Aviation odes not get much press these days and is often singled out for its greenhouse gas emissions. However, in reality, the current share of aviation in the production of these emissions is less than 3.5% of total emissions worldwide (see source 1).
But beyond the figures, we must ask ourselves the question: is the aeronautical industry working on more virtuous solutions, or is it condemned to disappear in the next few decades, depriving us of the ability to travel long distances in a few hours, and forcing us to take the road or the sea to visit our relatives at the end of the world?
The answer is both simple and complex.
Indeed, for a number of years now, aviation has been implementing several improvements aimed at reducing its environmental impact, whether in terms of pollution, noise pollution or recycling of materials.
The motorization of aircraft.
The general public may not be aware of this, but the latest generation of airliners are equipped with engines that are less polluting, less noisy and more fuel-efficient, while paradoxically being more powerful than those of the previous generation. In addition, this latest generation of turbojet and turboprop engines is capable of running on bio-kerosene, a so-called second-generation biofuel, produced from used and recycled vegetable oils, as well as biomass and household waste.
Do you remember the movie “Back to the Future 2” when Doc Kennett Brown uses garbage to power a De Lorean? We’re almost there!
Abd did you know that on October 28, an Airbus A319neo (the latest generation of this model) made a 3-hour test flight without using a single drop of fossil fuel? (Cf. source 2). Also, you probably don’t know it, but since 2011, more than 300’000 commercial flights have been made with fuel composed partly of SAF (bio-kerosene). You have certainly flown on one of them without necessarily knowing it. As for other non-polluting motorization solutions for our atmosphere, in addition to the bio-kerosene already mentioned, the aeronautics industry is working hard to develop electric propulsion systems and hydrogen engines. Hybrid bio-kerosene/electric solutions are also being developed and certified. (Sources 3,4,5,6)
And the airports?
But efforts are not limited to aircraft engines. Airport infrastructures also contribute to the reduction of polluting emissions and noise pollution. A first interesting solution has been developed with the electric push-back of aircraft on the ground, as well as their conveyance to the taxiway before the runway, for example at Frankfurt airport (source 7).
Air traffic control measures.
At the same time, air traffic control regulatory agencies, such as Eurocontrol in Europe, have been working for several years on several areas:
- the reduction of the length of the air routes (“free routing”).
- Continuous Descent Approach (CDA) (which allows aircraft to keep their engines idling from the beginning of the descent until landing, thus saving fuel and drastically reducing polluting emissions and noise pollution).
- allocation of flight levels to altitudes where the effects of contrails will be less (depending on day and night weather conditions, source 8).
The measures listed in this article are of course a non-exhaustive list of solutions under development. Additional information is available on the links to the publications at the bottom of the page.
As we can see, the efforts made by all the players in the aviation industry to achieve a real transformation towards a green industry have been underway for a number of years and are progressing as technological advances are made.
Therefore, it is important to take into consideration this enormous work that is mostly done outside the media field. To want to abolish air transport without looking further would be comparable to wanting to “throw the baby out with the bath water”, as the saying goes.
Independent Aeronautical Specialist
novembre 22 2021.
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