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Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury supports sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in the short term, but sees hydrogen-powered aircraft as the likely long-term solution to decarbonizing aviation. The Airbus leader told German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, “SAF is the short-term solution, and for long-haul flights probably the long-term one, and it’s compatible with today’s aircraft technology. But I also believe that hydrogen is the long-term solution to our net zero goal and that we need to start now.”

Faury said the company’s first hydrogen airplane is likely to be a regional jet, but also acknowledged that the transition to aviation’s next source of energy will not be a quick one. “Hydrogen won’t deliver a great contribution to CO2 reductions in the year 2050,” he told the paper, “but there will be a time after that.”

Airbus joined utility provider Uniper, energy tech company Siemens Energy and chemicals firm Sasol ecoFT in last month’s announcement of a feasibility study on producing SAFs based on green hydrogen made from renewable energy under the ‘Green Fuels for Hamburg’ initiative.

Faury doesn’t expect the transition to hydrogen to be an economically easy one. He accepts that producing decarbonized aviation fuel at first will “cost a lot of energy and be expensive.” But the Airbus CEO also said aviation would “potentially face significant hurdles if we don’t manage to decarbonize at the right pace.”

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