Stansted Airport launches competition for first zero carbon emissions commercial flight with five years' free landing fees as prize
Planes that emit no carbon could be flying from Stansted Airport by 2035 thanks to a new competition to drive advances in aviation technology.
Stansted owner Manchester Airports Group (MAG), the UK's largest airport group, has challenged airlines to be the first to operate a zero-emission commercial flight from one of its airports. It also operates Manchester and East Midlands.
This is the first contest of its kind in the industry, which will see the successful carrier win five years' free landing fees – worth up to £1.3m at today's prices – and comes as MAG publishes its annual CSR (corporate social responsibility) report.
This sets out the environmental and educational contributions Stansted makes to the regional economy and local communities, including:
* Almost 12,000 volunteering hours by employees to support community projects.
* A 20% reduction in waste, with the airport continuing its track record of sending zero waste to landfill – for the third year in a row – and becoming the first airport in the UK to send all its coffee grounds to be recycled into solid biofuels.
* An industry-leading trial of fully compostable bags when carrying liquids in hand luggage through security.
* Welcoming a full intake of 500 students to the airport’s dedicated, on-site college for the third consecutive year since it opened in 2018.
* A special event for 50 young women to mark United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
The report also makes a landmark commitment to become a net-zero carbon business by 2038 – 12 years ahead of the UK aviation industry’s 2050 target.
Airlines taking part in the competition to win the free landing fees will be given free rein in their choice of low-emission technology, including electric and hydrogen technology.
It comes after global manufacturer Airbus last month revealed three concept ‘ZEROe’ hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft, which could carry up to 200 passengers from the UK across Europe from 2035. The first commercial-grade, six-seater aircraft powered by a hydrogen fuel cell was showcased at Cranfield University in September.
Sustainable Aviation, the UK aviation industry’s sustainability group, forecasts that the sector can expect to see the first zero-emission regional or short-haul flight in 10 to 15 years’ time.
MAG’s initiative will complement the full range of measures needed to help the UK reach its Net Zero 2050 target, including modernising UK airspace, sustainable aviation fuels, smart flight operations and new aircraft technology.
Stansted’s managing director, Steve Griffiths, said: “Along with our colleagues across MAG, London Stansted has always been ambitious in our approach to sustainability.
“There will always be more we can do, which is why we're setting our sights on seeing zero-carbon aircraft on our runway in the next 10 to 15 years, along with a commitment to be a net zero-carbon business by 2038.
“While coronavirus will continue to pose significant challenges for many months to come, this does not take away from the vital role we play in our community, our focus on sustainability and our commitment to supporting the region we serve.”
Neil Robinson, MAG’s CSR and airspace change director, said: “When our airports prosper, our communities around them prosper, but in tougher times we can help support each other too.
"We have a long history of working very closely in our local communities and, for us, sustainability means more than just reducing carbon, it means becoming a business that has long-standing, sustainable relationships with our environment, people and communities at all levels.
“In striving to be the best possible neighbour, we also continuously focus on improving employment opportunities – and that means ensuring we have the right support on offer at our airports to help people find work, including airport academies, further education colleges and our ‘Aerozones’ that introduce schoolchildren to aviation.
“Having this framework in place will be even more important as we recover from Covid-19.
"This year’s annual CSR report demonstrates another great year of achievement and I look forward to delivering on our ambitious new five-year strategy.”