Working to Build a Net-Zero Sustainable Aviation System by 2050
The FAA is committed to making aviation cleaner, quieter, and more sustainable. Here’s how we are going to do it:
At the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Nov. 2021, U.S. Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg released the U.S. Aviation Climate Action Plan that sets out to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. aviation sector by 2050. Because transportation produces the most emissions, the U.S. DOT and FAA need to be a large part of the solution. This ambitious, but achievable action plan, will create a sustainable aviation system that the United States is committed to. The U.S. also will work with international partners to maintain and strengthen the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation.
- Climate Action Plan (summary)
Sustainable aviation fuels produced from renewable and waste feedstock can provide the greatest impact in our effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. [See chart above for details.] Such fuels will be critical to the aviation industry’s ability to meet the net-zero emissions goal and they have the potential to slash emissions by up to 100 percent. Sustainable aviation fuels can be used in today’s fleet of aircraft, without modification, and are produced from wastes, residues, biomass, sugar, oils and gaseous sources of carbon. The FAA also is supporting research for piston aircraft to operate safely without leaded gasoline and encouraging actions that minimize potential exposure to aircraft lead emissions.
- Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge
- Leaded Aviation Fuel and the Environment
- FAA Safety Briefing - Looking at the Future of AvGas
Through the Sustainable Flight National Partnership, NASA and the FAA are working with industry to accelerate the development of more efficient aircraft and engine technologies with a 30-percent improvement in fuel savings compared to today’s planes, while also delivering substantial noise and emissions reduction benefits.
The FAA provides major support to the ASCENT program for university teams from across the country to research and demonstrate the viability of innovative airframe, engine and flight management technologies that reduce noise, emissions, and fuel burn. Recent funding includes $14.4 million in grants to teams at 13 universities. A detailed description of all 35 projects and their associated grant amounts can be found here. The Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise (CLEEN) Program also is a significant environmental effort by the FAA to accelerate the development of new aircraft and engine technologies. Recent news about the CLEEN cost-sharing partnership with industry can be found here.
- The Air Up There Podcast - Reducing Aviation Noise and Emissions
- Special Conditions Rule - Electric Engine Airworthiness Standards
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - FAA Powers Electric Flight Research with New Grant
- ASCENT Project 052 - Assessment of Electrification Strategies for Aviation
While the U.S. National Airspace System is efficient, there are opportunities for improvements in all phases of flight to reduce fuel burn. This includes improvements during taxiing, takeoff and landing operations as well as airlines flying more optimal trajectories that reduce fuel usage. Research shows that aircraft operations also affect the climate through non-CO2 emissions, especially via contrails and aviation-induced cloudiness. The U.S. government is supporting research to cost-effectively reduce climate impacts of aviation by limiting contrail formation. The FAA’s NextGen initiatives also support our environmental goals through innovative air traffic control procedures involving Performance Based Navigation and Optimized Profiles Descents.
- Terminal Flight Data Manager (TFDM)
- Control Tower Design Initiative
- Tower Design news release
- Aviation Environmental Design Tool
The government provides incentives to reduce emissions from airports through funding and development of several grant programs. Among others, they include the Zero Emission Vehicle Program, which provides grants to replace or convert on-road vehicles for zero-emission vehicles. The Energy Efficiency Program provides funding to identify and implement energy reduction measures at airports.
- Voluntary Airport Low Emissions program and program fact sheet
- ZEV program news release and section 192
- Airport Cooperative Research Program
- Airport Environmental Review Process (NEPA)
- Compatible Land Use
While there are many benefits to air travel, aviation noise can be a concern for communities. The FAA is limited by the simple reality that aircraft make noise. Addressing this concern requires collaboration and community engagement among the FAA, air carriers, airports, aircraft manufacturers, research universities, other stakeholders and industry partners, local communities, and elected officials. Decisions about flight times, number of operations, and aircraft type are in the scope of private industry. Airport location is a function of local land use planning. Runway alignment is determined by the prevailing winds at that specific location. The FAA strives to reduce noise in ways within our purview, including conducting noise research and working with aviation stakeholders and local communities. Our Noise landing page offers basics about aviation noise, information about noise research, and tips about making a noise complaint.