The Future – biofuels and new technologies

Our ongoing fleet modernisation programme – purchasing the most fuel efficient aircraft that is appropriate for our operations – is one of the most significant ways that an airline can reduce its environmental impact.

For our passenger aircraft fleet, we will have received delivery of a total of 50 Boeing 777-300ERs by 2015, and 32 Airbus A350-900s and -1000s by 2019. On the freighter side, we are expecting delivery of six Boeing 747-8Fs and eight Boeing 777-200Fs in the next few years. From now to the end of this decade, we will be taking delivery of over 90 aircraft, which, according to Airbus Industrie and the Boeing Company, will provide a combined range of fuel efficiency improvements of 17-28% compared to the aircraft these will replace.

Boeing 747-8F fuel efficiency features
  • Four ultra-high-bypass GEnx-2B engines featuring composite fan blades, lightweight composite fan casings and low emissions combustors
  • Advanced rake wing tip using composite materials to reduce weight, fuel burn and emissions
  • Both of the above: further reduce fuel consumption and fleet maintenance costs
  • Greater operational efficiencies from advanced avionic systems available on the flight deck
  • Smaller noise footprint aided by improved engine technologies, inlet acoustic treatments and aerodynamics

The reality is our industry is highly reliant on technological advancements to get us to where we need to be by 2050. While we expect to take delivery of what are still considered conventional aircraft designs, we are increasingly seeing significant changes in aircraft technology through increasingly efficient engines, improved aerodynamics, weight reduction through use of composite materials, eco design and end-of-life aircraft initiatives, onboard systems to minimise fuel burn and sustainable aviation biofuels.

We recognize the amount of research and development effort that goes into designing, testing and manufacturing a new aircraft and the significant investment and risk associated with bringing a new product to market. But this is the challenge of climate change – where a step change through radical designs and technology is imperative in meeting our climate change targets. We will work with the manufacturers and developers so that these technologies can be brought to the forefront.

One such example of working together is on the issue of sustainable aviation biofuels. As a member of an industry coalition, the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG), we are united in our desire to accelerate the commercialization of sustainable jet fuel, including subscribing to a set of sustainability criteria to ensure that these biofuels do not compete with food and drinking water supplies, biodiversity and local populations.

We are a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB), an international initiative hosted within the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, along with more than 120 organisations around the world. In addition to being a certification body for sustainable biofuels, the RSB actively involves its members in the development and implementation of the RSB Global Sustainability Standard, a global standard for sustainable production, conversion and use of biomass.

Cathay Pacific is involved with the formation of SAFUG Asia, to support the development of lower carbon renewable fuels for commercial use in the region. To this end, we attended Air China’s test flight in October 2011. They have been working jointly with Boeing, Petro China, UOP and other key stakeholders to implement the first biofuel flight in China.

In 2011, we hired a dedicated Biofuels Manager and developed a sustainable aviation biofuels strategy which will drive our efforts for the next five years.

Despite advancements made on technology, we are reliant on the work of governments and regulators to ensure that we are allowed to fly the most efficient routes and operate in the most efficient manner during take-off and landing. For example, Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) must work with regulators in areas such as the European Union (EU), the United States and China to increase efficiencies in the global air traffic management system, which could reduce the industry's CO2 emissions by at least 12% of its emissions, roughly around 78 million tonnes of CO2.

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  • Sustainable Development Report 2010
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  • Sustainable Development Report 2004 [pdf]
  • Sustainable Development Report 2003 [pdf]