Branson plan to cut aircraft emissions


Sir Richard Branson has launched a new plan which he claims could cut the world's aviation emissions by up to 25 per cent.

The billionaire entrepreneur is in New York to promote the changes to aircraft movements at busy airports in the hope of securing support for his cross-industry initiative to cut carbon dioxide emissions caused by air traffic.

News of the emission-cutting plan comes after Branson's announcement last week that he would commit profits worth $3 billion (£1.6 billion) from Virgin's airline and rail businesses to support renewable energy initiatives over the next decade.

Virgin Atlantic chief Sir Richard has written to other airlines, including British Airways and American Airlines, urging them to support his new cross-industry forum on tackling climate change, which he has also asked airport operators and aircraft manufacturers to become involved in.

In a statement released today outlining his proposals, Virgin Atlantic
said that the implementation of more efficient aircraft movements at the world's busiest airports would result in planes burning "considerably" less fuel and emitting much lower levels of carbon dioxide gas.

Central to Sir Richard's plans are proposals for the creation of special "starting grids" for all aircraft departures, under which planes awaiting departure would be parked in a holding area before being towed closer to the runway prior to take-off.

Branson claims that the proposals would "substantially reduce" the amount of time aircraft spend on the ground with their engines running before departure. It is thought that the measures would cut on-the-ground emissions from Virgin Atlantic aircraft by over 50 per cent ahead of take-off at London's Heathrow airport and by almost 90 per cent at New York's JFK airport.

It is also proposed that aircraft should adopt a practice, already used by Virgin Atlantic pilots, which involves aircraft beginning their descents from high altitudes much earlier in order to approach airports at a more efficient speed and to reduce the amount of fuel they burn ahead of landing.

Virgin Atlantic, which is reducing the weight of its planes as part of its own sustainable aviation strategy, said that Sir Richard also wants Europe's 35 different air traffic control systems to be merged into a single operation in order to optimise air routings by aircraft and improve environmental performance further.

Commenting on the plans, Sir Richard said: “What we’re suggesting would save over 150 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year."

"With global warming, the world is heading for a catastrophe. The aviation industry must play its part in averting that."

"Airlines, airports, air traffic controllers and governments should seize these initiatives and ensure they’re all implemented within two years. If they do so, up to 25% of the world’s aviation emissions can be cut," he added.

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