Uplifting aerospace conference heralds green future
The main thrust of the 21st annual conference of the Farnborough Aerospace Consortium (FAC) was climate change, and how the industry should help combat it.
Speaker after speaker explained how their business or interest was getting on board the flight to sustainability and carbon neutrality. But it was also accepted that the industry has an image problem and while it emits between 2-4% of the world’s harmful emissions, the public assumes it is far greater.
FAC, whose chairman in Sir Donald Spiers, represents hundreds of companies in the aerospace sector and its supply chain and believes this year could be the most important yet. Speakers from The Royal Aeronautical Society, Rolls-Royce, Airbus and other companies described how they were moving towards a cleaner, greener future.
Every generation of aircraft is 20% cleaner than the last and the delegates heard how research into hybrid, electric, solar and hydrogen-powered aircraft was taking off.
David Barnes, CEO of FAC, said: “It was a fascinating conference with speakers from many different areas, but combating climate change was a constant theme. The industry is one of innovation and it is exciting to see how research is going in new areas to reduce pollution and help create a greener industry. I think hydrogen will be the way we go, but it is a personal view. What was clear was that everyone has the same goal in mind.
“The public’s perception is that the aerospace sector is responsible for more emissions that it actually is, and that is something we as an industry have to address. We heard from Brandon O’Reilly, CEO of Farnborough Airport, who explained that the airport had been carbon neutral since 2018. Ian Cuddington from Rolls-Royce said that two-thirds of its research and development funding was looking at environmental impact and that the business now sees itself as an ‘industrial technology company’.
“Air Chief Marshall Sir Brian Burridge, who heads the Royal Aeronautical Society, put the sector into a historical context and also looked at global megatrends in aviation such as rapid passenger growth and key developments in technology. The conference also heard from Sarah Dhanda, head of strategic partnerships at SEMTA, who told how gaming could help encourage youngsters into engineering. And Sophie Thomas, from Airbus, spoke about women in aerospace and defence and how diversity leads to better outcomes.”
Other speakers included Clive Lewis, Managing Partner of Achieving the Difference, who talked about urban air mobility and how people might fly around in the future; possibly in passenger drones.
And Marc Arstall from Reaction Engines updated delegates on the progress of engines capable of hypersonic flight. Stephen Cowan from GKN described how his company dates from 1759 - long before air travel - and how recent acquisitions had led to strong growth. And Callum White from GE Aviation told how collaborations in the industry were leading to successes and that the sector should be proud.
The conference at the Elvetham Hotel in Hartley Wintney, Hants, is one a many events the FAC organises for the benefit of its members. Also speaking at the event was Clarke Mouncher from Gulfstream, Colin Share from Sharing in Growth, Syma Cullasy from ADS Group, David Caddle from Economic Growth Solutions, and Richard Gardner, chairman of Farnborough Air Science Trust.