US EPA & FAA to Initiate CO2 Rulemaking Process

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Statistics reveal that in 2013, airplanes spewed up to 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air, and it is estimated that, if left unchecked, this is likely to more than triple by the year 2050. Although many countries make efforts to regulate the emissions of cars and trucks, efforts at regulating the aviation industry have been largely unsuccessful. This is a contentious issue for parties who are monitoring the effect of carbon emissions on climate change, particularly in light of the fact that more people than ever are using airline travel and airfreighting goods around the world becomes more commonplace.

The United Nation’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is tasked with drawing up a plan to regulate the global aviation industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, but reportedly does not anticipate having this finalized before 2020. The European Union’s attempts to impose CO2 emission taxes on airlines flying through European Union airspace was met with a flood of opposition, halting the proposal in its tracks. Recently the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will be “moving forward with a rulemaking process to propose endangerment and cause or contribute findings regarding aircraft GHG emissions”. ¹

Some airlines are experimenting with biofuels with a measure of success, and this is a potential solution worth pursuing, but airlines need to find ways of burning less of the conventional fuel currently being used. Lighter components in aircraft manufacture, streamlining aircraft designs and developing more efficient engines are ways the aircraft manufacturing industry continues to contribute toward fuel efficiency. By improving routes and timetables, individual airlines can ensure flights are fully utilized and thereby contribute toward fuel efficiency, which from a financial perspective is in their best interests, while at the same time helps in cutting carbon emissions by eliminating under-utilized flights. Surveys of US airlines have shown that the majority are not functioning as efficiently as they could in this regard. It is hoped that the proposed US EPA rules will push airlines to conform to best practices with regard to limiting carbon emissions.

¹ http://www.epa.gov/otaq/documents/aviation/us-ghg-endangerment-ip-9-3-14.pdf

Airplanes vs Cars on Energy Efficiency

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According to a recent report by the International Air Transport Association, the number of airplane passengers is likely to grow by a third in the next four years, to 3.9 billion. As more and more people travel greater distances, often as a matter of routine, the issue of energy efficiency of different modes of transport has been investigated by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, with some interesting results. While people tend to think that driving a car is easier on the environment that flying in an airplane, the advanced technology of new airplanes is making them increasingly fuel-efficient.

To match the fuel-efficiency of some newer airplanes, cars would need to be able to get 33.8 miles per gallon, or carry more than one passenger. Current average fuel consumption is 23.8 miles per gallon, meaning that fuel-efficiency must improve by as much as 57 percent to challenge the performance of commercial airline flights. Also, current number of people per car is 1.38, which should be increased to at least 2.3 people to improve fuel-efficiency data for cars. While car-pooling is a concept long embraced by environmentally (and cost conscious) people, there are still a large percentage of cars that travel with only the driver in them, whereas airplanes are generally crammed to the limit with passengers.

Due to huge price increases over the past decade or so, fuel remains the single largest expense for airlines. Associated Press reports that in 2013, US airlines spent up to $50 billion on fuel. In the past five years airlines have been replacing older airplanes with the latest model airplanes from aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing, designed to be 15 percent more fuel-efficient than before. In fact, the purchase of new aircraft has been at a higher rate than ever before, with 8,200 being ordered in the past five years. Currently up to 24 planes are manufactured each week, an impressive increase over the 11 per week of a decade ago.

While increased fuel efficiency, reliability and extended range are all motivating factors in the recent airplane buying spree, there are other reasons airlines are upgrading their fleets. Some of the old planes still have ashtrays in the arms of the seats, which clearly are redundant now, plus passengers expect the modern amenities such as power outlets and USB ports that older airplanes don’t have.

Harnessing Landing Power to Cut Noise and Emissions

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Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), a team of engineers from the University of Lincoln have confirmed that future aircraft could harness and store energy produced by landing gear, which could then be used to taxi the aircraft – a necessary, but very fuel-wasting, function of air travel. In addition to the fuel-inefficiency of taxiing aircraft, leader of the research, Professor Paul Stewart, noted that emissions and noise pollution caused by jet engines is a huge problem with airports worldwide. Little wonder then that the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe (ACARE) has made engine-less taxiing one of its key objectives for the aviation industry in Europe beyond 2020.

Stewart added that if aircraft produced in the next fifteen to twenty years could incorporate the technology currently being investigated it would be enormously beneficial, particularly for people living in the vicinity of airports. The University of Lincoln’s research is assessing a number of methods of capturing the power generated by a landing airplane. In an interview, Professor Stewart, explained than when an Airbus 320 lands, the combination of its speed and weight produces around three megawatts peak available power. The team of researchers has explored different ways of harnessing that available power, including the interaction between magnets attached to the airplane and copper coils implanted in the runway. To date, many of the ideas have not proven to be feasible, either from a technical point of view or financially, or both. Nonetheless, the study has shown that it’s possible to capture energy in this manner, especially in light of advances being made in developing more-electric, or even all-electric, airplanes.

This collaborative effort between the University of Lincoln and the University of Loughborough is being carried out under the direction of the Airport Energy Technologies Network (AETN) which was established in 2008 by the UK-based Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to facilitate low-carbon research in the field of aviation.

Electric-Powered Aircraft Designers Awarded $1.35 Million

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Encouraging eco-friendly innovation, the Google sponsored Green Flight Challenge that was conducted by the CAFE Foundation culminated in the $1.35 million prize being awarded by NASA to Pennsylvania-based Pipistrel-USA for their electric-powered airplane. The award ceremony took place on 25 September at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa following a week of finalists putting their aircraft through their paces.

Pipistrel-USA consists of a team of dedicated industry professionals, who not only managed to meet the fuel efficiency requirement set out in the Green Flight Challenge competition, but doubled it by flying a distance of 200 miles in under two hours, with electricity equivalent fuel consumption measured at just over half a gallon per passenger. The team to come in at second place was California-based EGenius, which was awarded $120,000.

Created to inspire the aviation sector to develop fuel-efficient aircraft the Green Flight Challenge started two years ago, with fourteen teams registering to take part. NASA estimates that collectively the teams invested over $4 million in their efforts to win the competition. Three teams met the requirements set out in the competition and participated in the week-long series of tests. NASA is known for using competitions to stimulate innovative thinking to overcome specific challenges in the aerospace industry, but the Green Flight Challenge prize is the largest to be awarded in the history of aviation.

In an interview, Pipistrel-USA team leader Jack Langelaan, noted that two years ago the concept of flying a distance of 200 miles at 100 mph would have been in the realms of science fiction, but having become a reality, we can look forward to the future of electric aviation. Certainly, NASA is hopeful that the competition will inspire a host of innovations in electric powered aircraft, leading the world into an era of quiet, clean air travel.

As noted in its mission statement, the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) Foundation aims to create and advance the understanding of personal aircraft technologies through research, analysis and education. With a keen understanding of the forces of gravity and the challenges aircraft face in moving through the earth’s atmosphere, the CAFE Foundation team continues to pioneer new ways of studying aerodynamics and improving aircraft. The team’s test flight expertise is recognized by prominent aviation authorities, including NASA, EAA and AOPA.

Boeing 737 Aims For Greater Fuel Efficiency

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In response to increasing demand from airlines, Boeing has launched an improved version of the popular 737 in which a more fuel efficient engine will be used. The Boeing 737 is cited as the world’s best-selling aircraft for commercial use, and this engine upgrade is one of the measures being taken by Boeing to ensure that it retains its market share. Rising fuel costs have become a heavy burden on airlines struggling to remain competitive in the commercial travel market, and engines offering greater fuel efficiency can translate into big savings for airlines.

The new 737 MAX will be fitted with the Leap-1B engine, manufactured by current engine supplier, CFM International – a joint venture between French company Safran and General Electric. The new engines are expected to be up to 12 percent more fuel efficient than the current engines, with changes including a larger fan and design adjustments to allow more of the air entering the front of the engine to bypass the engine core. Moreover, new materials used in the engines are able to withstand more heat and there will be a reduced gap between the tips of the fan and the shell enclosing the engine. According to associate aerospace engineering professor at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Magdy Attia, all these changes will result in the new engine being more fuel efficient than those in the 737 airplanes currently in service.

It has been reported that Boeing had been considering a complete redesign on the 737, but with Airbus due to release its more fuel efficient airplane in 2015 and up to 1,000 already on order, it was decided to keep the current 737 design, and replace the engine. Research has revealed that airlines are quite satisfied with the current design of the 737 and are willing to support Boeing’s changeover to the new 737 MAX. The new version is expected to go into service in 2017 and Boeing already has a commitment from five airlines to buy 496 of the 737 MAX. Boeing executive vice president, and head of Boeing’s commercial airplane division, was reported as saying with regard to the 737 MAX: “Our customers have told us that they want efficiency, and they want it soon, and they want it with certainty, and that’s what this airplane will do.”

Gulfstream Launches New Super-midsize G250

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Aircraft manufacturer Gulfstream took advantage of the NBAA in Orlando to launch their brand new G250 on October 5, 2008. The successor to the G200, which has been in use since 2000, the G250 looks set to be bigger and better in every conceivable way and it should dominate the super mid-size sector from 2011 when it becomes commercially available.

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New Beechcraft King Air 350i is Most Advanced Turboprop

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The Hawker Beechcraft Corporation has long been the most successful turboprop family on the market. It seems that officials have no intention of letting their great reputation slide – they have just announced the arrival of Beechraft’s most technically advanced aircraft turboprop, the Beechcraft King Air 350i.

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Lighter Aircraft May Be Possible With New Hybrid Joining Technique

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There has been a lot of excitement at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Materials Research IFAM, located in Bremen, where researchers have been hard at work developing a new, hybrid way to bond lightweight aircraft materials.

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US Energy Department Sponsors Aircraft Design Contest

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It’s not a rare thing to get high school students to participate in competitions that may have some implications on global markets but the most recent design contest has to be a first: Students in Kansas have been invited by the US Department of Energy to develop fuel-efficient designs for aircraft.

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Fuel Inerting Rule Issued by US FAA

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The new fuel inerting rule that is about to be instated by the US FAA may have a number of airlines grumbling about cost, but it can also potentially save thousands of lives. The rule will require US airlines to retrofit as many Boeing and Airbus passenger aircraft as possible, at a cost of about $150,000 to $400,000 per aircraft over a period of seven years.

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