The air­line in­dus­try is be­com­ing more en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious and tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced. Qatar To­day gives the low-down on the in­no­va­tions in fly­ing by the two man­u­fac­tur­ers who sup­ply the na­tional car­rier.

If you are among the many busi­ness peo­ple who spend week­days fly­ing in and out of Doha and there­after suf­fer from pangs of “en­vi­ron­men­tal mind­ful­ness” when con­tem­plat­ing the amount of car­bon diox­ide you con­trib­uted to the at­mos­phere, there is some respite. Air travel is get­ting much eas­ier to de­fend.

A re­port by Michael Si­vak, Di­rec­tor, Sus­tain­able World­wide Trans­porta­tion, Univer­sity of Michi­gan Trans­porta­tion Re­search In­sti­tute, analy­ses re­cent trends in the amount of en­ergy needed to trans­port a per­son in the US over a given dis­tance ei­ther in a light-duty ve­hi­cle or on a sched­uled air­line flight. His cal­cu­la­tions re­veal that the en­ergy in­ten­sity of driv­ing (BTU per per­son mile) is greater than that of fly­ing. Fur­ther­more, be­cause the fu­ture en­ergy in­ten­sity of fly­ing will be bet­ter than it cur­rently is, the cal­cu­lated im­prove­ments un­der­es­ti­mate the im­prove­ments that need to be achieved for driv­ing to be less en­ergy in­ten­sive than fly­ing.

Si­vak says, “My anal­y­sis in­di­cates that, in the US, to trans­port a per­son one mile on a com­mer­cial air­craft takes about 2033 BTU, as com­pared to 4211 BTU for driv­ing. Con­se­quently, fly­ing con­sumes about 52% less en­ergy per per­son mile than does driv­ing.”

Re­cently adding to the ben­e­fits of fly­ing, com­mer­cial air­craft com­pany Air­bus and Qatar Air­ways (QA) seem to have found a so­lu­tion to the peren­nial jet lag with their lat­est A350 XWB. “A350 XWB's cabin de­sign is said to be of op­ti­mum de­sign and it in­cor­po­rates smooth curves, flow­ing lines, wide win­dows with straighter side­walls and a flat floor in the cabin fur­ther in­creas­ing over­all com­fort and spa­cious­ness,” says Fouad At­tar, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Air­bus Middle East. “Fur­ther­more, the A350 XWB is out­fit­ted with LED light­ing, mim­ick­ing nat­u­ral sun­rise and sun­set il­lu­mi­na­tion that helps the body adapt to jet lag on long-range flights. The sys­tem is ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing 16.7 mil­lion dif­fer­ent light colour com­bi­na­tions that can be set for any flight length, help­ing the body to sync faster with the lo­cal ar­rival time."

Not just this, but even the cabin pres­sure is well main­tained with “its ad­vanced fil­ter­ing sys­tems and a com­plete change of cabin air ev­ery two to three min­utes” and the en­vi­ron­ment is en­hanced by “pre­cise air man­age­ment pro­vid­ing a draft-free en­vi­ron­ment, ho­mo­ge­neous tem­per­a­ture and mul­ti­ple tem­per­a­ture zones for pre­cise ad­just­ments”. It also keeps the cabin pres­surised at the equiv­a­lent of an al­ti­tude of 1,828.8 me­tres (6,000 feet). At­tar says this should im­prove com­fort for pas­sen­gers and min­imise the ef­fects of jet­lag once they step back on the ground.

Boe­ing, not to be be­hind, coun­ters that the com­pany has had some­thing close to this tech­nol­ogy in ser­vice now for nearly five years on the 787 that has flown mil­lions of miles and thou­sands of flights with both pas­sen­gers and crew re­port­ing that they ar­rive at their desti­na­tion feel­ing more rested and less jet-lagged. Boe­ing claims to have al­most the same tech­nol­ogy as Air­bus

has, for ex­am­ple, en­hance­ments that al­low for lower cabin al­ti­tude on the 787, com­bined with more hu­mid­ity and cleaner air in­no­va­tions have pro­vided com­fort and even re­duc­tion in jet lag ac­cord­ing to Marty Ben­trott, Vice Pres­i­dent – Sales, Middle East, Rus­sia & Cen­tral Asia, Boe­ing Com­mer­cial Air­planes.

“With the 787 Dream­liner fam­ily, we em­barked on sev­eral stud­ies with univer­si­ties from around the world to un­der­stand how al­ti­tude, hu­mid­ity, air con­tam­i­nants, light­ing, sound and space af­fect pas­sen­gers,” says Ben­trott. “And the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence is

un­der­lined by the 787's large win­dows, which dim at the touch of a but­ton,” he adds. In­no­va­tions all, but the cabin light­ing to repli­cate re­al­life day­light and nightlife seems to the defin­ing fac­tor to re­duce jet lag, a fea­ture prom­i­nent on the Air­bus model.

Fly­ing with less

But in­no­va­tion in fly­ing is not new; it tops the list of pri­or­i­ties for man­u­fac­tur­ers. Boe­ing has been re­search­ing a com­pre­hen­sive en­vi­ron­men­tal strat­egy that in­cludes the de­sign­ing and build­ing of more fuel-ef­fi­cient air­planes, de­vel­op­ing sus­tain­able avi­a­tion biofuel, and re­duc­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print of Boe­ing fa­cil­i­ties. Through this strat­egy, Boe­ing,

ac­cord­ing to Ben­trott,

sup­ports ef­forts to meet the avi­a­tion in­dus­try's ag­gres­sive goals for CO2 re­duc­tion.

In­dus­try tar­gets in­clude im­prov­ing fleetwide ef­fi­ciency by 1.5% an­nu­ally; reach­ing car­bon-neu­tral growth start­ing in 2020; and re­duc­ing net CO2 emis­sions by 50% by 2050, com­pared to 2005 lev­els.

This pri­or­ity on re­search by all air­lines has borne fruit, with the In­ter­na­tional Coun­cil of Clean Trans­porta­tion (ICCT) men­tion­ing that from 1968 to 2014 the fuel ef­fi­ciency of new air­planes has im­proved by 45%.

And this has been an on­go­ing process, the main en­cour­age­ment for the in­dus­try be­ing that for a 1% im­prove­ment in ef­fi­ciency the pay back adds up to $1 mil­lion in fuel sav­ings over the course of a sin­gle-aisle plane's 25-year life­span. “Since 2012, the Boe­ing ecoDe­mon­stra­tor Pro­gram has tested more than 50 new tech­nolo­gies that can re­duce fuel use, emis­sions and noise. The com­pany con­ducts re­search into hy­brid, so­lar- and elec­tric-pow­ered air­craft, as well as ways to re­cy­cle car­bon fiber from air­planes when they are re­tired decades from now. Boe­ing is also an in­dus­try leader in ef­forts to de­velop 'drop-in' sus­tain­able avi­a­tion biofuel,” says Ben­trott.

“We col­lab­o­rate on six con­ti­nents with air­lines, gov­ern­ments, re­searchers and oth­ers to ex­pand the global sup­ply and re­duce the price of sus­tain­able jet fuel, which cuts CO2 emis­sions by an es­ti­mated 50-80% com­pared to fos­sil fuel,” he adds.

Since its ap­proval in 2011, the air­lines have also made more than 2,000 com­mer­cial flights us­ing biofuel blended with pe­tro­leum fuel. Biofuel re­quires no changes to air­planes or en­gines and per­forms as well as or bet­ter than Jet A/A-1, he in­forms.

QA has also com­mit­ted its in­ter­est in lead­ing de­vel­op­ment of cleaner-burn­ing al­ter­na­tive fu­els that re­duce avi­a­tion's im­pact on air qual­ity. QA has part­nered with Qatar Pe­tro­leum, Shell, Air­bus, Rolls-Royce, Qatar Sci­ence & Tech­nol­ogy Park, and Wo­qod to ad­vance the use of al­ter­na­tive fu­els on com­mer­cial flights. A cleaner-burn­ing jet fuel with a Gas to Liq­uids (GTL) kerosene blend that would re­place stan­dard fu­els across the in­dus­try pi­o­neered suc­cess­fully on a com­mer­cial flight of QA five years ago in an Air­bus A340-600 on a rev­enue demon­stra­tion flight from Lon­don Gatwick, op­er­at­ing the air­line's reg­u­lar QR076 ser­vice to Doha with a full load of pas­sen­gers.

While this feat was her­alded, QA has not fol­lowed up on this with fur­ther flights with the same GTL fuel, which raises the ques­tion on the com­mer­cial vi­a­bil­ity of the fuel or the safety stan­dards that make this prac­tice un­suc­cess­ful or un­sus­tain­able. Since QA did not want to com­ment here, we keep that sub­ject on the back burner.

Air­bus, mean­while, is also equally com­mit­ted to the avi­a­tion in­dus­try's tar­gets to re­duce CO2 and achieve car­bon­neu­tral growth for the avi­a­tion in­dus­try by 2020. “Air­bus has filled its prod­uct pipe­line with air­craft both fly­ing to­day (A380, A350 XWB) and in de­vel­op­ment (A320­neo, A330­neo) that re­duce emis­sions and noise while meet­ing mar­ket needs. For ex­am­ple, the A330 to­day has a 20% lower fuel burn than its clos­est com­peti­tor, and the A330­neo is pro­jected to pro­vide a fur­ther

14% re­duc­tion in CO2 emis­sions,” says At­tar.

Where to from here

In­no­va­tions such as the Sharklets wingtip devices, which have been in ser­vice on Air­bus' A320 fam­ily since 2012, are tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions that are ground­break­ing and have shown up to 4% re­duc­tion in fuel burn. Sim­i­larly, its new­gen­er­a­tion jet­liner brings to­gether the very lat­est in aero­dy­nam­ics, de­sign and ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies and ma­te­ri­als to pro­vide a 25% step-change in fuel ef­fi­ciency com­pared to cur­rent alu­minium lon­grange com­peti­tors. As the air trans­port sec­tor con­tin­ues to grow, Air­bus and Boe­ing to­gether be­lieve that the in­dus­try as a whole must con­cen­trate on tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances, mak­ing planes more crowded, lighter, faster and more ef­fi­cient.

In its re­port “The Fu­ture by Air­bus”, the com­pany says that ev­ery flight in the world could on av­er­age be around 13 min­utes shorter by 2050. This would save around 9 mil­lion tonnes of ex­cess fuel an­nu­ally, which equates to over 28 mil­lion tonnes of avoid­able CO2 emis­sions and a sav­ing for pas­sen­gers of over 500 mil­lion hours of ex­cess flight time on board an air­craft. “Add to this new air­craft de­sign, al­ter­na­tive en­ergy sources and new ways of fly­ing and you could see even more sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments,” says At­tar

FOUAD AT­TAR Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Air­bus, Middle East

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