Avgeek Alert: Project IAGOS, an Aviation Initiative to Protect the Environment


Catastrophic climate change is undoubtedly one of the great challenges facing man, if not the greatest of all. The emission of greenhouse gases has caused unprecedented global warming which has become increasingly urgent to slow and even reverse. In this context, an international project called IAGOS was founded 11 years ago, with which Iberia aligns and collaborates. What exactly is IAGOS; what is its purpose; and how can airlines (including ours) contribute to it?

What Is Project IAGOS?

Its name an acronym for In-Service Aircraft for a Global Observing System,this non-profit organisation was founded in Brussels  in 2013, and it´s made up primarily of research organisations, universities, and meteorological service centers from Germany, the United Kingdom, and France.

The IAGOS project infrastructure combines the experience of the member entities and with the infrastructure provided by civil aviation companies in its main objective: to analyse air quality on a global scale with respect to airplanes, since neither satellites nor monitoring stations can effectively accomplish this. In this way, patterns can be established and data obtained that is extremely useful for both scientific and administrative purposes,

And to complement this air observation and analysis system there are two sub-projects, IAGOS-CARIBIC offers a set of observations of lesser extent in time and space, but deeper and more conscientious, whereas IAGOS-CORE provides daily coverage cooperating with various airlines to almost continuously measure trace gases, aerosols, and cloud particles.

Where Airlines Come In

IAGOS-CORE racks are installed on the aircraft of the cooperating airlines and contain  everything necessary to attach a series of automated instruments for measuring ozone, carbon monoxide, humidity, cloud particles, nitrogen dioxide, aerosols, greenhouse gases, and the like.

These systems are installed on long-haul aircraft – the measurements sought are at high altitudes – and it goes without saying, although it is worth remembering, that they comply with all European quality, design and safety controls and standards in the sector. of civil aviation. Until 2017 there were eight airplanes with this system installed flying over the entire airspace. The objective of this project is to expand it to 20 in the medium-long term: with that number of aircraft it is considered that the coverage for a correct analysis of the air will be optimal.

What´s the Ultimate Purpose of this Project?

The fact that aircraft such as the Airbus A330-200 are constantly measuring air quality and suspended particles allows, in the short term, the provision of almost real-time information to meteorological stations.

And in the long term, these measurements allow on the one hand the development of models to more accurately predict the future in this regard – truly valuable so that the different administrations know what type of policies they should adopt against global warming and climate change.. On the other hand, and in parallel, this database is already being extremely useful for different researchers to carry out important exercises such as process studies, trend analysis, and model validations.

Iberia´s Collaboration with IAGOS

Our airline currently has an Airbus A330-200 aircraft (registration EC-MSY) which has measurement equipment installed indefinitely. This specifically analyses the chemical composition of the air over the Atlantic Ocean, as well as aerosol and cloud particles. It also evaluates the quality of the atmosphere and its chemical composition at high altitudes. An additional package allows the measurement of nitrogen oxide, which is one of the greenhouse gases with the greatest impact on the environment.

Iberia´s Commitment to Sustainability

Iberia’s participation in the IAGOS project is included within a set of strategies to promote sustainability in the sector. Already between 2013 and 2020, it cooperated with IAGOS by collecting data in the Southern Cone (the southernmost areas of South America).

Promoted by the IAG group to which the company belongs, the “Five through 2025” strategy is also embedded in company policy. The objectives, aligned with the circular economy, are to reduce waste generation and maximise the recycling of waste that has already been generated. Digitising processes; eliminating plastic from packaging and changing it to reusable containers;  and choosing the menu in advance to avoid wasting food are some of the measures with which we are achieving an effective reduction of paper, plastic, and food.

Finally, within our net-zero-emissions policy for 2050, we are implementing the use of SAF (sustainable aviation fuel)  even above the European Union´s recommended levels to reach that year with 100-percent biofuel use throughout our fleet.