Ice shelves in Antarctica produce icebergs regularly but experts say it’s less common for an ice shelf to completely disintegrate. But that’s exactly what happened in March. An ice shelf in East Antarctica collapsed and that has reshaped part of Antarctica that was once thought to be stable. Images of the occurrence were acquired with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites.
Whether you are on the science side of climate change or not, it is hard to refute such clear evidence that something is happening within our environment. I’m of the opinion that it is better to try and address it in every way possible now, if we can with transformational change.
On April 22, the world will hold its annual Earth Day event.
That organization, Earthday.org, says its mission is “to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide. Growing out of the first Earth Day in 1970, Earthday.org is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 150,000 partners in over 192 countries to drive positive action for our planet.”
The group says it is time for the world to take “bold, creative and innovative steps” toward solving the environmental crisis.
Although sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) has been around for 15 or more years and the first flight utilizing it happened in 2008, only now is it beginning to be widely embraced. The pandemic of course put a two-year pause on progress in this area and airline passenger traffic is still below pre-pandemic levels, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. But now that travel is ticking up, more airlines are making promises to their customers to make strides in addressing their environmental impact.
For example, Delta says its goal of fueling 10% of its operation with sustainable aviation fuel by the end of 2030, is getting closer by the signing of an agreement with SAF maker Gevo that significantly expands the availability of the alternative fuel. Through the agreement, Delta expects to receive roughly 75 million gallons of SAF annually for seven years, anticipated to start mid-2026. Many airlines are making similar commitments.
With that in mind we present to you our cover story on sustainable aviation fuels written by Ian Harbison. Harbison looks at the driving forces and the challenges behind this movement towards the use of SAF. He says that finally, the aviation industry is taking environmental concerns seriously — thank goodness — and the story explores what leaders like Airbus, Pratt & Whitney, Delta, Air bp, Neste and others are doing to mitigate environmental impact using SAF. See his story on page 58.
In this jam-packed issue, we also take a look at the commercialization of space. This is an incredibly exciting time in the space realm. Companies like Axiom Space, Sierra Nevada Corp., SpaceX and many others are making tremendous headway in the area.
With the convergence of factors like NASA expanding public-private partnerships and a select group of companies stepping up to take advantage of the atmosphere (pun intended), some are succeeding at the enormous tasks of providing NASA with the services it used to tightly control. The governmental monopoly on space activity seems to be ending. The commercialization of space is underway.
In our story, learn about the importance of Axiom’s Ax-1, which launched April 8. It is the first of several planned missions the company will make to the International Space Station. The company says that launch is an important step toward their goal of constructing a private space station in low Earth orbit that can serve as a global academic and commercial hub. See that story by Jim McKenna on page 50.
Next please take a moment to read Aimée Turner’s detailed — and even spicy — report on CPDLC. Who knew this topic could be so intriguing? Controllers can now deliver clearances with a click of a mouse — no need to use voice frequencies. Are these advances paving the way for an aircraft’s FMS to receive the complex digital instructions needed to make TBO a reality?
As with all things complex, there are many layers to the implementation of highly technical avionics systems across multiple jurisdictions. Turner spoke to industry insiders who understand the history and explained the intricate details of where this process is right now. That story starts on page 24.
We also have a look at blockchain. Blockchain seems to have a lot of mystery surrounding it. Blockchain for aviation, especially for maintenance, can provide improved solutions for tracking aircraft parts. But the industry seems hesitant to proceed. Read our look at how this technology could be a trustworthy, robust solution to parts tracking, if only the industry will embrace it. This article, by James Careless, starts on page 36.
Next, we explore telemetry testing. In flight test development the need for data is constant and telemetry, the process of recording and transmitting date, is critical for the aviation industry to deliver new products. Wireless transmission and reception of flight test data are de rigueur but flight test instrumentation has changed dramatically over the last decade.
In this story Jeff Guzzetti explains how the makers of telemetry testing equipment have adapted to keep pace with the technological advances happening at ever-increasing speed. See it on page 44.