Photo: Dave Rose / Source: PlanePictures.Net

13 June 2021

Not all Government aircraft are created equally

Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, flew to Newquay for the G7. But what aircraft did he fly on and what difference does that make?

There has been a lot of talk about Boris Johnson's flight from London Stansted to Newquay for this weekend's meeting of the G7 Nations. The argument has been focused on flying being the most polluting way of making the journey compared to a lower-carbon type of transport such as rail.

The BBC did the math for the journey:

Using a methodology set out by the government for commercial flights, each passenger travelling this distance - 248 miles (399km) - contributes about 97kg (15st 3lb) of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the Earth's atmosphere.

Comparisons are exclusively being made against other forms of transport, mostly rail and car (electric.)

Carbon Comparison

STN London Stansted Airport
NQY Newquay Cornwall Airport
  1. Royal Air Force Airbus A321 neo~74 kg CO2

  2. Royal Air Force Avro RJ 85~167 kg CO2

The UK used to operate the BAE 146 (which is different name for the Avro RJ85).

To give credit where credit is due, the flight was operated by one of the most carbon friendly aircraft available, the Airbus A321 NEO. The A321 NEO, or New Engine Model, is the latest version of the A321. The exact aircraft in use (G-XATW) came off the assembly line in Hamburg in October 2020. You can browse its complete list of flights here.

This version has much improved fuel efficiency compared to older generations and comes with winglets by default, cutting it's fuel burn further. As a result it performs much better from a carbon-footprint point of view compared to the Government's older aircrafts.

So while a train journey would obviously have been better, it was flown by the best option possible.

The aircraft is operated by the Royal Air Force (but with Titan Airways crew) on behalf of the UK Government. They also operate an Airbus A330-200 Voyager.

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