The Future of Aviation is Electric: A Conversation with Swedavia

Guest Author by Guest Author | Mar 1, 2022

An interview with John Nilsson, Strategic Planning Manager, Electric and Hydrogen Aircraft Infrastructure, Swedavia

What is the role of electric aviation in the transition to a fossil free aviation industry?

Our partners in the airline industry and in the airline manufacturing industry believe electric aviation will play an important role in the transition to a fossil free aviation industry in the near future, both by battery driven and fuel cell driven electric aviation. At Swedavia we participate in many different forums and projects in the field of electric aviation and closely follow the development in fossil free aviation in order to adapt our airports for the future. We share the belief that battery driven, or fuel cell driven electric aviation, will have an important part in the transition alongside with sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and synthetic fuels.

How does Swedavia adapt and develop its airports for electric aviation?

By understanding and weighing different expert opinions about the future of electric flight and by asking questions pertaining to airport infrastructure in the projects we participate in, Swedavia builds up a broad understanding of airports’ role in catering for electric aviation. We aim to study different scenarios for the future of electric aviation, and in relation to the scenarios propose different solutions in order to adapt and prepare our ten airports to the specific needs of electric aviation when those reach the commercial market. We also wish to encourage fossil free aviation at our airports by eliminating our take-off charges at all our airports for electric aviation.  

What are the biggest challenges for airports in the transition to electric aviation?

For our airports we believe the biggest challenge is to understand how fast the transition will happen and also the volume of electric aviation that needs to be handled by our airports in the short-term and in the long-term, in order to prepare our investments accordingly.

Visby Airport

Where is the greatest potential in the market for electric aviation?

Swedavia’s main focus during the last year has been to understand the possibilities that battery-driven electric aviation has in Sweden, for example in the northern half of our country where distances between cities are far. We are of the opinion that smaller regional routes between the coastal area and the inland area of northern Sweden are primarily suited for electric aviation as well as connecting coastal cities from Finland and Sweden across the northern Baltic. The limited range and capacity of electric battery-driven aviation should be well matched for these types of routes. Those new routes will help bolster the existing connections of northern Sweden and create new reliable connections between cities that are less limited by weather events or the geography of the region.

When will the first commercial aviation flight be ready for take-off from your airports?

Some of our airports, Visby Airport and Åre Östersund Airport, already offer charging points for smaller 2-seated electric aircrafts. We fully expect to have our regional airports ready by the second half of this decade, in accordance with the expected entry in commercial service of for example Heart Aerospace 19-seater aircraft and for our vision of a regional grid in northern Sweden.

Sustainable aviation fuel, electric aviation, and hydrogen flights. Which techniques will be the most important and has the most potential for the future?

Swedavia owns and develops airports, therefore our mission is to offer a seamless passenger experience through our airports and also to adapt our airports for the future of transports, with a focus on inter-modality. We strive for a fossil free aviation and to understand the future of aviation and adapt our airports accordingly to ensure a frictionless transition to sustainable energy sources. All technologies listed above have both benefits and drawbacks and therefore all complete each other in order to offer a fully fossil free aviation, from shorter regional routes to longer inter-continental routes with a high passenger demand.

How has Swedavia benefited, from a sustainability perspective, by being an ACI Member?

Swedavia has benefited from ACI’s guidance and support in promoting and forming comprehensive EU legislation and guidelines to advance sustainability issues in the aviation industry, which are aligned with our own road map for sustainability at our airports. ACI provides an important forum for all members to participate, contribute, share best practice to jointly develop and push climate as well as other key industry issues. As a member Swedavia is at the very forefront when it comes to the necessary climate change combat, last year achieving our net zero carbon emission goal in our own operations at all ten airports. This is something we are very proud of.

John Nilsson began his professional career in 2011 at the Swedish Transport Administration where he worked as a project leader on early phases of transport planning, with a focus on traffic analysis and complex road infrastructure. John works at Swedavia since 2018, which owns and operates ten airports of strategic importance in Sweden. In his current role he is responsible for the coordination and strategic planning of electric- and hydrogen driven aviation, with a focus on its effects on Swedavia’s airports, from an infrastructure as well as a passenger experience perspective.

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