By Alex Wilson
There has always been some controversy about whether the current global weather conditions are caused by man or are just a natural cycle taking its course. But, whichever side you take, it’s difficult to deny that it is a good thing in any industry to look at efficiencies you can make in term s of the impact on the environment and use of increasingly scarce natural resources, and in some ways it is just common sense!
Green Aviation, as such, is not a new concept but has been studied for more than a decade with early results coming out of the: “EUROPEAN AERONAUTICS: A VISION FOR 2020” report. This report looked at not only how to reduce the environmental impact of aviation in terms of fuel usage, but also proposed research areas for reduction in noise pollution.
It is also interesting (and maybe slightly cynical) that one major factor for operators is that fuel usage represents one of the largest costs when running an airline, and with constant pressure on profits this forces the agenda for fuel usage regardless of the environmental concerns.
Apart from the main research areas proposed in the report under various programs for new lighter technologies for fuselage and quieter engines, one area that has greatly helped is the migration to Integrated Modular Avionics, for the A350XWB, Airbus says benefits will include reduced maintenance and lower weight because IMA replaces multiple processors and LRUs with around 50% fewer standard computer modules known as line-replaceable modules. In this area, standards such as ARINC 653 help manufacturers consolidate multiple avionics systems onto a single compute platform, whilst maintaining the required high level of safety.
Aligned with these more modern aircraft are of course updates and research to improve operational procedures through programs such as SESAR and NextGEN. These promote more efficient operations in order to reduce waiting time (both in the air and on the ground) through use of modern technology such as ADS-B.
In 2011, a “new vision beyond 2020 for the horizon towards 2050” (Flightpath 2050) was put forward. This updated vision set out some exciting new goals for our industry:
- In 2050 technologies and procedures available allow a 75% reduction in CO2 emissions per passenger kilometre and a 90% reduction in NOx emissions. The perceived noise emission of flying aircraft is reduced by 65%. These are relative to the capabilities of typical new aircraft in 2000.
- Aircraft movements are emission-free when taxiing.
- Air vehicles are designed and manufactured to be recyclable.
- Europe is established as a centre of excellence on sustainable alternative fuels, including those for aviation, based on a strong European energy policy.
- Europe is at the forefront of atmospheric research and takes the lead in the formulation of a prioritised environmental action plan and establishment of global environmental standards.
These are great areas of research and provide us with some exciting challenges for the next few years, and whatever side you take on the topic of global warming, we can all work towards greater efficiency through use of new technology, and new improved operational procedures to make air travel as enjoyable as possible.