Can aviation become carbon neutral?

It has been over a year since I last stepped off a plane. At the time, I was repatriating from Morocco that went into Covid-19 lockdown during March 2020. Since then, flying has become an event that happens almost exclusively out of necessity. So, it is all the more fun to help a start-up in the aviation industry get through the crisis and spread its wings. Silver Flight started in the middle of the Corona-lockdown and has less customers than planned. HillFive was invited to help with its growth strategy.

When I arrive at our client’s premises, Schiphol Amsterdam airport is shockingly empty. There are planes parked on the taxiways and the word ‘lockdown’ is really being felt here. The only thing that happens is the police helicopter navigating low over the taxiway to the runway and then disappearing like an arrow straight up into the low hanging clouds. Silver Flight is a newcomer to the business aviation market and, by using a single-engine, fuel-efficient aircraft, offers the business traveller an alternative that is cheaper and has half the carbon emissions of a traditional business jet.

The aviation market is on the move

Flying is becoming more sustainable, the first examples of electric planes are already slowly appearing on the market and, as in the energy sector, this sustainable transition is irreversible. On the other hand, there is also a growing sense of flight shame. There is a rising number of people who consciously stop flying because the environmental impact is too high. In addition, we have learned in the past year that working digitally may make it less necessary to fly for business. The aviation industry expects that the number of flight movements will grow rapidly once sufficient vaccinations are in place, tests can be carried out and lockdowns are lifted. A growing insight is that there is also a need for safer flying with more distance between passengers as well as more sustainable flying with reduced carbon emissions.

Carbon neutral flying

In the business segment, the need to reduce carbon is growing. In the corona era, there is also the insight that regular visits to factories and relations abroad remain necessary for effective business operations. This combination leads to the search for more sustainability and flexibility. The search is on for aircraft with lower CO2 emissions and eventually the switch to electric aircrafts.

The project

All the above developments make for a turbulent time to establish a new airline. Our assignment was therefore to keep the customer viable and prepare them for the growing market that is coming back after the lockdown. We first analysed the market and internal organisation and then proposed several measures that would help the company financially and operationally through the lockdown. In addition, we brought focus to the company’s strategy so that its own growth plan can still be realised.

The future

There is great uncertainty in the market as to when people will be able and willing to fly again. The need to reduce the CO2 footprint in combination with the great flexibility in departure times and number of runways, for the type of aircraft Silver Flight uses, is the key to success in the future. Companies want their employees to stay in their bubble with minimal travel time and therefore private flying is taking off. Sustainability is ensured because Silver Flight has chosen a type of aircraft that can accommodate more people per flight and carbon emissions are twice as low as the competition. In the near future, full electric planes will be added to the fleet. The first steps towards more sustainable flying have been taken.


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