Former Lufthansa chief executive Wolfgang Mayrhuber has called on European aviation industry stakeholders and policy makers to work closer together to make air transport more efficient and to focus on sustainability as a means to maintain the region's lead as an aerospace location.
Speaking at the Aerodays 2011 conference in Madrid yesterday, Mayrhuber said that if Europe wants to stay ahead in the global aviation industry, it must produce and export solutions that will make air transport more sustainable.
Two prerequisites would need to be guaranteed, however: aircraft must maintain their speed advantage over other modes of transport, and air travel must be affordable - not just for the consumers, but for the suppliers too.
Employing state-of-the-art aircraft is "the easiest part" in making air transport more sustainable, according to Mayrhuber. The far greater challenge is to create seamless co-operation between airlines, airports and air traffic control.
"We fly the most efficient aircraft in the most inefficient way," he says.
This criticism is largely directed at the fragmented airspace over Europe, be it through national borders or the separation of civilian and military flying areas. These divisions prevent many aircraft from flying on direct routes for the most efficient use of fuel.
Biofuels are central to making aviation more sustainable, provided they are technically suitable as jet fuel, bring an ecological benefit and are commercially scaleable, says Mayrhuber.
While recognising various initiatives across the aviation field, such as the biofuel production venture between Airbus, Iberia and Spain's Government which was revealed yesterday, Mayrhuber says these "pockets of investment and innovation" need to be eventually brought together to have an impact on the industry as a whole.
This would require the political will to consolidate the existing information as well as incentives to introduce biofuels into aviation.
However, he warns that speculators trying to capitalise on the need for alternative fuels could reduce the full potential benefit of biofuels.
Mayrhuber also called on governments to use the revenues from the European emissions trading scheme (ETS) for projects to improve the sustainability of aviation and not for other, unrelated purposes.