Reducing Aircraft Emissions

Reducing Aircraft Emissions Header
Reducing Aircraft Emissions Header


Reducing Aircraft Emissions

Atlas Air Worldwide addresses the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve aircraft fuel efficiency in multiple ways, including driving operating efficiencies, continuing to upgrade our fleet and advancing the sustainable aviation fuels agenda. Our approach is intended to be good for the environment and good for business

Our Commitments

Even though air travel accounts for only a small portion of total greenhouse gas emissions, our industry and our company are committed to helping create a more efficient, lower-emissions world. It is also worth noting that aircraft fuel is one of the most significant expenses for Atlas. During 2018, 2017 and 2016, fuel costs represented 19.5%, 17.4%, and 16.5%, respectively, of our total operating expenses. In several ways, we strive to play a leadership role in our industry‘s fuel efficiency efforts:

  • In 2019, William J. Flynn continues to be on the Board of Directors of Airlines for America, a key industry trade association, which has adopted aviation-specific emissions targets: 1.5% average fuel efficiency improvement through 2020; carbon neutral growth from 2020 to 2035; and a 50% net reduction of carbon dioxide in 2050 compared with 2005 levels.
  • We are participating in the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), an emissions mitigation approach for the global airline industry developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), governing international flying starting on January 1, 2021. Read more here.

Driving Operating Efficiencies

We seek to optimize the efficiency of our payloads and flight-planned routes. For more than a dozen years, Atlas has been utilizing our Fuel Wise program in conjunction with our flight-planning software to identify additional opportunities to conserve fuel by optimizing flight speeds, altitudes, routes, climb, cruise and descent segments. The company adopted a Fuel Management Information System in 2016 that tracks and helps promote fuel-efficient best practices throughout the company. This system allows Atlas to analyze fuel consumption performance and identify opportunities for improvement. Some examples of current best practices are:

  • Reduced extra fuel uplift
  • Engine-out taxi-in
  • Idle reverse thrust usage on landing
  • Contingency fuel reduction initiative
  • Route and altitude planning alignment with air traffic control assignments

We routinely evaluate and enhance our operating procedures to help drive efficiency, including:

  • Completing more frequent engine washes and other routine maintenance procedures and reducing unnecessary weight, to address fuel efficiency factors.
  • Running ground power units to reduce jet fuel use while our aircraft are on the ground.
  • Working with our partners and government officials to advocate for air traffic control modernization.

Continuing to Upgrade our Fleet

Our approach to further reducing emissions includes continuing to invest in more energy-efficient planes. Generally speaking, each generation of aircraft is approximately 15% to 20% more fuel efficient than its predecessor.

We are proud to be the world’s largest operator of Boeing 747 freighter aircraft, many of which offer industry-leading fuel efficiency, and the only outsource provider of Boeing’s 747-8F aircraft. Learn more about our fleet in our company fact sheet.

Advancing the Sustainable Aviation Fuels Agenda

Atlas participates in ongoing efforts to expand the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), which can be made from vegetable oils, sugars, animal fats and even waste biomass. SAF is often mixed with conventional jet fuel and used with existing aircraft engines without equipment modification.

We have worked with our industry partners to address three levels of SAF acceptance and availability:

  • Safety, which has been documented and proven, and the fuel must be third-party-certified under accepted international standards.
  • Environmental benefits, established by using life-cycle analysis, which has shown that SAF can reduce carbon emissions by up to 80%.
  • Commercial viability, which, unfortunately, remains a significant challenge; except for a few markets such as the U.S. West Coast and parts of Europe, SAF is largely unavailable and it is almost always cost prohibitive.

To help drive SAF adoption, in November 2017, Atlas joined with eight other aviation industry leaders to participate in the “Fly Green Day” demonstration project at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Atlas was among the airlines flying out of O’Hare that day on fuel that was a mixture of traditional jet fuel and alcohol-based biofuel. This event was the first time at O’Hare that renewable jet fuel was supplied to aircraft using the airport’s main fuel hydrant system, which is more efficient with less environmental impact than trucking biofuel to the site for blending and fueling.