Frequently Asked Questions
Dr Wendy Buckley, Client Director at Carbon footprint Ltd, answers common questions about the Prize
Why a prize fund?
Prizes and competitions have been used in aviation history to accelerate progress on a number of occasions in the past. With the current climate emergency, it has never been more important to accelerate the shift to zero carbon than now.
A good example of an aviation prize in the past was the Orteig Prize – offered on May 22nd 1919 (just over 101 years ago) for the first non-stop transatlantic flight between New York and Paris. Prize was 25,000 USD (equivalent to about 390,000 USD in 2020). Charles Lindbergh won the prize in 1927 in his aircraft, Spirit of St. Louis (20-21 May 1927).
How big do you expect the prize fund to be?
We aren’t putting a limitation onto the Prize Fund. In the past similar aviation prizes have been provided for around £500,000 (in 2020 equivalent money). Our target is to grow the Freedom Flight prize fund to be well in excess of £5 million. It all depends on the amount of support individuals or companies offer to help move us towards this goal of carbon free aviation.
Surely this Prize will not cover the costs involved in developing an aircraft to do this, so why will individual or company invest in the developments needed to win this prize?
There is no limit provided to the size of the fund. But even at £1 million, it is greater (in real terms) than most other historic aviation prizes, which were all successful in moving aviation forward. We believe even at this level people and companies will step up to help achieve this goal. When the first zero carbon transatlantic passenger flight is achieved it will be a game changer for aviation. The first successful organisation will have a huge commercial advantage over other aircraft manufacturers for several decades. They will also secure their place in the history of aviation.
The prize fund will provide the motivation and investment in truly sustainable aviation.
How will the prize money be funded?
We are currently putting together sponsorship packages. Interested organisations can contact us for more details. Information about the sponsors (unless they request anonymity) will be posted on the Freedom Flight Prize website. We have set up a donation page for individuals to donate.
Is the competition only open to UK or US companies?
No the competition is open to all countries, no matter what continent they are in - be it Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Australasia, Africa or Antarctica.
How do potential participants register?
We have an initial expression of interest page on our website – this allows us to send the full requirements and details to each participant, and allows us to send updates as required.
When do you expect the prize to be won?
We don’t know for sure, but we know to address climate change we need a greenhouse gas free solution to aviation. We expect the Prize to be won before the end of this decade.
Why is there a time limit on the flight duration?
It currently takes about 8 hours to fly between London and New York in a commercial airliner. We believe, to be a commercially viable alternative to fossil fuel powered planes an aircraft powered by renewables must be able to achieve the same flight distance in a similar time.
Why does the plane need to be able to do the return journey in 24 hours?
To be competitive with fossil fuel powered planes, the aircraft will need to be able to “refuel” and be prepared quickly to make it competitive with alternative planes. An airline can't wait long periods of time to refuel.
Which types of fuels or energy are allowed?
The aircraft needs to fly without releasing carbon dioxide emissions when flying. We will allow:
Hydrogen (in gas, liquid or slush form)
Hydrogen (for fuel cells)
Other energy storage (to store energy from renewable sources)
What are your view on Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs)?
Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) can be made from Biomass, Waste and Carbon Captured from the air and synthesised with Hydrogen. These types of fuels are drop in replacements for Jet Fuel, and are already being used within some passenger flights to help reduce carbon emissions.
SAFs can be made to burn cleaner than kerosene based jet fuel, so are a good thing. However, these fuels are still carbon based and will result in carbon dioxide emissions being released during the flight. Emissions released at altitude have an increased impact on climate change due to Radiative Forcing.
We see synthetic fuels playing a big part in helping reduce overall emissions in aviation and are an important step whilst the next generation of “zero carbon emissions in flight” aircraft are developed. The Freedom Flight Prize is focus on accelerating achieving zero CO2 emissions in flight, and bringing the next generation of aircraft to the masses.
Which fuel do you think will be used by the winning team?
We don't know for sure, but expect the solution will be hydrogen based, unless there is some major break though with batteries, allowing much higher energy storage per unit mass.
Hydrogen has the highest energy per mass of any fuel - however at ambient temperature it has low energy density (per unit volume). It requires special storage to allow it to have higher density.
Who are you and why are you doing this?
Carbon Footprint Ltd founders John Buckley and Dr Wendy Buckley have backgrounds & extensive experience in the aerospace industry. Their team also includes aerospace engineers, Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) assessors and experts in sustainable travel. The business’ clients include many companies within the sector – including airlines and airports across the world. Carbon Footprint Ltd is also accredited by the Quality Assurance Standard (QAS) for its carbon measurement and offsetting work. The QAS is favoured by the airline industry.
The business is passionate about sustainable travel, but views the progress in the industry as being too slow. With the right level of public awareness of the need for & value of renewable energy flights (from this prize) married with technology’s ability to deliver this, there will be a revolution in the air travel industry.