Airlines Are Trying to Help the Environment by Boosting Efficiency

After the oil crisis of 1973, scientists began searching for ways to increase the efficiency of air travel and reduce the costs and the impact on the environment. This is a problem that Richard Whitcomb, a Langley researcher, and a decorated NASA engineer, has been tackling ever since.

Back in 1974, Whitcomb focused on an old idea for gaining energy efficiency by bending up the wingtips of an airplane. The models and wind tunnel tests he did back then showed that “winglets” could reduce the fuel use by up to 9%, and the actual trials of a Boeing 707 confirmed the results.

Airlines Are Trying to Help the Environment by Boosting Efficiency

Winglets Help Save the Environment by Lowering the Use of Fuel

Whitcomb’s winglets are among the technologies that US airlines have used to boost their fuel efficiency by 130%. To get further gains, planes are designed with lighter materials, more aerodynamic airframes, and better engines. Old planes have also been upgraded and retrofitted with more efficient engines.

Although improvements in the practices of air traffic control have already helped reduce emissions as well, many companies believe that more can be done in that regard. Certainly, the Federal Aviation Administration’s major air traffic control project called NextGen takes that seriously and aims to implement even more measures, including reducing air & tarmac traffic jams and using GPS-based routes.

Airlines Are Trying to Help the Environment by Boosting Efficiency

Airplanes Can Use Bio-Fuels for Better Efficiency

Adopting sustainable fuels has been a talking point for the aviation industry for some time. Such fuels can be made of sources such as plant oil, algae, food waste, and landfill emitted gas. The use of such biofuels can reduce the emission of greenhouse gases but these fuels will have to be cheaper, available at scale, and generated in a sustainable way.

Even though there have been some true improvements to the efficiency of airplanes, the problem still remains and is even getting bigger with each passing day. While people fly too much, the quest to save the environment becomes more difficult for every party involved.