We report initial measurements of atmospheric CO2 column density using a pulsed airborne lidar operating at 1572 nm. It uses a lidar measurement technique being developed at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center as a candidate for the CO2 measurement in the Active Sensing of CO2 Emissions over Nights, Days and Seasons (ASCENDS) space mission. The pulsed multiple-wavelength lidar approach offers several new capabilities with respect to passive spectrometer and other lidar techniques for high-precision CO2 column density measurements. We developed an airborne lidar using a fibre laser transmitter and photon counting detector, and conducted initial measurements of the CO2 column absorption during flights over Oklahoma in December 2008. The results show clear CO2 line shape and absorption signals. These follow the expected changes with aircraft altitude from 1.5 to 7.1 km, and are in good agreement with column number density estimates calculated from nearly coincident airborne in-situ measurements.