Ayşe Akalın, editor in chief of Aviation Turkey magazine asked Görkem Kiriş Gümüşel, country manager of Rolls Royce, about companies’ activites during pandemic and also the effects of climate change and the role Rolls Royce playing in zero carbon activities in civil aviation
Ayşe Akalın: As an unexpected threat to the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic has unquestionably affected the aviation industry the most. As a world player within the industry, what are your thoughts on the current status of civil aviation?
Görkem Kiriş Gümüşel: The COVID-19 pandemic had an enormous impact on the aviation industry. Affecting passenger traffic, air cargo demand, airport workforce, and incoming revenues, many industries relying on aviation went through hard times as a result. According to 2021 World Airport Traffic Report (WATR) released on last November, the COVID-19 outbreak reduced the number of passengers at the world’s airports by more than 5.6 billion in 2020 and was forecast to remove an additional 4.6 billion passengers by the end of 2021, compared to 2019 volumes. We don’t have the latest numbers for 2021 yet but these numbers reveal how significantly the industry has been affected.
However, the pandemic has buffeted private aviation more lightly than civil aviation, business aviation has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels. We have also seen flying activity for our large engines operated on domestic routes in both the US and China return to levels last seen in 2019.
International traffic, meanwhile, has been on a gradual upward trajectory since the low point in April 2020. We remain confident that as border restrictions relax, the recovery of international travel will accelerate. This is what we are already seeing in domestic and business aviation is an encouraging proof point.
Ayşe Akalın: Sustainability has been accelerated all around the globe and many countries are now committed to reducing carbon emissions due to climate change and its effects. How does Rolls-Royce plan to keep up with this transition? What do you and Rolls-Royce think to decrease the effects of climate change?
Görkem Kiriş Gümüşel: Being sustainable means understanding the impact our business has on the world around us, and the impact the world around us has on our business. We use this understanding to inform our purpose, strategy and the decisions we make. It's a vital part of what we do today, and how we'll protect our business for tomorrow. Our vision as Rolls-Royce is to pioneer the power that matters for a net zero carbon future. That’s why we’re putting net zero at the heart of our growth and innovation agenda. We see it as our responsibility as well as a business imperative to act on climate change. We are committed to playing a leading part in helping society transition to a net zero carbon economy, whilst maintaining the levels of global connectivity our products provide.
We are a science-led business, and the science tells us that, to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, society must limit global warming to 1.5ºC by the end of this century. An average global temperature rise above that level would create risks that the global economy is not equipped to withstand. That’s why we joined the UN Race to Zero last year and have pledged to reduce emissions from our own operations to net zero by 2030 and to play a leading role in enabling the sectors in which we operate to reach net zero by 2050.
Decarbonising power and making the shift to 100 percent clean, affordable, and reliable energy is a major part of our achieving net zero strategy. Our decarbonisation pathway sets out our two primary aims; to reduce the emissions associated with our products to net-zero and, to pioneer breakthrough new technologies that can accelerate the transition to a net zero carbon future. Therefore, our strategy starts with the emissions in our own operations, extends to our value chain, and ultimately focuses on the contribution we can make to the global transition.
Achieving these goals will require us to ensure all our existing fleet can be operated in a net zero carbon manner, and to introduce new low and net zero carbon products to the market which will act to abate emissions in areas we are not present in today. To enable and accelerate this transition, our teams have made considerable progress by testing lower-carbon alternative fuels, and developing advanced engine designs to further increase fuel efficiency.
Beyond our work and effort, we believe in our technological innovation which can create long-term solutions to the climate crisis, and we remain focused on delivering the breakthrough innovations that society requires of us as technology leaders. Therefore, our top priority is the development of technical solutions that can directly reduce or remove carbon emissions, permanently to leave a healthy planet for the next generations.
Ayşe Akalın: Rolls-Royce is committed to ensuring its products to be compatible with net zero operation by 2030. What are your priorities in civil aviation within the framework of this change?
Görkem Kiriş Gümüşel: Our family of aircraft engines has been continuing to push the boundaries of what is possible to enable the transition to net zero.
With this aim in mind, we have been working on a new engine architecture called UltraFan since 2014. It features a new architecture and light-weight composite materials as well as the world’s most powerful aerospace gearbox. The new generation engine will be 25 percent more fuel efficient than the original Trent 700 and is a key element of the Rolls-Royce sustainability strategy as part of its commitment to continue to improve gas turbine performance.
Furthermore, under the UN’s Race to Zero goals the current ‘breakthrough’ required for the decarbonisation of aviation is to achieve a minimum of 10 percent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) use by 2030 with the proportion not reaching 100 percent earlier than 2050. Therefore, we have recently announced that by 2023 all our ‘Trent’ engines, used across a range of long-haul aircraft, will have been proven compatible with 100 percent SAF. That builds on its earlier commitment to test Trent models currently in production and means that within two years Rolls-Royce will have proven that net zero carbon operation is possible with about 40 percent of the world’s long-haul aircraft engines.
Additionally, we have partnered with Boeing and World Energy to carry out a test flight of our 747 Flying Testbed aircraft using 100 percent SAF on a Trent 1000 engine.
We have an increased focus on electrification and a number of projects underway. We have been working on an incredibly exciting project called ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) with the UK Government and partners at Electroflight and YASA. It’s a highly specialized challenge to build the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft. Through our ACCEL project, we aimed to build the world’s fastest all-electric plane and develop our electrical expertise.. Our "Spirit of Innovation" aircraft completed its first flight back in September, and on 16 November 2021, it reached a top speed of 555.9 km/h (345.4 mph) over 3 kilometers, smashing the existing record by 213.04 km/h (132mph). We have now officially broken two world speed records as verified by the World Air Sports Federation. The aircraft also achieved 532.1km/h (330 mph) over 15 kilometres – 292.8km/h (182 mph) faster than the previous record.As well as a stunning technical achievement, the project and world record runs provided important data for our future electric power and propulsion systems for all-electric urban air mobility (UAM) and hybrid-electric commuter aircraft. The characteristics that ‘air-taxis’ require from batteries, for instance, are very similar to what was developed for the ‘Spirit of Innovation’.
Ayşe Akalın: Operating in Turkey for a long time, Rolls-Royce has made multiple cooperations, one of which is with Turkish Airlines. In this context, can you tell us about the activities you carry out with THY? What kind of solutions do you offer?
Görkem Kiriş Gümüşel: Turkey is full of opportunities and we are committed to do our best to support the country in order to reach its full potential. It is a strategic market for us with its diversified order book and strong business volume.
Our long-term partnership with Turkish Airlines started with the selection of Rolls-Royce TRENT engines powered A330 in 2009. THY is currently operating 28 Rolls-Royce powered Airbus A330s under the Total Care Service Agreement. Additionally, Rolls-Royce powered Airbus A330 & A340 and Gufsteam Business Jets are being used for VIP operation. THY also ordered Airbus A350 aircraft powered with Trent XWB engines which entered into service starting from 2020.
Our Trent XWB engines are world's most efficient large aero-engine balancing fuel efficiency and life cycle costs while delivering weight savings and improved aerodynamics. Therefore, it flies farther on less fuel – reducing fuel consumption by 15 percent compared to the first Trent engine.
With this technology the new fleet will serve increasing demand from Istanbul’s new airport. To help and maintain Turkish Airlines’ operations within our partnership, we also have a technical team based in customer facility in the Istanbul Ataturk Airport that provides on-site support for the airline customer in the region. We hope to keep working together with Turkish Airlines as well as other airlines by providing our new technologies and services.
We are also looking for new opportunities to make a positive impact in the community. In this context, we are working on a new STEM project called “Science Movement” in Turkey in cooperation with YGA (Young Guru Academy). With the help of this project, we will be able to engage with students across the country. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past. We hope that our project will help inspire these children to experiment with hands-on learning and boost their curiosity in these critical subjects. Every child we reach could play an important role in the development of our country in the field of science and technology. For this reason, we are determined to help inspire the next generation of engineers, who will be essential to empowering innovation and enabling a net zero carbon future