Orkney to Become UK’s First Sustainable Flight Test Centre

Kirkwell Airport in Scotland is set to become the UK’s first low-carbon aviation test centre. The £3.7 million project led by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) aims to create sustainable short flight travel between remote communities.

Kirkwell Airport - Saab 2000 aircraft on the ground

The First Sustainable UK Test Centre

The 18 month project in Orkney will test different types of low-carbon aircrafts and examine how to enforce zero-carbon infrastructure. It has been launched as part of the UK’s Research and Innovation (UKRI’s) Future Flight Challenge to support greener ways to fly.  

The Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE) is set to trial electric, hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuels as a replacement to fossil fuels. Drones will also be flown as part of the project for the potential use in delivering medical supplies.

Kirkwall Airport will be the UK’s first operationally-based, low-carbon aviation test centre. © Ken Walton
Kirkwall Airport will be the UK’s first operationally-based, low-carbon aviation test centre. © Ken Walton

HIAL Managing Director Inglis Lyon, said: “Project SATE will place the Highlands and Islands at the vanguard of the adoption of next-generation aircraft and spearhead the aviation industry’s response to climate change.”

Scotland’s Aviation Aim

It comes as the Scottish Government plans to “decarbonise scheduled flights within Scotland by 2040″. The trial in Orkney will use local renewable energy in support of net zero emissions.

Scottish Travel Secretary Michael Matheson, said: “This is a very exciting project and it’s fantastic to see HIAL take the lead to create the UK’s first low-carbon aviation test environment.”

Kirkwall airport was chosen as the test centre because of its variety of short routes connecting Orkney’s island communities. It is yet to be announced when the project will begin.

What do you think about a more sustainable future for aviation? Do you think this project will help to pioneer change throughout the rest of the UK and beyond? Let us know down below. 


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Charlotte Barcham
Charlotte Barchamhttps://charlottebarcham.co.uk%20
Aviation Journalist - A 22-year-old Multimedia Journalism graduate with by-lines in the Kentish Express, Charlotte is a travel and aviation enthusiast, covering the latest news for Travel Radar. On the side she loves visual media, with a licensed video used for an Aer Lingus advert. Outside of travel, she is a third-dan black belt in Taekwondo and also enjoys running, reading and exploring!


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