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November 23, 2017

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Environmental Developments in the Aircraft Manufacturing Industry

The changing face of aviation development and concern for environmental impacts has led to a number of industry wide changes that will impact the aircraft manufacturing industry. This article explores in detail how these changes will affect manufacturers, airlines, and aircraft owners.

Major drivers of change in the aviation industry

In their paper, Analysis of Technological Innovation and Environmental Performance Improvement in Aviation Sector, Joosung Lee and Jeonghoon Mo note that change (or lack thereof) in aviation fuel efficiency and environmental considerations have frequently been impacted by the “long lifespan, large capital and operating costs of individual aircraft”.

They identify three major drivers of change in the aviation industry:

  • The economic driver: Fuel cost to passenger relationship - Changing fuel prices have been shown to motivate airlines and other operators into purchasing more fuel efficient crafts, and modifying existing crafts to be more fuel efficient.
  • The sustainability driver: Environmental considerations - Burning aviation fuel is responsible for 2-3% of global CO2 emissions. It’s also one of the fastest growing, fuel burning industries. As demand continues, footprint reduction becomes critical.
  • The social driver: Public demand - Public demand on the aviation industry differs from region to region, often impacted by broader knowledge of the effect of fuel consuming aircraft on the environment.  

It is through a combination of these three drivers that change is made in the manufacturing of aircrafts. In modern times, sustainability and social drivers are having an increasing impact on the decisions of aerospace engineers.

ICAO onboard for international design standards

In a world first, global design certifications aimed at reducing C02 emissions in aircrafts have been adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The 36 member ICAO is backed by the United Nations (UN), and aims to provision the standard to new designs by 2020 and existing designs in already production by 2023. Aircrafts which fail to meet the standard by 2028 will be forced to stop manufacturing.  

This measure is one of many environmental developments set to affect the design and production of aircrafts in the very near future.

While this is the first time the global aviation community has adopted environmental design standards, it’s not without reason. ICAO’s decision comes amidst wider moves within the aviation community to become carbon neutral, with an eventual target of halving relative 2005 levels by 2050.

Becoming carbon neutral

Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) is a carbon credit scheme that will begin in 2021 as a voluntary scheme before becoming mandatory is 2026. In order to offset emissions, airlines will purchase carbon credits from accredited suppliers. The move is expected to account for less than 2% revenue for most airlines, but will cause concern for some airlines, particularly those operating on small margins.

Achieving continuous fuel efficiency

For smaller fossil fuel burners like motorcars, improvements can be made iteratively as new production models come off the manufacturing line and older models are retired to scrap. But because of the long life and high fuel usage of most planes, fuel efficiency is a big driver of environmental policy.

Improving fuel efficiency through technology

The Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) has committed to improving fuel efficiency at a minimum of 1.5% per year. ATAG believes that of all options available, "Technology has by far the best prospects for reducing aviation emissions," and it will be through such means as "revolutionary new aircraft designs; new composite lightweight materials; radical new engine advances; and the development of sustainable alternative jet fuels” that could help “reduce CO2 emissions 80%, on a full carbon lifecycle basis. "

Second generation biofuels

Sometimes referred to as advanced biofuels, second generation biofuel is manufactured from lignocellulosic biomass, essentially organic carbon. This can come from a range of sources, including:

  • plant and animal materials
  • woody crops
  • agriculture residue
  • waste

First generation biofuels are made from sugars and vegetable oils found in standard arable crops. By comparison, second generation fuels are made from lignocellulosic biomass, which makes it harder to extract but ultimately more efficient and environmentally sound than first generation, which can impact food production and lead to over farming and environmental destruction through agriculture.   

Aircraft noise

With demand for air travel continuing to increase, the effects of ‘noise pollution’ as generated by aircrafts and airports are increasingly under the microscope. While it can be difficult to conceptualise the effects of noise as it is always, by nature, temporary, it is well understood that aircraft noise can impact people living close to the airport or beneath a flight path through:

  • sleep disturbance
  • cardiovascular effects
  • annoyance responses
  • interference with communications (phones, internet etc)
  • psycho-physiological effects
  • learning and development

ICAO already has a noise certification standard. The 33rd ICAO Assembly adopted Resolution 133/7 which relies on a “balanced approach” of four principal elements to mitigate noise:

  • reduction of noise at source
  • planning and management of land use
  • noise abatement procedures
  • operating restrictions

Increased demand, increased noise?

As demand for flights increases, pressure is placed on the four principals. Aircraft manufacturers will increasingly need to consider the contribution elements of the aircraft make to the overall profile. Other considerations can also assist in reducing the noise pollution footprint, including:

  • mapping of preferred routes to avoid residential overfly
  • use of continuous descent approaches and departures as a noise abatement technique
  • limiting nighttime flights
  • insulating of strongly affected structures
  • penalising noise breaches or scaling operating costs based on aircraft noise levels

Environment and sustainability

For many manufacturing industries across the globe, environmental considerations are increasingly impacting the design and production of new products. With it’s global reach and high profile, aircraft design is at the forefront of these moves to become more sustainable. For both aircraft owners and producers, it's important to stay abreast of changes in certifications and standards to ensure effective compliance in the future.

If you’re interested in travelling, there’s no better way than to use the exemplary services of Luxaviation. The company’s commercial fleet is operated under the regulatory umbrella of 13 regional civil aviation issued air operating certificates (AOCs). Luxaviation puts safety and environmental standards first, while providing superior logistics, operations, and cabin service. Get in contact today to discuss your aviation needs.

Posted on Jul 10, 2017 | Tags: Blog

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