can damage it. We haven’t had anyone damage it so far so the competition is on,” said Skelly.

Fuel bills for the A350-1000 passenger aircraft are lower, with 20% lower fuel burn per trip than the 777, 30% lower than three-engine aircraft such as MD-11s and 40% lower than the four-engine B747-400F.

The A350F will have the necessary range, with the ability to fly from Hong Kong to Anchorage with its maximum structural payload being a top design requirement.

The A350F will take off in 2025 with a light flight test campaign with two development aircraft because there is no new type certification, said Skelly.

He said, “We have a proven platform, we have 53 commitments, we have a step change in fuel burn due to the latest generation engines, we have the largest maindeck cargo door on the market taking off in 2025 and entering service in 2026.”

Growing with Boeing
Over 90% of cargo capacity is provided by Boeing, said John Perdoch, Regional Director – Product Marketing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

The industry is cyclical, which will recover from the tough times and need 2,800 additional freighters over the next 20 years taking the global fleet from 2,300 today to 3,700 by 2042.

Half the additional freighters will replace old aircraft and the other half will be for growth as cargo is expected to grow 4.5% annually.

The Boeing 777F has been a great success for Boeing and the B777-8F will add next generation technology such as carbon wings from the 777X, which is an upsized version of the wing from the 787.

The B777-8F will have a structural payload of 118 tonnes, the highest payload and volume on the market today with the lowest fuel use and cost per tonne.

Minus the nose loading, the B777-8F is a replacement for the B747-400F with 31% lower fuel burn and carbon emissions.

Perdoch said Boeing is on a sustainability mission with the four pillars of fleet renewal, operational efficiency, renewable energy and new technologies.

All of Boeing’s products will be capable of flying with 100% sustainable aviation fuel by 2030, with Perdoch saying, “We look at SAF as the best near- and mid-term solution for decarbonising aviation and it offers up to 80% lower carbon emissions than today’s jet fuel.”

Striving for better
The ethos of Rolls-Royce is to take the best that exists and make it better, said Jason Sutcliffe, Marketing Director – Middle East at Rolls-Royce as he spoke about the Trent XWB 97 engine fitted to the A350-1000, which will be used on the A350F when it enters service.

The Trent was launched 25 years ago and registered 175 million flight hours. The XWB 97 has already surpassed orders for the Trent 700, making it Rolls-Royce’s largest engine programme.

The Trent XWB offers 15% better fuel consumption and has 20% better fuel burn when combined with an optimised airframe.

Sutcliffe said it can fly on 50% SAF and is capable of flying with 100% SAF, and like all Rolls-Royce engines, it is able to have 98% recyclable equipment on the engine.

Externally, the XWB and 84K look identical, but it has a slightly larger core, higher fan flow, higher capability turbines and new technology for performance and durability. It has had over two million flying hours and 250,000 cycles without any issues.

With 99.95% dispatch reliability, Sutcliffe said, “You would have to fly the fleet five million miles between a delay or cancellation. We are on the glide path to meet six million flying hours by 2026 and by the time the aircraft [A350F] comes into service, we will be there.”

This article was published in the February 2024 issue of Air Logistics International, click here to read the digital edition and click here to subscribe.