Coachlines - January 2022

26.01.22 Liveryman Adrian Smith FIMI FioD FCMI

The times they are a-changin’

Liveryman Adrian Smith FIMI FioD FCMI

Bob Dylan was on the money and indeed prophetic back in the sixties, when he released that anthem in 1964, writes Liveryman Adrian Smith FIMI FioD FCMI.

Aside from all the other changes we are experiencing in daily life, the aviation and automotive sectors with which the Coachmakers are associated, are experiencing momentous change as they both aim for a carbon emission-free future.

FlyZero is a UK industry initiative advancing zero carbon-emission flight technologies. It is exploring the concept of a mid-size aircraft capable of travelling from London to San Francisco, non-stop. It would offer the same speed and passenger comfort which exists in aircraft currently flying routes of that length. Zero-carbon technologies are very much in their infancy and a potential entry into service for a liquid hydrogen powered aircraft looks likely to be in the 2030s, in the interim there is also a clear need to develop low-carbon solutions for the existing global fleet, including sustainable aviation fuels.

In addition to the mid-size concept, FlyZero have two others: a regional aircraft and a narrowbody (short haul) proposal. This demonstrates that the challenges ahead are huge for the aviation sector, and that British organisations are gearing up to be at the forefront in the pioneering effort. The plan is to identify and explore the potential of the technologies required to realise zero carbon-emission flight by the end of the decade. To do this it is vital to ensure that the UK does not miss its chance to be in a strong position at the start of what will undoubtedly be a major commercial opportunity for all sizes of aerospace businesses.

Information on Flyzero can be found at

Another related project involves Cranfield Aerospace Solutions, which is working to fit a future propulsion system to a Britten-Norman Islander turboprop aircraft which formerly flew the return route between the mainland and the Isles of Scilly. Cranfield is aiming to fly the new-engined/powered aircraft by 2023. The Steamship Group which operates the route between the Isles of Scilly, is working with Cranfield to contribute its knowledge and understanding of infrastructure requirements to the programme.

This joined up thinking, covering design to manufacture to final customer delivery is being supported by EasyJet which is also supporting the Cranfield hydrogen fuel cell-development initiative. The airline says it will provide an “airline operator’s perspective”, as well as “internal expertise”, to assist Cranfield’s efforts. Those who joined for the visit to Cranfield back in October, will recall host Iain Gray, saying that the plan going forward is to involve all parties in the design phase of projects so that the final products – aircraft primarily – are produced optimally, with the airline as the end user involved throughout the project.

More information on the project can be found at

The early work so far shows that zero carbon-emission flight is feasible. It is going to be incredibly challenging to achieve, but the view is that it has to be done to protect the environment. The UK has an excellent pedigree of pioneering aerospace projects which have then become commercial successes. It will be intriguing to watch as things develop and progress in the future.

Now automotive has to be mentioned here as well. This industry is experiencing equal, more immediate and indeed more visible change. Everyone knows something about electric vehicles (EVs), even if it is only ‘range anxiety’! The past five years have seen huge change, but it seems that the next five will see even more of a transformation.

Five years ago, if you were to say that in 10 years’ time all Jaguars would be EVs you’d probably have had your mental state questioned. That will be the reality. Even now, virtually every manufacturer has an EV offering – such is the tsunami of change drenching the automotive sector. Rolls-Royce has announced that its first EV will appear in late 2023. Even the most cynical individual has to accept that EVs are here to stay and will continue to evolve and mature.

What must be remembered is that whilst aerospace and automotive go through transformational change to their technologies, the former has an approval programme in place for aircraft engineers – a licence. The latter, arguably going through the most radical change does not have such a formal structure. Without going on a soapbox, it must be recognised and accepted that electric vehicles are a totally new technology compared with the internal combustion engine which has powered motor vehicles for 100 years. Properly trained and accredited technical personnel are needed to work safely with this new technology. The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) is expending much effort into this complex issue. 

Aerospace and automotive; they are both going through massive change. Bob Dylan should be delighted with his prediction.