Cleaner Air Travel Could Mean Greener Skies

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Cleaner Air Travel Could Mean Greener Skies

Our forms of transportation are responsible for a vast amount of emissions and no mode has come under more fire for its lack of green credentials than commercial airplanes. They generate significant levels of air pollution and are one of the least eco friendly ways to travel.

However NASA is on the case and has invested several million dollars into developing more fuel efficient airplanes, launching the N+3 initiative in 2010. The initiative aims to develop cleaner aircrafts by 2035 with the two main goals being to design commercially viable planes that create 75% less pollution (nitrous oxide) and use 70% less fuel. The major manufacturers involved are Boeing, Lockheed Martin and GE Aviation, all working on their own plans to provide more environmentally friendly air travel.

Boeing have got us particularly excited about a hybrid plane they currently have in design phase that would run on biofuels and electricity, which will potentially reduce the fuel use by up to 90%. That’s a huge figure and it’s certainly encouraging, although we have to remember it’s still very early days. But it’s not only commercial companies who are trying to improve their fuel efficiency, even private jet charters are embracing environmental concerns and are closely monitoring their carbon emissions in order to make their services more economical and help protect the planet. Bettering fuel efficiency is a key target for many airlines because the expenditure on it often constitutes a third of the company’s overall budget, so they’ll be saving money as well as the o-zone layer. A cynic may say the former is the real incentive, but what does it matter as long as they’re progressing the idea of cleaner aviation.

At present the trend is for airlines to make their planes more fuel efficient retro-actively, refitting them with improved aerodynamics and fuel economy. This is part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s program called the Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise, another encouraging step towards cleaner skies. But the most exciting prospect in green aviation is without doubt The Solar Impulse project. The team have already conducted several successful test flights of their solar powered plane, an ultra lightweight aircraft capable of flying at both day and night. It uses four electric motors for its take off and has a non-pressurised cockpit so can only fly below 8,500 miles, but it’s the biggest step towards cleaner air travel yet.

A solar powered aircraft would emit no emissions and provide a completely clean flight. This is what all aircrafts should be aiming for. With planes generating many different types of air pollution, and aviation being responsible for nearly half the world’s total air pollution, solar powered planes are a sunny prospect indeed.

Greener Ideal is an independent environmental news and lifestyle publication that has been curating content since 2008 to further the green movement. The views expressed by contributing authors are their own and may not reflect those of Greener Ideal.