Greening of aircraft still in realm of blue-sky thinking

Avolon chief says his aircraft will be powered by fossil fuels for another 20 to 30 years

Pictured last year at the official launch of Avolon’s new global head office in Ballsbridge were Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, John Higgins, Avolon’s president and chief commericial officer, and Dómhnal Slattery, Avolon’s chief executive. Photograph: Robbie Reynolds

Pictured last year at the official launch of Avolon’s new global head office in Ballsbridge were Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, John Higgins, Avolon’s president and chief commericial officer, and Dómhnal Slattery, Avolon’s chief executive. Photograph: Robbie Reynolds

 

Avolon chief executive Dómhnal Slattery was a guest this week of the Irish Times podcast Inside Business to discuss Project i, a white paper he has developed on how Ireland might establish itself as a global start-up hub.

Following months of research, a 60-page document was produced with recommendations across six headings, including culture, education and funding.

Slattery is hoping to kick-start a debate on the steps that need to be taken to foster entrepreneurship to create an ecosystem in which start-ups here can thrive and become global leaders in their chosen fields.

Within the past nine years, Avolon has established itself as the third biggest lessor globally with a portfolio of about 500 owned aircraft.

These aircraft currently guzzle fossil fuels, which is unsustainable long term as the agenda on climate change gains momentum. Ryanair’s decision to publish data this week on its carbon dioxide emissions is evidence of that.

Slattery noted that Avolon owns the youngest fleet in the world, meaning it produces the lowest emissions among its peers, relatively speaking. “We are going to try an maintain that particular agenda,” he said, adding that it wanted to be “emissions neutral on a global basis”.

“There’s no question in my mind that there’ll be carbon tax for airlines and rightly so. Avolon will take a leadership role to make sure we’re in the forefront of that,” he added.

However, the day when Avolon’s aircraft might be powered by something other than fossil fuels is still some time off. “There’s a lot of work going on with the different manufacturers on a variety of scenarios but as I look out and see the technology . . . it’s probably 20 or 30 years away.

“We could probably build an electric-powered airplane that could fly four or six people but to build an electric-powered airplane that could fly 500 or 600 people is still way beyond the current technology capabilities because the size of the batteries are so big. The battery technologies still have to advance.”

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