Making real gains in CO2 reduction is, of course, about more than carrying out one measure. It’s when you add all the little things together that the real savings can be made. This is exactly what Air Canada did with its ‘perfect flight’ project.

Bringing together best industry practices: latest aircraft technology; sustainable alternative fuel; optimised routings and flight altitude; and eco-efficient operational procedures, Air Canada was able to demonstrate emissions reductions of over 40% compared to a normal flight.

Making up part of ICAO’s ‘Flightpath to a Sustainable Future’ initiative, through which delegates were flown to the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development, the perfect flight took place in June 2012 and was operated on an Airbus A319 travelling from Toronto to Mexico City.

A number of CO2 saving measures were taken on the flight, including a 50% mix of biojet fuel made from used cooking oil, a range of lighter-weight materials, an engine compressor wash carried out prior to the flight, and optimised routing. Through support from aircraft maker Airbus and coordination with the various air traffic control and airport authorities involved, the flight was an extraordinary example of what is possible.

Air Canada has now started to put into daily practice some of the procedures trialled on that Perfect Flight. It has assisted with setting up studies on feedstock development for Canadian-sourced alternative aviation fuel. Through its Fuel, Energy and Emissions Reduction Programme, the airline has worked with pilots and fuel suppliers to ensure optimal fuelling (rather than just ‘filling the tanks’ for each flight), which alone saves around 2,500 tonnes of CO2 per year.

The perfect flight is a fine example of how all airlines can cut out unnecessary CO2 emissions through collaboration and won Air Canada and Airbus the Eco-partnership Award 2013 from the aviation publication Air Transport World.