Its no secret that airplanes use a lot of fuel. A plane the size of a Boeing 747 gets about five miles to the gallon, and may use over 35,000 gallons during a ten hour flight. The price of fuel is one of the largest expenses for the aerospace industry, and makes up nearly 30 percent of operating costs for aerospace and airline expenses. Because of this, many aviation companies are trying to find more sustainable ways to power their planes and making various efforts to shrink the toll the industry takes on the planet. Here are a few recent innovations that showcase how aviation innovators are creating the next generation of green aerospace technology.
The E-Genius is an all electric aircraft built by engineers from the University of Stuttgart in Germany. This plane was recorded to fly nonstop for 300 miles at up to 142 miles per hour. While this may not seem like a remarkable distance or speed, this plane was able to accomplish this speed and distance on an all electrical, single-battery powered engine. It didn’t burn any fuel, released no emissions, and cost about $3 to power the journey. Engineers who worked on this plane said while the E-Genius is a small aircraft capable of going short distances, they say this technology is only the beginning. They hope to increase capacity and range in the coming decade to drastically reduce cost and impact of air travel.
United Airlines and AltAir Biofuels
United Airlines recently signed a contract with AltAir Fuels to implement emission reducing jet fuel on a number of their flights. This fuel meets all industry standards but reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent. This oil functions exactly as typical jet fuel would, but takes much less of a toll on the environment by using a wide range of materials from cooking oil to algae. United Airlines currently uses this fuel on regional flights and is planning to expand the use of this fuel to all flights out of Los Angeles International Airport.
PurePower® Geared Turbofan
The PurePower® Geared Turbofan is a new line of airplane engines built to reduce the amount of emissions of air travel. This technology significantly lowers the amount of fuel needed to operate an airplane. It also implements technology that burns less fuel over the duration of long flights. Known as the “whisper jet” this technology is also significantly more quiet than most airplane engines.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has made strong efforts to make not only airplane travel but also reduce the impact of multiple aspects of being at the airport. The Pacific Northwest airport requires all new construction to meet LEED Silver certification requirements, requires taxis and ride share services to meet fuel efficiency requirements, and is putting measures in place to encourage using public transit to get to and from the airport.
Easy Things Travelers Can Do To Reduce The Impact of Flying:
Airlines and aviation scientists aren’t the only ones who can reduce the environmental impact of air travel; there are many things passengers can also do to use less resources when traveling and cut costs of electricity and fossil fuels. While small steps from passengers may not have as big of an impact cutting fuel use and costs, many people taking small steps can have a big impact in the end. If you are a frequent flyer interested in taking some easy actions to reduce the impact of your travel, try some of the following:
- Take public transit or rideshare services such as Lyft Line and Uberpool too and from the airport. This can cut back on resources used driving to and from the airport. ‘
- Bring a refillable water bottle to the airport with you and fill it up at an airport water fountain, rather than buying a bottled water on the plane.
- Choose airlines that are committed to the environment. Many airlines have initiatives in action to benefit various environmental projects around the world such as JetBlue’s partnership with Carbonfund.org and Delta’s carbon offset program in partnership with the Nature Conservancy.