Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971

2023-11-07

Boeing Pushes the Sustainability Envelope in Aviation

Boeing has been present in the Middle East for almost eight decades, supporting the region with the most advanced commercial airplanes, defence platforms and space and security systems.
 
By Sakha Pramod
 
At the Dubai Airshow, Boeing representatives are looking forward to meeting with customers, partners, suppliers and other regional and global stakeholders, said Kuljit Ghata-Aura, President, Boeing Middle East, Türkiye and Africa. In an interview, he shed light on Boeing’s top priorities for the region, plans for the Dubai Airshow and sustainability initiatives. Excerpts:
 
As the president of Boeing Middle East, Türkiye, and Africa (META), what are your top priorities for the region?
At Boeing, we are all committed to serving the needs of our significant regional customers. This will always be our top priority. Our focus areas are centred on innovation, sustainability, and developing partnerships that benefit our customers, stakeholders, and local economies. 
 
Boeing demonstrates a long-term commitment to the Middle East through its support of national development visions. We actively support economic diversification and growth by forging partnerships that increase industrial capacity and support the development of an indigenous aerospace industry. 
 
In the commercial sector, the iconic airlines of the Middle East have grown their influence and reach over the past 25 years, turning Dubai and Doha into international air transit hubs. Air travel and cargo demand have gained momentum, driven by significant economic growth and national development plans.
The Middle East is a strong market for defence, with many nations spending above the global average to equip their defence forces with state-of-the-art airplanes, helicopters, UAV systems and more.
 
Boeing employs more than 3,500 employees across the Middle East through its local entities in Riyadh, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Kuwait and joint ventures. Boeing sources materials and components from multiple companies across the region and supports the expansion of the Middle East maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) capacity.
 
Boeing is actively involved in sustainability efforts in META. Can you tell us about some key initiatives you are leading to make aerospace more sustainable? 
Boeing has partnered with key Middle Eastern stakeholders to drive a range of sustainability initiatives that align with the industry’s commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
 
Boeing and Etihad have been partners in a strategic sustainability alliance centred on the Boeing 787 ecoDemonstrator since 2019. The partnership focuses on innovation, continuous improvement of operational efficiency, and sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).
 
In January 2023, Emirates, in partnership with Boeing, GE, and other partners, operated the first demonstration flight in the region powered by 100 per cent SAF in one of two engines on a Boeing 777-300ER. 
 
In addition, Boeing has established a Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium in the UAE with Etihad. Khalifa University and other partners are working on a SAF roadmap with the UAE Ministry of Energy and the World Economic Forum. 
 
Most recently, in September 2023, Boeing signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s Future Energy Company PJSC, to propel the sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry in the UAE and globally. Both companies will also explore advancing SAF accounting principles, which could enable the SAF industry to overcome geographical barriers as it scales. 
 
In Egypt, Boeing has partnered with aviation authorities and EgyptAir to incentivise the supply and use of SAF. In 2019, an EgyptAir Boeing 787 Dreamliner flew the world’s longest delivery flight using biofuel. In November 2022, EgyptAir flew delegates of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties COP27 from Paris to Cairo aboard the Boeing 787 Dreamliner fuelled with a 37 per cent SAF blend.
 
Boeing will continue its laser-focused efforts on advancing sustainable aviation, and this will be showcased throughout Dubai Airshow 2023, CAAF/3 and COP28, taking place soon after.
 
What are Boeing’s plans for the Dubai Airshow 2023, and what do you hope to achieve at the show?
We are delighted to sponsor the Aerospace 2050 conference again and showcase to the world that the future of aviation will be more sustainable. Especially ahead of COP28, the airshow is the perfect occasion to further collaborations that advance sustainable travel.
 
As at the previous airshow, we will be heavily involved in the Vista start-up hub. We have our Aerospace Xelerated team – Boeing’s start-up accelerator programme showcasing and supporting its portfolio companies at the show, with their current cohort being supported by Tawazun.
 
With COP28 happening in the UAE, what are Boeing’s expectations and plans for this mega event?
We are very much looking forward to COP28 here in the UAE. COP28 has a particular significance for the global climate debate as it will mark the conclusion of the first Global Stocktake – a comprehensive assessment of the progress made in achieving the Paris Agreement’s goals. 
 
Boeing’s expectations and plans for COP28 in the UAE are also centred around its commitment to accelerating development opportunities for the next generation of leaders, particularly in the context of sustainability and STEM education. We have launched a ‘STEM for Sustainability’ youth programme in partnership with Amideast/UAE and supported by the U.S. Embassy in the UAE.
 
The three-year multifaceted programme aims to align science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education with sustainability. We are aligning with the UAE’s goal of engaging young people to drive a solutions-oriented agenda for addressing climate change and working towards a sustainable future. Boeing recognises the urgency of this alignment, and we believe that investing in sustainability means investing in the youth.
 
Emirates recently conducted a demo flight with 100 per cent SAF in a Boeing 777-300. Can you provide insights into Boeing’s role in supporting customers like Emirates in achieving their sustainability targets?
In late January this year, we partnered with Emirates and GE Aerospace to test a 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuel blend in Dubai. The Emirates test flight utilised 18 tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel from used cooking oil and fats in one engine of a Boeing 777-300ER – one engine was fuelled with 100 per cent SAF while the second engine worked on conventional jet fuel to compare the emissions. The results of the test flight and analyses will be used for SAF standards approval going forward and will allow scaling up the production and supplies of SAF. Emirates aims to procure 50 per cent of its fuel supply from sustainable alternatives and renewable sources by 2030.
 
You’ve had a diverse career within Boeing, ranging from legal roles to market development. How has your background and experience shaped your approach to leadership in your current role?
Prior to joining Boeing, I was a partner in a private practice firm, where I specialised in cross-border mergers and acquisitions and joint ventures, so I have always been interested in how deals are made. I learnt from a very early age that if cultural differences weren’t understood and respected, it could lead to potentially profitable transactions not going ahead. As a lawyer, I realised that I could play an important role in helping my clients bridge that divide. I see the role that I’m currently in utilising many of the same skills.
 
I was also the regional counsel for the Middle East, India and Africa for Boeing for 6.5 years based here in Dubai, so I was privileged to be part of the teams that created much of the capability we see in the region now. In that role, I got to know many of the stakeholders that I continue to engage with in my current role, so there is a real sense of continuity, which I think is a benefit.  
 
The aerospace industry is evolving rapidly, with advancements in technology, electric propulsion, and urban air mobility. How is Boeing addressing these technological changes? 
We envision the aerospace future as being digital, sustainable, and autonomous. Our digital focus encompasses the entire product lifecycle, as exemplified by the T-7A Red Hawk, which was designed, built and tested using digital engineering and the F15EX, which comes with next-generation technologies that provide improved survivability across a broad spectrum of environments. Additionally, we are actively developing autonomous capabilities across various platforms, including the Starliner spacecraft, MQ-25 Stingray, MQ-28 Ghost Bat, the Integrator ER and ScanEagle, and Orca undersea vehicles. Our commitment extends to the realm of urban air mobility with autonomous electric-powered aerial vehicles, such as Wisk’s Generation 6 flying taxi. 
 
How is Boeing preparing to meet the growing demand for air travel in the region?
In a dynamic market with strong demand and fierce competition, we are committed to meeting our customers’ significant investments by addressing the growing need for new aircraft and services. Looking ahead, Boeing’s projections suggest a global demand for 42,595 new aircraft deliveries by 2042, representing a steady 2.8 per cent annual growth in the worldwide fleet. This growth is expected to double the fleet size from 24,500 aircraft in 2022 to 48,600 by 2042.
 

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