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Aircraft cost index and the future of carbon emissions from air travel

Holly A. Edwards, Darron Dixon-Hardy, Zia Wadud
Applied energy 2016 v.164 pp. 553-562
air transportation, aircraft, biofuels, carbon, carbon dioxide, carbon markets, climate change, energy costs, energy use and consumption, equations, flight, greenhouse gas emissions, industry, issues and policy, models, oils
Air travel accounts for 2% of global CO2 emissions and this proportion is set to grow in the future. There are currently no large scale solutions to drastically reduce the industry’s dependence on oil. Therefore, airlines are looking to use a basket of measures to reduce fuel consumption. Optimisation of the use of cost index (CI) could be a valuable addition to this. By balancing time-dependent costs with the cost of fuel, it controls the speed of the aircraft to achieve the most economic flight time. This has a direct impact on the CO2 emissions from the aircraft, with higher speeds resulting in higher fuel consumption. The aim of this study is to assess the impact that CI has on CO2 emissions for six different aircraft models on a flight-by-flight basis and to evaluate how the CI could be affected by future impacts on the industry for a representative aircraft. Results show that a range of representative CI values for different aircraft models exist and suggest that the maximum benefit for optimising CI values occurs for long range flights. The average saving in CO2 emissions is 1%. Results show that time-related costs have the greatest effect on the optimum CI values, particularly delay costs. On the fuel side of the equation it is notable that a carbon price resulting from the implementation of a market based mechanism has little impact on the optimum CI and only reduces CO2 emissions by 0.01% in this case. The largest savings in CO2 emissions result from the use of biofuels, with reductions of between 9% and 44% for 10% and 50% blends respectively. This study also highlights the need for further research into crew and maintenance costs, cumulative costs and delay induced by congestion and climate change events, as well as policy considerations to ensure that there is a reduction in CO2 emissions. The study concludes that CI should be seen as a valuable tool in both helping to reduce CO2 emissions, as well to assess the impact of future events on the industry.