A sustainable decarbonised aerospace industry

Eco-friendly air transport concept. The plane flies in the sky against the background of green trees. Environmental pollution. Harmful emissions

The members of International Air Transport Association (IATA) are committed to decarbonising the aviation industry by 2050. This will not be easy, all the members know it, especially because, before 2030, technological solutions will not be ready at scale.


The discussion about net-zero aviation and cleaner energy has become central. However, how can the net-zero evolution become a reality? Companies and experts of the sector are now discussing it more than ever: in fact, at the latest Farnborough Airshow, where we also participated, there was much debate about the use of engineering simulation and virtual prototyping, two things that will help make the net-zero air mobility revolution a reality. Companies must accelerate the production of more sustainable aviation fuels and the reinvention of existing technologies: to be able to achieve that, every stakeholder in the supply chain is going to have to cooperate.

Simulation is a key tool in decision-making because it allows organisations to understand if their aerospace project will work in the real world. Businesses can, in this way, understand if what they are doing is viable, economic and sustainable. 

For example, Electroflight, a UK’s company focused on the electrification of flight, has been using simulations to break the world speed record for an all-electric aircraft. They also used simulations to solve materials challenges to minimise costs.


So, what could be a possible long-term solution for the decarbonisation of the aerospace industry? The IATA came to the conclusion that the key to decarbonise the sector is scaling up the production and availability of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). SAF is produced from sustainable feedstocks and is very similar in its chemistry to traditional fossil jet fuel. The use of SAF, though, reduces carbon emissions by up to 80% over the fuel lifecycle compared to the traditional jet fuel it replaces. 

SAF will represent the most significant share of the solution identified to reach net zero. At this time, it is the only reliable solution to decarbonise the sector without disrupting air connectivity. 

Global SAF capacity will grow in the upcoming years: it is believed that by 2030 the production of SAF will reach around 24 million metric tonnes, compared to the 80000 of last year. IATA will have to work with many stakeholders to produce enough SAF. 

Governments are well aware of the difficulties and have started helping manufacturers: in fact, the European Parliament voted for a piece of legislation called ReFuelEu, which aims to boost the supply and demand for green jet fuel in the EU. As for the US, the House and the Senate passed a bill that helps make SAF price more competitive, by including a tax credit. This will reduce the price premium for SAF, which, at the moment, costs more than its fossil-based counterpart. 

This bill will be necessary for producers to meet the demand for clean fuels and create new jobs in this emerging industry.


Another important step toward decarbonisation is the hydrogen fuel: this could be a game-changing concept, and it took the industry by surprise in 2020, when AirBus revealed its plans to study hydrogen-powered airliner concepts under project ZEROe. The goal of this project is to develop the world’s first zero-emission aircraft for entry into service by 2035.

In 2022, Boeing revealed that they are studying a new hydrogen-fueled airliner. 

Another example is American Airlines, which invested in ZeroAvia, a zero-emission propulsion developer, covering a possible order for 100 hydrogen-electric engines, to retrofit regional jets spanning between 9 and 80 passengers.


Whatever organisations may use, it is clear that they are taking the decarbonisation of the industry very seriously and will invest money and resources into reaching this goal. 

To be able to do that, they are always on the lookout for new cooperation opportunities. Italian Aerospace Network is already in contact with companies in the sector. If you have an interest in this industry, and you think you have the expertise to contribute to the development of these products, fill out the form below and we will contact you to see if we can organise technical meetings with relevant companies in the sector.