June 24, 2009, Updated September 13, 2012

Israeli aviation giant IAI is playing a key role in a major European Union initiative designed to green our skies.


Carbon offsetting your flight is one way to help reduce the amount of greenhouse gases entering the air. But experts in the transportation industry know that it’s necessary to start from the ground up — by making planes, trains and automobiles more environmentally friendly as part of their engineering. 

Taking on a major partnership in the European Union’s flagship project – the $1.6 billion Clean Sky Joint Technology Initiative together with large European partners, Israel’s aviation giant Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is helping to make skies greener. The company is the only non-EU partner in the massive research and development project. 

Although in planning for a couple of years, just six months ago the Israeli company started working on its tasks. Led by Dassault, a prominent European aerospace company, IAI is also greening the skies along with Airbus and Eurocopter. 

“We are dealing with reducing the amount of hazardous manufacturing waste, recycling, reducing weight – which will reduce carbon emissions – and extending the life [of the aircraft], which reduces need for recycling,” says Arnold Nathan, the director of IAI’s R&D Engineering Division. 

The be all and end all of green flight projects

Funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program, Israel’s IAI is playing no small role: “This is <i>the</I> R&D product for the next seven years in Europe,” Nathan tells ISRAEL21c. 

The goal, he says, is that after seven years the group members will have prototypes ready. Each of the six groups is taking on a different challenge, and all will contribute to making “ecologically-sound aircraft of the future,” says Nathan. IAI is a major player, and is focusing on design platforms.  

“There are a couple of things IAI will be involved in,” he explains. “We are dealing with hazardous materials, chrome six – the chemical from the movie Erin Brockovich.” Used as a coating for corrosion protection, “everyone in the aircraft industry is using it and everyone wants to get away from it,” says Nathan. IAI is on the team hunting for a chrome six replacement which is more ecologically sound. 

In another direction, IAI is looking into lighter aluminum alloys to lower fuel consumption, which results in less greenhouse gas emissions.  

A third major project in the Clean Sky project is in composite materials, and finding ways to cut down on waste. The Boeing 787 and the Airbus 350 are all using more composite materials, explains Nathan. Made from cotton fabrics with epoxies, the process results in about 20-40 percent waste. And the waste is defined as hazardous to the environment. 

Scrapping, recycling, extending aircraft life

In its mission, Clean Sky partners are looking into alternate ways to deal with the scrap, either through improved manufacturing methods, upfront planning, or recycling the waste efficiently. Using less energy in the manufacturing process, says Nathan, originally from Chicago, is also part of the environmental idea. 

Additionally, IAI is focusing its R&D efforts on extending the life of an aircraft. “So if you make the life of an aircraft longer, you don’t have to deal with its waste and recycling,” says Nathan. 

“We are really shooting to help the EU reach its 2020 goals — the ACARE  — or Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe,” which by 2020 plans on reducing 50% of its CO2 emissions, 50% in external noise, and in general, greening the industry. 

IAI plays a leadership role in four or five work packages. In one of six groups, each platform will come up with a serious significant piece of hardware by around 2013, two years before the project is supposed to end. 

IAI is an Israeli aeronautics company involved in building aircraft. The company has partnered with Gulfstream in the US for building business jets. So far it has assembled about 70 business jets in Israel. The company also specializes in manufacturing the Arrow missile, and satellite and radar equipment through its various divisions. 

Established in 1953, estimates suggest the company sees about $2 billion in sales annually, supplied by its workforce of about 1,500 people. Its products are developed from the skills and experience Israeli defense officials and researchers have acquired in order to help defend their country from hostile neighbors over the years.


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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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