With greenhouse gases and climate change continuing to be in the spotlight, over the past decade aircraft manufacturers have made a number of improvements in aerodynamics and the development of lighter construction materials, all of which make a contribution to fuel efficiency. The Airbus A380 entered service with Singapore Airlines in October 2007, and two months later the CEO noted that the plane dubbed by the media as the Superjumbo was performing beyond the expectations of the airline and the manufacturer, by burning up to 20 percent less fuel per passenger than the Boeing 747-400 aircraft in Singapore Airline’s fleet.
While aerodynamics and composite materials play a role in fuel efficiency, the engines powering the planes hold the key to meaningful fuel savings. Engine manufacturers are also in the position to promote the move to sustainable biofuels. In a recently reported interview, Vice President of technology and environment for US-based engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, Alan H. Epstein, noted that because the aviation industry has made the drop-in fuel concept a reality, the change to sustainable biofuels can be facilitated without compromising engine efficiency or safety. Epstein pointed out that few people are aware of the fact that jet fuel varies significantly around the world, so when refueling at a foreign airport, an airplane will be making use of different fuel, or a blend of its original fuel and the new fuel. Taking this into account, the biofuel that has been tested may be considered to be a better option than petroleum based jet-fuels, but only if the composition of biofuel around the world is uniform.
The current requirement for biofuel is a 50 percent mix with fossil fuels, and while tests have been run with significantly higher concentrations of biofuels, the 50-50 specification is likely to remain for the foreseeable future. With regard to crops for biofuels impacting negatively on food crops, Epstein noted that defining biofuels as “sustainable” means at the very least that its production will not interfere with food production, food prices and water. Conceding that with current technology it would take land the size of Europe to grow biofuels for Europe’s aviation industry, Epstein said that finding ways of making more biofuel in a sustainable way is up to biological technology, not engine or airplane technology, which is already capable of utilizing biofuels efficiently.
Few people would argue that flying poses possible risks that make it a somewhat dangerous occupation – even if most aircraft manage to make it back to the ground in safety. Inclement weather and the possibility of mid-air collisions are just two of the risks that aircraft face on a daily basis. Now it seems all that is about to change with the FAA approving satellite tracking of aircraft.
Boeing has already made numerous public statements relating to its goals of becoming a more environmentally-friendly company and now it seems the company is putting its money where its mouth is. Boeing is working hard to ensure that all its major manufacturing facilities are ISO 14001 certified by the end of 2008.
Airbus has teamed up with Pratt & Whitney to conduct a series of flight tests designed to evaluate the PW1000G technology demonstrator engine. The engine features Pratt & Whitney’s patented Geared Turbofan (GTF). This is one of a number of tests that will be conducted by Airbus along with various major engine manufacturers.
It seems that every airplane company is clambering for the next ‘green’ quick-fix but Boeing is looking far into the future and trying to develop sustainable technology that is environmentally friendly too. A recent announcement by the company revealed that they had become the first company in aviation history to see an manned aircraft powered by hydrogen fuel cells take to the sky successfully.
They may be well beyond the scope of the average businessman, but supersonic business jets are fast becoming hot property. With the ever-increasing demand for fast business jets, the market for small supersonic jets has exploded. Most of the major aircraft companies are gearing up for the demand by developing their own range of small super-fast jets and, despite massive price tags, it would seem consumers are lining up to purchase them.
Ensuring safety in flight has always been a full-time job and a lot of avionics systems have been dedicated to the monitoring of navigation, communication and other essential flight systems. Unfortunately aircraft wiring can usually only be checked on the ground, which means pilots get little warning if something goes wrong with their wiring during a flight.
Dassault Falcon, a division of leading aerospace company Dassault Aviation, has announced the introduction of the Falcon 900LX into the range of highly efficient Falcon business jets. The Falcon 900LX has been designed to meet the growing demand for fuel-efficient, economical and environmentally responsible business air travel.
Helicopters usually fall into two categories: good hover efficiency and low speed, or low hover efficiency and good speed. Up until now manufacturers and pilots have always had to choose between speed and hover performance when considering an aircraft that is capable of vertical flight. In addition to this, some of the larger, faster aircraft – such as Harriers, are very large and are built to carry a lot of weight so operational costs of such an aircraft are sky high.
With increasing pressure on companies to take responsibility for their carbon footprint, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, along with Horizon Air, chose Earth Day on 22 April 2008 to reiterate the features and benefits of the popular Q400 turboprop – an airplane that is proving to be a top performer in its class, particularly with regard to its significantly reduced impact on the environment.