The FAA announced more than $100 million in grants on Friday to help make flying more environmentally sustainable and less noisy, the first such awards under a decade-old programme since 2015.
The grants will go to some of the world’s largest aviation companies, including Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, Honeywell Aerospace, and GE Aviation, as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to combat climate change. The funds will go toward projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or noise pollution. Recipients must invest at least as much of their government funds as they receive.
“Across the country, communities have been devastated by the effects of climate change — but if we act now, we can ensure that aviation plays a critical role in the solution,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a statement.
This year, the nation’s largest airlines pledged to eliminate net carbon emissions by 2050, but it is unclear how they will do so. Electric aeroplanes capable of carrying a few hundred passengers do not exist and may not be feasible for many years or decades. Some companies, such as Boeing, have stated that replacing or supplementing oil-based jet fuel with alternatives, some of which are made from waste, could help reduce emissions. Airbus is working on a hydrogen-powered aircraft. It is unclear whether either approach will be viable.
President Biden has taken a number of steps to reduce carbon emissions, including committing to eliminating emissions from the power sector by 2035 and requiring that half of new cars sold be electric by 2030. His administration set a goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050 on Thursday.
“We enthusiastically support the Biden administration’s approach laid out for our industry,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said in a statement.
The new grants are the third round of funding for the Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions, and Noise programme, which began in 2010. Under former President Donald Trump, who has called climate change a “hoax,” no grants were made.
The Federal Aviation Administration has already spent $225 million on such grants, including projects to improve engine systems, aircraft wings, flight path software, and alternative jet fuels. According to the agency, the investments have aided in the development of technology that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by the equivalent of removing approximately three million cars from the road by 2050.
GE Aviation and the FAA announced a $55 million investment over the next five years to investigate engine improvements, electrification, noise reduction, and alternative fuels. These efforts include looking into new engine fan designs, better heat management, and new combustors that could reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides emitted by the company’s engines.
“It simply allows us to move faster,” said Arjan Hegeman, the company’s general manager of advanced technologies. “We only have so many people and so much money, and any type of participation and partnership that can help us do more and bring some of these important technologies to maturity and thus to market earlier is just a fantastic opportunity.”
According to Mr. Hegeman, some of the technologies being developed now could be available in finished products by the end of the decade or shortly thereafter.
Delta Air Lines and other companies intend to use the grant funds to develop better coatings for engine fan blades in order to reduce fuel consumption and extend engine life.
“Much like our pursuit of safer skies, making flying sustainable necessitates a constant search for ways to improve,” said F.A.A. administrator Steve Dickson, a former Delta pilot, in a statement.
Separately, United Airlines and Honeywell announced a joint investment in Alder Fuels, a producer of alternative jet fuels, on Thursday. United stated that it would purchase 1.5 billion gallons of the fuel.