New ecological paint system in planes

Relevant SDGs

Type of entity: Large Company

Good Practices link:

Since: 2013

Iberia is conscious of the importance of combating climate change for the well-being of society. Its main environmental goal is therefore to reduce CO2 emissions, as a way to achieve sustainable, efficient growth.

In our renewal process, we are committed to using modern energy services, improving performance and increasing our use of renewable sources. Within this framework, we are carrying out cross-cutting actions of all types that promote, directly or indirectly, the well-being of the environment in which we operate, which is none other than everybody’s environment.

Although many people are unaware of it, the paint used on aeroplanes has an influence on fuel consumption and, consequently, on CO2 emissions. This is why we have opted for an innovative system which enables us to obtain improved aerodynamics and be more eco-efficient by reducing the layers of paint on our aircraft.

This new painting system contributes to the following SDGs:

SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production. The new system introduced by Iberia makes it possible to reduce the consumption of raw materials and natural resources:

  • Paint: a single layer of paint is applied, which reduces consumption by 30%.
  • Fuel: the aeroplane is lighter, which also reduces fuel consumption.
  • Water: This paint is “cleaner”, and as it is not necessary to wash the plane so often, we consume less water.

SDG 13: Climate action. By improving the efficiency of our operations, we also achieve reductions in CO2 emissions.

Iberia is working on several projects to reduce the environmental impact and CO2 emissions of its operations.  One is the new aeroplane painting system, which it launched taking advantage of new branding changes. The system requires 30% less paint, improves the planes’ aerodynamics and, consequently, reduces fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, a concept in regard to which our company has always demonstrated total transparency (with other best practices such as that of allowing customers to calculate the carbon footprint of their journeys as part of our strategy to combat climate change).

There is a direct correlation between the number of coats of paint covering an aircraft and both its weight and its aerodynamics, and consequently, its fuel consumption. This, in turn, has an impact on the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere, one of the main causes of global warming.

Iberia is one of the first airlines to use this new paint application system which permits savings of 30% in materials, not to mention time, as it requires only a single coat, which is more eco-efficient.

The technique consists in applying the livery colours in one single coat via a basecoat  component. This is highly pigmented, which makes it possible to achieve the required opacity with very low paint thicknesses in one coat, whereas before at least two to three coats were needed.

The process is completed with the application of a clear varnish called a clearcoat, which brings the surface to a high gloss, known as the “wet effect”; it also acts to protect the fuselage against the effects of the weather and erosion.

Using this new system offers several advantages, both in terms of the environment and as regards the quality of our corporate image:

  1. Lower fuel consumption and carbon emissions: One layer of paint instead of two or three means less paint used, which results in improved aircraft aerodynamics and lower aircraft weights. This means not as much fuel is required, and so less carbon dioxide is emitted.
  2. Greater durability of colours and shine: Clearcoat protection allows the aircrafts’ colour and shine to last much longer. Beyond its pleasing aesthetics, it is also an operational and environmental plus, because it means aircraft require less painting cycles over their lifetime.
  3. Greater cleanliness: Clearcoat properties include hydrophobicity, meaning it discourages the build-up of water and dust. This is a plus not only aesthetically but also in terms of environmental impact as less cleaning is required. Increased cleanliness means improved aerodynamics too, and therefore lower fuel consumption.
  4. Quicker application: Since just one basecoat is needed, with a two-hour drying time, this system accelerates the painting process and reduces the time an aircraft needs to spend in the hangar being painted.

Taking by way of example one of our A-320 aircraft painted using this technique, the savings compared to the traditional technique are as follows: 34 fewer litres of paint were used, which means that the aircraft weighs 32 kg less. After one year, this aircraft is consuming 3,077 litres less fuel, meaning that each of these planes is producing 7,783 kg less CO2 per year.

As a large corporation, and a leading actor in the tourism sector in Spain, we want set an example in social and environmental commitment.

We, at Iberia, encourage all the companies in the tourism industry to engage in efforts to see how, with small measures and in their daily operations, they can contribute to sustainability, not only through internal practices such as the one we have presented here, but also through recommendations to their public (such as through campaigns like the one we launched some years ago in conjunction with the Ministry of the Environment and the Fundación Biodiversidad, called “Ten recommendations for sustainable tourism”).

Regardless of the size or resources of the corporation, we all make a difference and together we have to watch over our environment in the context of our activities, giving them added value.

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