ICAO launches carbon calculator, credits Piano:

ICAO, the aviation agency of the United Nations, launched its online carbon calculator (here) for offsetting emissions on June 18, 2008. An accompanying description (here, page 7) credits Piano as the original source of its fuel burn data.

ICAO's reliance on Piano data at the core level is welcome and significant. However, ICAO is not a Piano user.

ICAO obtained Piano information from a dated report called CORINAIR. This work originated in a UK government ministry (the Department of Trade and Industry, DTI, now BERR). The DTI acquired a copy of Piano and its aircraft database in 1993 for its own use, but Lissys was never consulted about CORINAIR or informed of its nature. This report extracted and disseminated comprehensive fuel burn matrices for many of Piano's aircraft models. Such information cannot normally be obtained except through a legitimate purchase of Piano from Lissys, which reserves all rights to the software. Technical concerns also arise about CORINAIR's load factor assumptions and the age of the data. Lissys was later invited to present Piano proper at a relevant ICAO committee meeting (CAEP) in Rome in 2006, but was not contacted about the carbon calculator.

Many other aviation carbon calculators now rely similarly on CORINAIR (hence Piano) fuel burns.

Looking forward rather than back, it is difficult to see how simplistic carbon calculators can assist the public, if they apportion a single questionable amount of CO2 as a personal responsibility whilst masking critical underlying variations and without offering constructive tradeoff information.

In fact, CO2 production varies widely with the type of aircraft, the precise manner of its operation, its actual payload and empty weight, and depends on ever-changing operator choices. A fair tool has to provide a simple (but not superficial) means of assessing these quickly. It must be objectively neutral and dynamically adjustable. It can then bridge the conflicting interests of airlines, manufacturers, authorities and public groups by being equally useful to all.

The tool must have established technical recognition within the aeronautics community and be underpinned by exhaustive and explicit performance calculations. Manufacturers and operators must be able to fine-tune and update its individual aircraft models to their own standards easily and transparently, permitting overt scrutiny of assumptions. And above all, it must be capable of being used by non-specialists throughout the industry, or by any interested member of the public, with very little effort.

Such a tool exists in the form of Piano-X and offers a big step forward for credible and consistent assessments of aviation environmental emissions and fuel efficiency.

News article: Reuters on carbon calculators - (external link)

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