Flight of fancy? Aviation industry tries to go green [Japan Today, 17/02/20]
SINGAPORE – From an emissions-reducing model jet that looks like something from a sci-fi movie to electric aircraft and sustainable fuel, the aviation industry is ramping up efforts to go green as consumer pressure grows.
In an era when teen climate activist Greta Thunberg opts to travel on an eco-friendly boat and “flight-shaming” is all the rage in her native Sweden, air travel’s reputation has never looked as dire.
Aviation accounts for three percent of climate-damaging carbon emissions globally, according to the European Environment Agency, and the world is experiencing record heatwaves, wildfires and storm surges made worse by rising seas.
“Sustainability” was the buzzword last week in Singapore at Asia’s biggest air show — which was powered by solar panels — with manufacturers and airlines trying to outdo one another on vows to become more sustainable.
Some environmentalists however have criticized such pledges as “greenwash”, PR stunts that will do little to mitigate the damage caused by the vast quantities of jet fuel burnt every year.
“Aviation is under significant pressure to improve its sustainability image,” Paul Stein, chief technology officer for engine maker Rolls-Royce, told AFP.
Airlines are “working with us to find pathways to increase the availability of sustainable fuels, look at how electrification can impact them… and also looking to more and more efficient engines and airframes”.
The aviation industry has pledged to reduce its net carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2050 compared with 2005 levels, and the British sector went further this month with a vow to achieve net zero emissions by the same date.
At the Singapore Airshow, European plane maker Airbus unveiled a model of a futuristic new jet that blends wings with body and has two rear-mounted engines.
The demonstrator model’s sleek design is meant to reduce aerodynamic drag, and the manufacturer says it has the potential to cut fuel consumption by up to 20 percent compared to current single-aisle aircraft.
Dubbed Maveric, the 2.2-meter-long model had its first test flight in June last year.
Franco-Italian manufacturer ATR was meanwhile keen to highlight that its turboprop aircraft — popular for short hops, particularly in parts of Asia with poor infrastructure — burns 40 percent less fuel compared with a jet of the same size.
“It is a trade-off between fuel consumption and speed,” ATR chief executive Stefano Bortoli told AFP.
“You can gain five, 10 minutes with a faster jet but in terms of pollution, it is more damaging.”
Cover image: AIRBUS FUTURE CONCEPT PLANE ‘MAVERICK’
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