The aviation industry has a track record of achieving the impossible
Before the Wright brothers, few people believed powered flight was possible. This spirit of innovation has continued, and it is driving the industry’s response to its environmental challenges. As examples:
• Over the past 40 years, aircraft have become 70% more fuel-efficient
• Aviation has been successful at decoupling emissions growth and actual growth. Traffic growth is increasing at an average of 5% annually, while CO2 emissions are growing around 3%.
• The newest aircraft, the Airbus A380 and Boeing B787, consume on average less than three litres per 100 passenger kilometres or 67 passenger miles per US gallon. This is a fuel use which compares favourably to that of compact cars, although aircraft travel much further distances, much faster.
Today, engineers and researchers are making incremental and frequent improvements that offer large savings overall. For instance, the winglets airlines and manufacturers are retrofitting onto some aircraft increase aerodynamic efficiency and reduce fuel usage.
Manufacturers are increasingly using light-weight materials such as carbon composites to build aircraft and components.
The Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 both use cutting edge materials and technologies to deliver exceptional gains in environmental performance
The industry is also developing and testing alternative fuels. One option is to blend traditional jet fuel with biofuels. The industry is making many other important improvements, which you can read about on this site.
The industry is working hard to achieve the kind of ‘impossible’ developments that characterised flight itself.
Revolutionary innovations would be the use of algae-based fuels or even hydrogen or solar energy to provide some of the power to an aircraft, and experiments are taking place today to show that this is feasible. It is too early to say which of these avenues of enquiry will lead to viable solutions, but the air transport industry is committed to supporting advanced technological innovation.
Find out more about the aviation industry's use of future technologies »