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Air Canada to operate biofuel flights in support of environmental research on contrails and emissions

Air Canada is participating in the Civil Aviation Alternate Fuel Contrail and Emissions Research project (CAAFCER), a research project led by the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) to test the environmental benefits of biofuel use on contrails.

This project will use advanced sensing equipment mounted on a research aircraft operated by the NRC to measure the impact of biofuel blends on contrail formation by aircraft on five biofuel flights operated by Air Canada between Montreal and Toronto in the coming days, weather permitting. During these flights the National Research Council of Canada will trail the Air Canada aircraft with a modified T-33 research jet to sample and test the contrail biofuel emissions. The sustainable biofuel is produced by AltAir Fuels from used cooking oil and supplied by SkyNRG.

A reduction in the thickness and coverage of contrails produced by the jet engines of aircraft could reduce aviation’s impact on the environment, an important beneficial effect of sustainable biofuel usage in aviation.

This project involves six stakeholder organizations, with primary funding from the Green Aviation Research and Development Network (GARDN), a non-profit organization funded by the business-Led Network of Centres of Excellence of the Government of Canada and the Canadian aerospace industry. The project has further financial support from the NRC and the enabling support of Air Canada ground and flight operations.

In addition to Air Canada, other CAAFCER partners include (alphabetical order) Boeing, National Research Council Canada (NRC), SkyNRG, University of Alberta, and Waterfall.

Since 2009, CAAFCER has built a portfolio of more than 30 R&D projects to reduce the environmental impact of a new generation of engines, structures and systems by the aerospace industry.

To reduce its own emissions Air Canada has adopted a four-pillar strategy that includes: the use of new technology; improved operations; infrastructure changes; and the use of economic instruments.

One example is Air Canada’s participation as an airline partner in Canada’s Biojet Supply Chain Initiative (CBSCI). It is a three-year collaborative project begun in 2015 with 14 stakeholder organizations to introduce 400,000 liters of sustainable aviation biofuel (biojet) into the shared fuel system at Montreal airport. The CBSCI project is a first in Canada and is aimed at creating a sustainable Canadian supply chain of biojet using renewable feedstocks.

In 2012 Air Canada operated two biofuel flights one between Toronto and Mexico City as part of a series of commercial biofuel flights that took the secretary general of ICAO to the United Nations conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro; the second flight transported a number of Olympic athletes and officials on their way to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

In 2016 Air Canada continued taking delivery of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Initial results show these aircraft are delivering approximately 20% improvement in efficiency over the aircraft they replaced. Air Canada plans to introduce 37 of these new aircraft in the coming years. In addition, later this year, it will be acquire up to 79 new Boeing 737 Max aircraft, expected to yield a 14% decrease in fuel use over the most current narrow-body aircraft. The aircraft investments represent a commitment of more than $11 billion at list prices.

Air Canada has achieved a 40% improvement in average fuel efficiency between 1990 and 2016.

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