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MALTATODAY 24 July 2022

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8 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 17 JULY 2022 NEWS JAMES DEBONO THE Gozo Regional Develop- ment Authority (GRDA) is in- sisting that electrification at a proposed Gozo 445m airfield should be "encouraged" rath- er than made mandatory, while calling for the installation of a fuel depot. Studies in a regional impact assessment for the Xewkija runway showed that carbon emissions from fuel-powered airplanes operating between Malta Airport and the new air- strip were significantly high- er than those emitted by cars travelling the same distance. To counter the expected in- crease in emissions, the GRDA is recommending that the in- ter-island air service provider should "be encouraged to adopt an all-electric aircraft fleet". This emerges from the "out- come statement" for the public consultation on the regional impact assessment. But the option of waiting for the availability of completely electrified plane fleets is not even considered in the report. The two measures recom- mended in the final document include "incentivising the op- erator to shift towards electric aircraft" or stipulating in the tender document that "only those operators who submit their intention to operate with electric aircraft would be al- lowed to operate from the pro- posed airfield." The GRDA is also recom- mending that residents and tourists who make use of the air-link transport service should be "encouraged to make use of the public transport to mitigate impact on air quali- ty, as well as impacts on traf- fic flow, road accessibility, and vehicle parking requirements." This measure shall be accom- panied by an enhanced public transport service that meets the expected demand and be in sync with scheduled inter-is- land arrivals and departures, as part of a wider sustainable mobility plan for the island of Gozo. And following the "extensive feedback received from several players involved in the aviation industry", the GRDA recom- mends that a fuel depot station is also included in the project to cater for "day-to-day needs" instead of being restricted only for emergency use as original- ly proposed. Aprons 1 and 4, which are the only two parts which shall be entirely or par- tially hard-surfaced, shall be the only two sites considered for the installation of a fixed or mobile fuel depot station at the Gozo Rural Airfield. The impact assessment in- cludes a calculation comparing carbon emissions from aircraft, to the amount that would be saved from the roads. The fu- el emissions from aviation and the saved carbon emissions from road transport were com- pared as part of the economic analysis. Considering a total of 242,303 litres of fuel consumption per year emanating from the air- link between Malta and Gozo, and a carbon-equivalent con- tent of 3.1kg per litre of fuel, with €35 per tonne of carbon dioxide, the external cost of emissions will be €26,290 per annum. The equivalent of carbon emissions from car trips from Malta International Airport to Cirkewwa and from Mgarr Harbour to the Gozo Heliport is estimated at 104,675 litres of fuel, which is valued at €8,793 per annum. By comparing the value of saved fuel emissions from the road to the emissions gener- ated by the STOL aircraft pro- viding the air transport service, "it is clear that there would be a resultant net increase in car- bon emissions." Although the technology for the electrification this sector is evolving at a fast rate, most aircraft in the market are still jet-fuelled. Presently an esti- mated 200 global companies are currently pursuing electric plane projects, some of which have already made short and successful test flights. Electric planes, like electric cars, rely on battery-generat- ed electricity for power, rath- er than standard liquid jet fu- el. Yet today's batteries aren't nearly as energy-dense as jet fuel, requiring bulk and weight that pose significant aerody- namic challenges. But the tech- nology is more ideal for short take-off and landing (STOL) planes like the 9 to 11 passen- ger-seat planes required for the Gozo airstrip. Gozo airport: electrification to be 'encouraged' not imposed Tender could include provision for companies with intention to use electric aircraft but Gozo authority also recommending installation of a fuel depot for everyday use and not just for emergencies

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