Aggressive Aviation Advocacy on Being Green

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Kermit the Frog was the genius who coined the phrase that “It’s not Easy being Green.” As often repeated, aviation seems to share that problem. It seems as though the general populace either does not know or does not believe that aerospace is improving its carbon footprint. Below are a string of very positive messages about what really is being done by our industry to improve its environmental record.


Briefly, here are their messages (again, please be sure to carefully review the technical details; each is important to know):

  • From, a European press (a Paris Air Show Report) CLEAN SKY:
    • “European researchers foresee a time when people could travel across the globe in the equivalent’s of today’s hybrid cars – an airplane that uses fossil fuel when a burst of energy is needed, then switches to stored electricity while cruising to a landing.”
    • “Clean Sky was launched in 2008 with €1.6 billion in funding split by the partner firms and the European Commission. The second phase, launched in 2014, has a budget of €4 billion over a decade. Its mission is to achieve a 30% reduction in aviation carbon dioxide and nitrogen emissions and up to a 75% reduction in the industry’s noise footprint.”
    • “It’s a very radical design.”
  • From E&T, a European technology and engineering magazine, Aviation for the future: flight goes green:
    • “…while the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has implemented a specific programme to determine and reduce the industry’s environmental impact…The European Union (EU) has arguably gone further, setting up the Clean Sky initiative in 2008. This is a €1.6bn research programme.”
    • “One of the key competitive and regulatory battlegrounds is mitigating environmental impact, alongside the drive to reduce the costs of flight, and those technologies go hand in hand because airlines are trying to reduce the fuel burn.”
    • “Modelling and simulation software is playing an important role in the development of greener aviation technology. Engineers use it to test virtual prototypes based on innovative, aerodynamic designs that use lighter construction materials, and to develop new types of engine that reduce fossil fuel consumption, while also validating models against aviation authority certification standards.”
    • “Their [aircraft engineers’] challenges are mostly on range, cost, weight and building structures which are more resilient, and the difference between going through thousands of virtual prototypes or designing four physical models [in terms of time and cost] is huge.”
    • “Developed in partnership with engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce and Airbus, the E-Thrust concept has multiple electric fans arranged in clusters along the length of each wing to produce thrust, with electricity supplied by onboard gas power units that also recharge supplementary batteries. These provide energy storage to enable an emergency landing in case the gas systems should fail.”
    • “The aircraft are also designed with sleeker airframes to reduce weight and drag by decreasing the size of the vertical tail and improving payload distribution.”
  • From, a European press (a Paris Air Show Report) Engine executive: Using technology to trim aircraft emissions:
    • “In many regions of the world, we have done very well by introducing new, fuel-efficient equipment and improving operations. In North America for example, last year commercial aviation carried 20 percent more passengers than in 2005, yet used less fuel. Nevertheless, there is more to do.”
    • Q: “There’s a bit of irony in the focus on carbon emissions. Modern jet engines are more efficient in part because they burn fuel at higher pressure and temperatures, so you get more energy from every drop of fuel. That means a reduction in CO2, but doesn’t that increase other greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide?”
      • A: “I don’t think there is an inherent contradiction. Airplane design is about balance and trade-offs. Since the 1960s, concern for the environment has involved finding a balance between noise, emissions for local air quality (NOx [oxides of nitrogen], smoke, etc.) and fuel burn (economics). We now have fuel burn for climate change. So, the same concerns but perhaps the best balanced solution will change.”
    • “The rule of thumb is that each new generation of airplane needs to burn 10 to 15 percent less fuel. Much of that comes from engine improvements, so here at P&W we are working on technologies to deliver 10 to 15 percent better fuel for the 2020s.”

The last article discusses the picture at top right and this new feature might well be used to increase awareness about the new quieter engines. The human perception of noise is called psychoacoustics; this science has found that individuals respond to aircraft noise for a variety of subjective influences. Perhaps if the electro-luminescent display, which is visible on the ground at some altitudes, could illuminate the word “GREEN”, the neighbors may have their ears be less offended by the airplanes as they pass overhead.

All of these reports portend a better environmental footprint and we would be well advised to share these good thoughts with, the press, our fellow employees, passengers, airports and even neighbors. Without our advocacy, few will know about aviation’s green efforts. With a lot of effort, global public policy will recognize the aviation industry’s advances in their establishment of future environmental standards.

ARTICLE: Clean Sky: Aviation researchers test radical ideas in a conservative industry

ARTICLE: Engine executive: Using technology to trim aircraft emissions

ARTICLE: Aviation for the future: flight goes green

ARTICLE: Aircelle “Lights up the Sky” During the Initial Test Flight of a Nacelle with an Electro-luminescent Display

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