EUROCONTROL has released its report on the Aviation Outlook for 2050 and the steps along this path. The number of flights is expected to grow by 44% between 2019 and 2050.  In real numbers this equates to growing from 11M flights per year to 16M. Although this report includes the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic it does not include the outcome of the Ukrainian conflict. The assumption is that most of the flights impacted by this are still occurring but have shifted routing.

The primary focus of the report is to look at the goal of reaching Net Zero CO2 emissions in this timeframe. In order to accomplish this goal, 279 tonnes of CO2 output will need to be reduced. These figures may sound large, but aviation only produces about 2% of the global CO2 emissions.  The categories to achieve this goal will include:

  • - 17% from the development of more efficient aircraft
  • - 2% through the implementation of electric and hydrogen powered aircraft
  • - 8% achieved from increased efficiency related to ATM and airline operations
  • - 41% from the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)
  • - 32% through other programs implemented across the aviation spectrum.

When considering the growth rate of the flights, the report looks at many factors. Only two are highlighted in this overview. The countries who will have the most flights traveling through their airspace are predicted to be Turkey, Germany, France, the UK and Bulgaria. The mix of traffic does not change that much.  In 2019, we had 90% passenger flights, 3% cargo and 7% business aviation. For 2050, there will be a small change between the first two categories with passenger flights accounting for 88% and cargo moving up to 5%. There is no change predicted for business aviation.

The report is quite lengthy and packed with details behind the analysis. We can only cover a few highlights here, so we recommend you check the detailed document on the EUROCONTROL site.