Special Reports

748 Air plans bio-fuels switch to offset emissions

Fly 748

748 Air Services is planning to reduce emissions by beginning a carbon offsetting flights early next year.

As the global threat from climate change escalates, the transport industry continues to find itself in an awkward position, owing to its dependency on fossil fuels.

The aviation industry is one of the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere, responsible for an average of 750 million metric tonnes of carbon emissions every year in the last five years.

This accounts for nearly three percent of all carbon emissions in the transport industry globally.

To play its part in alleviating the threat, air charter company 748 Air Services plans to offset its carbon emissions for all 16 of its aircraft in humanitarian and scheduled services from next month.

This will make 748 Air Services the first airline in the region to take this ambitious route, which is part of its plans to accelerate the drastic reduction of carbon emissions and to be sustainable going into the future.

Reducing fuel consumption not only cuts carbon emissions but operational costs for airlines as well. Jet fuel constitutes the biggest expense item for most airlines.

To do this, the airline is investing in offsetting activities and processes, to compensate for an equal amount of carbon its aircraft will be emitting.

The company hopes to measure, monitor, reduce and offset every tonne of carbon dioxide its aircraft release to the environment.

Perhaps even more ambitious, the airline says it is reviewing several green fuel options, including electric ground power units and bio-fuels, as it looks to shift from diesel power.

‘‘This means that we are going into the carbon trade market to invest in programmes that will take back all the carbon units emitted in our operations,” says George Oduor, the company’s environmental manager.

Mr Oduor adds that the airline can determine the weekly carbon footprint by its fleet, noting that emission data produced is now subject to validation by approved independent verifiers.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), an UN-backed world airline governing body, set 2026 as the deadline for countries to start mandatory compliance with carbon emission reduction requirements for international aviation.

Domestic flights, operators in the military and humanitarian space – the main domain of 748 Air Services – are, however, exempted from these requirements.

The airline, though, says its move is ‘‘deliberate and strategic.’’

“Kenya as a state is behind the schedule in the adoption of ICAO emission regulations. It is exciting that environmental issues are becoming a national discussion,” Mr Oduor says.

The airline is buoyed by its recent gains where it has successfully reduced fuel consumption by its aircraft during takeoff and descent through ‘‘optimal flight planning’’ and aircraft handling strategies.

This has seen 748 Air Services cut its carbon emissions by up to 11 percent in recent weeks.

Aircraft burn the most fuel at takeoff and descent to propel them to the intended cruise level.

‘‘You want to be airborne immediately without losing time and burning unnecessary fuel on the ground. Optimal flight planning enables pilots to reduce resistance brought by headwinds and to arrive at destinations using 60 percent power,’’ says Timothy Oruya, a captain at the airline and a climate champion.

It is also looking at the prospect of reducing unnecessary weight on board among other ICAO-recommended practices.

Mr Oduor notes this project has been possible owing to the airline’s top management commitment to environmental protection and prevention of pollution through the company’s environmental management policy.

The airline has already set up a fully-fledged environmental office, furnished with a data analyst to help monitor emissions and crunch and populate numbers from its full-scale environmental management system.

The office is currently evaluating environmental aspects such as air operations including emissions from aircraft engines and general waste on-flight.

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