Europe takes lead in proactively ‘greening’ airports

As environmental pressure continues to bear down on all sectors, particularly the aviation industry, European airports have taken the lead in 'greening' their operations through a variety of means. Heiner Siegmund reports.

“Hushkitted aircraft there, new planes here.” This simple example illustrates according to executive VP Mike Tretheway and chief economist of Vancouver-based InterVISTAS Consulting Group in a nutshell “the huge difference between North American and European thinking concerning their respective efforts for reducing noise and fuel burn in commercial aviation.” In fact, while FedEx and other US capacity providers opted for equipping the engines of their B727Fs or ageing DC-8 freighters with this device for lowering noise emissions Airbus however, renounced this step by deciding to produce new variants of their basic models A320 and A300 instead that were quieter and less kerosene consumptive. “Concerning environmental questions we North Americans are here to learn from you,” chairman Tretheway pulled off his hat before the audience of the 14th Hamburg, Germany-held Aviation Conference in mid-February. How this industry can contribute more efficiently to reduce greenhouse gases and turn its devastating public image from a main climate killer to a more positive status were perfectly fitting topics for the two day event. In the first place because environmental questions have become increasingly pressing in times of global warming and secondly due to the fact that the northern German city was awarded the title “Green Capital” by the EU this year as a result of its many encouraging environmental initiatives, including aviation. Hamburg accommodates, next to Seattle and Toulouse, the third biggest aviation cluster worldwide, by hosting Lufthansa Technik, a huge Airbus plant together with dozens of suppliers and component producers. All-in- all, roughly 40,000 people are currently working in this booming sector with their number rising constantly since work keeps pouring in. “In Europe unlike other major markets we have decided to pursue a pro-active environmental policy,” stated panelist Chrystelle Damar from the Airports Council International ACI at the forum. “The greening of transport is a big issue here for politicians, the industry and the broad public alike,” she emphasised. As a practical example Damar referred to Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport that had already capped the emission of greenhouse gases years ago as a result of public demand and mounting pressure from the Swedish government. Therefore, Arlanda is benchmarking the European airport landscape nowadays when it comes to environmental issues.