07 Aug 2023

Clean skies ahead: Pioneering sustainability in aerospace

Dr. Sarah Qureshi will be participating on a panel at the IFA Leaders Summit on September 2nd. She will also join us at our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Spotlight on September 3rd. Get your ticket to IFA here.

The aerospace industry ties our world together, but it also plays a part in polluting it.

In fact, a single short flight can emit as much CO2 as many people produce in a whole year. Some individuals have taken measures to combat this, avoiding flying altogether and opting for alternative transportation like ships. However, cruises can produce even more CO2 than long-distance flights, contributing to earth and water pollution.

The mission, then, should be finding a balance. Ensuring that we can make the best transport choice, while at the same time reducing the polluting aspects of planes.

The question is how — and to find out, we spoke with Dr. Sarah Qureshi, a jet engine inventor, Aerospace Engineer, CEO of Aero Engine Craft, and hobby pilot. Her pioneering work aims to address pollution in aviation and create a more sustainable future for air travel. 

Let’s dive into the issues with aerospace and how we can solve them.

Invisible pollutant

To understand how the aerospace industry can become more sustainable, let's take a step back and examine how pollution is produced during flights.  

When we spoke with Dr. Qureshi, she explained that much flight pollution is not visible, which makes it harder to understand its impact.  

Dr. Qureshi let us know that we might have misidentified the main cause of pollution from flights. In fact, “to date, there has been more focus on CO2 emissions, even though contrail emissions contribute five times more to global warming in the sky”. 

Since the word 'contrails' might not be familiar to everyone, let's briefly explain what they are. Contrails (condensation trails) are the white lines of smoke you see behind airplanes during flight. They form when the water vapor produced by burning airplane fuel condenses in the cold air at high altitudes. Contrails contribute to global warming by creating artificial clouds that reflect heat back to Earth. 

Free Plane Contrails photo and picture

According to Dr. Qureshi, “contrail elimination will reduce global warming potential of the atmosphere by 50% and create artificial rainfall to meet challenges of water scarcity around the world.” 

Is there a way then to eliminate or reduce contrails? (Spoiler alert: yes, there is!) 

Reducing pollution: From communication to collaboration

In our conversation, Dr. Qureshi shared with us that the aviation industry has not effectively communicated its impact on induced global warming to the rest of the world. Therefore, the first thing that the aviation industry would need to do is to “acknowledge that it is the sole contributor to emissions and global warming in the upper atmosphere of the earth and identify the impact of aviation induced global warming both on ground and in the sky.” 

Then, the second step would be to “synergize with other sectors to adopt climate friendly technologies from industries on ground and transpose them in the air for the aviation industry.” 

Dr. Sarah Qureshi is already making a big difference in the fight against global warming. Her company, Aero Engine Craft, pioneers eco-friendly, contrail-free aircraft engines for global aviation. They are the world's first to develop contrail mitigation hardware technology, addressing the environmental impact of contrails and revolutionizing air travel for a greener future. 

But while this is good in itself, companies alone can’t change the entire sector.

A regulatory touch

One thing that seems certain is that people will continue to fly. The method of transport is fast, efficient, and affordable — but what other steps can we take to make it better for the planet?

Dr. Qureshi believes that to make aviation more sustainable, emission regulations must be imposed on the industry. This will drive the adoption of environmentally friendly engines, aircraft, and operations, contributing to a greener future for air travel. 

Free Transport Plane photo and picture

Keeping the hope aloft 

There are specific steps we can take to ensure that the future of aviation will not be worse than its present, and Dr. Sarah Qureshi made them very clear. Starting from openly communicating its impact with the outer world and collaborating with other sectors, to regulations imposed on the industry. 

As a trailblazing woman leader in a male-dominated industry, Dr. Qureshi is reshaping aviation, championing sustainability, and inspiring positive change. With her contrail-free revolution, Dr. Qureshi brings a breath of fresh air to the skies. Let’s soar towards a cleaner, more sustainable future and, just like Sarah, hope that “we will always [be able to] see a clean blue sky when we look up!”

Dr. Sarah Qureshi will be participating on the panel Innovation with impact: Transforming the world for good at IFA 2023 held on Saturday 2 September from 14:10 to 15:10 and on the panel Propelling women leaders to new heights held on Sunday September 3rd from 12:15 to 12:45.