Climate change: who still wants to become a pilot?


L’is aviation still a dream? At the heart of debates and controversies on climate change, its use is increasingly singled out. PSG, pinned for its round trip to Nantes by private jet, in fact recently paid the price. The fact remains that future pilots are jostling at the gate, and that this elitist profession still arouses as many vocations.

Nicolas Haentjens, student in 3e year of aeronautical engineering at Ipsa and future student pilot, will admit the subject with his comrades who are “all aware and informed about the weight of air in the ecological crisis”. Yes, aviation pollutes, but future professionals in the sector still choose to join the system knowingly. “This summer, a friend asked me if I felt guilty for wanting to participate in polluting the planet,” recalls the young man, still faced with this question.

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Air transport accounts for just 12% of transport industry emissions, compared to 74% for road transport figures, according to figures from the Air Transport Action Group and the European Environment Agency dated 2019, before the pandemic. Problem: a plane trip consumes almost three times as much CO2 per passenger and per kilometer than a car journey.

After the sudden stop added by the coronavirus in 2020, air travel has already almost returned to normal levels. According to the monthly report “TendanCiel” from the Ministry of Ecological Transition, the traffic observed in July 2022 corresponds to 86.4% of that observed in July 2019, i.e. the last summer before the health crisis. A similar trend was observed for the month of August.

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“Aviation is a vocation. Instead of giving up, we project ourselves as agents of change,” defends Nicolas. For these budding airline pilots, there are now redesigned training courses, directly overseen by the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGAC), attached to the Ministry of Ecological Transition. It is she who has authority over the pilot schools. Thus, university programs and ecology are linked as soon as possible.

Because air transport is not going away any time soon, the sector must transform and improve to become as sustainable as possible. Solutions already exist: the DGAC ensures that it is possible to save up to 7% of kerosene per flight by applying certain navigation techniques. “When we know that a continuous descent literally saves tons of fuel compared to a step-by-step descent, we as pilots and air traffic controllers strive to land in the least harmful way possible”, quotes Nicolas, for example. . A first step.

Ecological issues at the heart of training

Thierry de Basquiat, director of pilot training and flights at the National School of Civil Aviation (Enac), first met the constant evolution of his establishment’s training on environmental issues. New conferences have been devoted to this theme for a year and a half. “As far as practical training is concerned, the first ten hours of flight are done on an electric plane and we are organizing a switch to SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel), that is to say to bio-sourced fuel”, underlines our interlocutor.

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An approach capable of reassuring the most anxious about the future of the planet? If some students have waived the price of ecological conscience in recent years, they are only competent on the fingers of one hand at Enac.

We project ourselves as agents of change.Nicolas, future student pilot

Enac trains all types of aviation players, from airline pilots to engineers and air traffic controllers. “The green transformation of the airline industry is not an individual matter. It’s an evolution that essentially requires that all the professions work together to achieve the targeted objectives”, notes Thierry de Basquiat.

In addition to these innovations, the sector may have to make certain concessions. Augustin de Romanet, CEO of Aéroports de Paris, calls himself for traffic moderation and says he is ready to face a decline in the sector. In an interview at BFM Business this September 19, he ensures “never to get in the way of those who want to have more responsible behavior”. Some would like the future of short and medium-haul flights to be written on the railways.


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