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Posts from the ‘Air transport’ Category

First U.S. Airline Goes Carbon Neutral

EOS 9 January 2020

JetBlue will buy carbon offsets for all domestic flights starting in July, but are carbon offsets enough to clean up a dirty industry?

JetBlue announced on Monday that it will purchase carbon offsets for all U.S. domestic flights starting in July to curtail fossil fuel emissions, a decision that experts both applauded and criticized as an answer for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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Paris Airshow: Difficult decisions for Boeing lie ahead 14 June 2019

Boeing is coming to this year’s Paris Airshow, which starts on Monday, facing some difficult decisions in the wake of the two deadly Boeing 737 Max crashes, while its global rival Airbus is widely expected to unveil a long-range version of its best-selling A321 – potentially taking away some of Boeing’s customers.

With almost 2,500 companies exhibiting and 320,000 visitors expected over seven days, the show at Le Bourget on the outskirts of Paris is one of the aerospace and defence industry’s key trade fairs for a sector that generates global revenues of some $685bn annually.

Expect most of the press attention to be focussed on Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg, and how the firm is working with aviation regulators to get its troubled 737 Max aircraft back in the air.

Piling on the pressure facing Boeing executives, just this week a US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official indicated that airlines’ fleets of Boeing 737 Max aircraft might be grounded until the end of the year – longer than many had been expecting.

“The highest priority for us is the 737 Max’s safe return to service,” said Mr Muilenburg recently. Indeed, it has been a key seller for the US firm, which has roughly 4,500 unfulfilled orders for the aircraft.

For Airbus – under new CEO Guillaume Faury – it is the first airshow at Le Bourget since it made the decision to end production of its flagship A380. But the much-heralded unveiling of its A321XLR, is likely to garner positive headlines.

This is a single-aisle long-range airliner which Airbus hopes will generate new orders. Several carriers have already reportedly expressed an interest, including IAG – the parent group of British Airways and Iberia.

For Airbus this is possibly a strategy to counter Boeing’s eventual NMA (New Midsize Aircraft) that the US firm has been working on. The twin-aisled NMA, also labelled the 797, has been designed in two variants: a 225-seat plane with a 9,300km (5,700 mile) range and a 275-seater flying 8,300km.

However, unlike Airbus’s A321XLR this would be a totally new aircraft – so it would take a lot longer to see the light of day.

Away from the marketing battle between Airbus and Boeing, there will be more focus on unmanned aircraft, lighter and stronger alloys and composite materials – but the most significant developments may well be developments in hybrid and all-electric aircraft engines.

US firm magniX is showing off two of its electric motors at the show. It is working with North America’s largest seaplane operator to retrofit the entire fleet with electric engines and magniX motors will also power the new all-electric Alice, a small passenger aircraft from Israeli firm Eviation.

MagniX says it wants to transform the “middle mile” segment of the market – that’s cargo and passenger flights up to 1,000 miles (1,600km). “As we debut our propulsion system at the Paris Airshow, we’re one step closer to all-electric air transport starting in 2022,” says magniX chief executive Roei Ganzarski.

The sector has also seen significant business changes recently. Canadian-based manufacturer Bombardier has quit the commercial airliner business.

Airbus has taken over its C-Series regional jets, Bombardier has put its Northern Ireland factories up for sale and is talking about the sale of its remaining regional jets business to Japan’s Mitsubishi.

Meanwhile, two of the US’s major defence giants, United Technologies Corp (UTC) and Raytheon, have proposed a $121bn (£96bn) deal – combining the makers of missiles, electronic warfare systems, and engines for Airbus and the F-35 fighter jet.

When it comes to defence, notable newcomers include Boeing’s KC-46 tanker and a PAC JF-17 fighter jet, a joint development between Pakistan and China. Japan is putting its military capabilities on show with its Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft.

Yet much interest will centre on fighters, as European nations work out their visions for a next-generation combat plane. The big question is whether Europe can unite around a single design or whether countries will end up developing different sixth-generation fighter aircraft.

But as it took about 10 years of negotiating and talking in the 1970s, which led to requirements for fighters being firmed up in the 1980s – finally leading to Eurofighter Typhoon, Sweden’s Gripen and France’s Rafale in the 1990s – this year’s show is unlikely to give us any quick answers.

Uber Copter Will Only Make New York Transit Worse 7 June 2019

The ride-hailing company’s plan to offer Manhattan-to-JFK helicopter shuttles overshadows the public-transit alternative that would help many more travelers.

There are three ways to get from Manhattan to the city’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. All of them are pretty bad.

First, there’s the subway: You can take the A or E out to eastern Queens, and then hop on the AirTrain. It’ll cost you $7.75, and take an hour, but delays are common. Then there’s commuter rail: Take the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) from Penn Station to the Jamaica terminal, then AirTrain it, which is $15.75 at rush hour, or $9.50 on weekends, and cuts the time down to about 35 minutes, plus the 15-minute AirTrain ride. Finally, you can take four wheels: A cab, private shuttle, or for-hire vehicle can cost up to $100 during surge pricing and take anywhere between 45 minutes and two hours, depending on the status of New York City’s record-high congestion.

The JFK-Manhattan connection is one of New York’s great transit flaws—a major city is unable to offer a one-seat ride from its airport to its central business district. That’s why many New Yorkers and tourists rely on cars rather than trains to get to JFK, making traffic worse and triggering a vicious cycle of mobility frustration.

Seeing this problem that it helped create, Uber has grabbed an opportunity to somehow make it even worse. Enter Uber Copter.

Starting July 9, Uber users can take to the skies to get to the airport, with the ride-hailing giant introducing a weekday helicopter service between Lower Manhattan and JFK. With a paid Uber to the helipad, the trip, the company says, could take as little as 30 minutes (the helicopter part is just eight minutes of that). Like sky-rival Blade—that’s “the Uber for helicopters” that also goes to JFK—Uber says its users will be allowed to book five days in advance, and can fit up to five people with carry-on baggage. “Point to point multimodal journey planning and booking = no stress transport to and from JFK,” tweeted Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s CEO, this week.

Except, naturally, Uber Copter isn’t for most people, and in fact, caters to a very specific group of people. The average price will range from $200 to $225, and is only available to Platinum or Diamond Uber Rewards users. In other words: You have to spend between $1,250 and $3,750 on UberX rides in a six-month period to be able to take a $200 helicopter near Wall Street to what is presumably your private jet or first-class commercial seat.

Uber Copter is the company’s first leap into “aerial ridesharing.” Up until this point, the service has only been seen in a promotional manner—at CES, and in Bangkok, for example—but it’s part of the company’s larger ‘Uber Air’ initiative, which ultimately aims to bring small, electric VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircrafts to cities around the globe by 2023. “Imagine soaring above congested ground traffic. With Uber Air, this future is closer than you think,” the company boasts. Uber Copter, the company said, will eventually be rolled out to other cities. The true tragedy of Uber Copter is that it overshadows alternatives transit planners have put forward for years to make the JFK connection faster.

The vehicles that will take to the skies of New York are not the sleek electric sky-taxis seen in the company’s CGI promotional film. Those do not exist. Instead, they’re conventional twin-engined gas-fueled choppers, the type that emit more CO2 emissions than cars do to cover the same distance and pound out 100 throbbing decibels of noise pollution in the process—a din that the World Health Organization has deemed a “leading environmental nuisance.” Blade relies on these commercial helicopters, too. One of them crashed into the Hudson River earlier this month. (Thankfully, no one was hurt.)

The pollution, noise, and crashiness of helicopter-based commuting helps explain why an earlier era of chopper travel in New York fizzled out in the 1970s. It seems particularly problematic to attempt reviving the idea now, a time when America’s largest city is facing a reckoning over the dangers of its petroleum-based ways. “I thought it was already obvious, but when apps promote private car and helicopter trips, cities get dirtier, noisier, more expensive, and worse for everyone,” Stephen Miller, the communications lead at the ride-planning app Transit, told me. “Multimodal transportation is about making it easy to connect sustainable, efficient, affordable options, not going from your chopper to your chauffeur.”

Yet the true tragedy of Uber Copter is that it overshadows concrete alternatives that transit planners have put forward for years to make the Midtown-to-JFK connection faster and cheaper for a much greater strata of riders. Take the Rockaway Beach Line, for example. Per a 2017 proposal by the Regional Plan Association (one of the five ideas it released at the time), this defunct commuter rail route could be reactivated, allowing the LIRR to go directly from Penn Station (and, soon, Grand Central) to JFK, bypassing the AirTrain.

It’s a big lift: The price tag for this project varies in the upper millions, and would require building two train terminals in the central airport area. But it would dramatically improve JFK access for an estimated 10,000 passengers per day, instead of just a handful of elite passengers. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which originally shelved the idea to build the AirTrain, is now conducting a feasibility study into the idea amidst growing calls to reactivate old routes, but has not yet released the results.

Until then, “no stress transport” to one of the world’s most important airports will only be reserved to those who can afford it. ���

Commercial hybrid-electric aircraft, reduced carbon emissions

Science Daily, 25 March 2019

Although we’re still a long way from commercial airplanes powered by a combination of fossil fuel and batteries, a recent feasibility study at the University of Illinois explored fuel/battery configurations and the energy lifecycle to learn the tradeoffs needed to yield the greatest reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

“In the energy supply chain there’s a phrase, from ‘well to wake.’ That is, fuel production begins at the oil well and ends at the wake of the airplane. Tracking costs and environmental implications across this entire lifecycle is important, because the implications for fuel and energy production can be substantially different, depending on the source. In this study, we looked at how technologies need to improve to make a hybridized configuration feasible, where feasibility is assessed based on a need to meet a certain range requirement and feature a large reduction in carbon emissions. The net carbon emissions were calculated from a combination of fuel burn and the carbon impact associated with recharging the batteries,” said Phillip Ansell, assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering in the College of Engineering at the U of I.

According to Ansell, that second part has been ignored.

“You can get a fuel burn reduction, but if the cleanliness of the electrical grid that’s being used to charge the battery system is not included, you’re missing a significant part of the carbon emissions total,” he said.

The study compared the relative CO2 emissions produced per kilowatt-hour for each individual state across the United States. It includes a map of the U.S. with values of how much carbon is produced per unit of energy.

But, to be commercially acceptable, a hybrid-electric aircraft needs to be able to carry the same number of passengers and travel the same distances as current all-fossil fuel aircraft do, so the study used the parameters for a single-aisle airplane that can carry approximately 140 passengers as a model. They parametrically varied the proportion of power across the propulsion driveshaft that was electrically derived, using configurations where 12.5 percent, 25 percent, or 50 percent of the necessary power was produced by an electric motor. The study didn’t consider cost in dollars, but rather the cost in CO2 emissions — the environmental cost.

The most feasible configuration from the model was a propulsion system that uses a 50 percent electrical-power drivetrain and a battery specific energy density of 1,000 watt-hours per kilogram. This configuration was estimated to produce 49.6 percent less lifecycle CO2 emissions than a modern conventional aircraft with a maximum range equivalent to that of the average of all global flights, making it a viable option for environmentally responsible aviation. However, current battery technologies are quite far from being able to achieve this configuration. Despite this fact, Ansell did say that improvements in batteries will continue to provide gains in capabilities.

“Obviously, the 12.5 percent is the most near-term accessible configuration that was studied, because we’ll need less battery technology progress to get to that point. However, we also see a non-linear relationship between CO2 emissions produced and improvements in hybrid-electric propulsion concepts, where the most rapid proportional reductions in carbon emissions are produced across near-term improvements in technology,” Ansell said. “Achieving the technology improvements for a 50% hybrid system certainly has a very long timetable to get to market, by a long shot, because it’s entirely uncertain if or when that level of energy density of batteries will be manufactured. But at least in the interim, even small gains in component technologies can make a big difference.”

When will technology be able to manufacture a battery lightweight enough yet powerful enough to fly a commercial airplane?

Ansell speculated, “Perhaps in the next 10 years we’ll be able to have a battery that is 400 to 600 watt-hours per kilogram. If we project that out, the levels that we need for larger hybridization factors, or even fully electric commercial aircraft, might be within reach in the next 25 years.”

CCC warns without a ‘true zero-carbon plane’ demand for aviation may have to be curbed

Business Green, 14 February 2019

UK’s climate body confirms net zero target assessment will be published in May, stressing greater effort will be needed to cut aviation emissions

Adopting a net zero climate target in the UK would require greater effort to cut emissions from aviation, particularly through developing clean technologies and limiting growth in flight demand, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has told the government.

In a letter to the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, CCC chairman Lord Deben stressed that limiting emissions from UK aviation would require contributions from all parts of the aviation sector, and that the government should avoid relying on biofuels or international carbon offset credits to do the necessary heavy lifting.

Deben welcomed the government’s commitment to keeping UK aviation emissions at 2005 levels by 2050, as advised by the CCC, and to ask the National Infrastructure Commission to scrutinise the case for further airport expansion with consideration of the potential climate impacts.

However, Deben reiterated the CCC’s view that the government should not plan for significant use of biofuels to power planes, due to uncertainty surrounding sustainable biomass supplies and costs.
Instead, he said the government and industry should focus on developing new low emission aircraft designs, improved air space management, and the use of more sustainable fuels in the coming years.

The letter also predicted brokering a long-term climate target for aviation at an international level would help incentivise investment in new, cleaner technologies, but emphasised technologies alone were unlikely to be enough to stem the climate impact of aviation.

“In the absence of a true zero-carbon plane, demand cannot continue to grow unfettered in the long-term,” the letter states.

Deben’s letter on Wednesday comes in response to the government’s Aviation 2050 strategy, which was launched for consultation in December. That draft strategy insisted the UK’s aviation sector could grow to meet rapidly increasing demand for air travel over the next three decades, while at the same time limiting emissions at 2005 levels by the middle of the century.

The strategy attracted criticism from green campaigners who highlighted the lack of detail on exactly how the government plans to limit the climate impact of growing demand for air travel over the next three decades.
Aviation is widely seen as one of the most challenging sectors of the economy to decarbonise, with emissions from the industry having more than doubled since 1990, in contrast to emissions for the economy as a whole having fallen by around 40 per cent.

The Department for Transport, however, has said it is currently developing a long-term policy framework with industry that will address how to ensure sustainable growth, and that it plans to update the aviation strategy at regular intervals. It has also pledged to work at an international level through ICAO to negotiate a long-term global goal for aviation emissions that would be consistent with the Paris Agreement.

The latest developments came as the CCC today confirmed its assessment of the UK’s potential to set a net zero emissions target for the middle of the century would be published on May 2nd 2019, conceding the publication date was “later than requested – a reflection of the scope and importance of the task”.

The UK currently has a legal requirement to achieve an 80 per cent cut in emissions by 2050 against a 1990 baseline, but the government last year asked the CCC to look at whether this should be replaced with a more ambitious goal.

In light of current work to develop both a UK aviation strategy as well as a potential net zero emissions target for the whole economy, CCC chief executive Chris Stark said there was therefore now a “clear opportunity” to clarify the role of aviation in the UK’s long-term climate ambitions.

However, campaigners remain sceptical about the government’s abilit to seize that opportunity. Grayling has faced fierce criticism over his support for aviation expansion and his limited engagement with climate change issues. When announcing the government’s backing for a third runway at Heathrow Airport last summer, the Transport Secretary made no mention of the potential impact the decision could have on the UK’s climate targets, prompting Lord Deben to express “surprise” in another letter from the CCC last year.

The CCC’s latest intervention will therefore ramp up pressure on the government to ensure its aviation ambitions come alongside robust plans to ensure any growth in UK airport capacity does not blow a hole in domestic carbon budgets.

The move also came ahead of Airbus’s shock announcement today that following a review of its operations it will stop making its huge A380 planes by 2021, potentially putting thousands of UK jobs at risk. The plane manufacturing giant said it was also reducing its A380 output in the meantime due to a lack of order backlog with airlines “and in light of developments in aircraft engine technologies”.

The move could have an important impact on emissions scenario planning for the UK and international aviation sector, commentators have pointed out. The huge A380 planes – first launched as a rival to Boeing’s 747s in 2007 – have four engines, while much of the sector has shifted over the past decade towards smaller, more fuel efficient aircraft.

With the CCC planning to publish its net zero emissions assessment in May, this week’s letter suggests the UK’s independent climate body is keen to ensure there is a robust long term plan in place to ensure sustainable growth of the domestic aviation sector in line with the UK’s carbon targets. The pressure is now on the government and aviation sector to set out in much more detail how it foresees an increase in flights in a net zero carbon world.

Norway’s plan for for a fleet of electric planes

BBC News, 22 August 2018
By 2040, Norway has promised all of its short-haul flights will be on electric aircraft. It could revolutionise the airline industry.

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Airlines tackle Dreamliner nightmare

The West, 15 September 2018
Since late last year, airlines around the world have been dealing with problems with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 Package C engines aboard some Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The engines have been affected by a “durability issue” in which compressor blades have been wearing prematurely. In June, it was reported that some older Package B engines were also affected.

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Flight times extended by major airlines to avoid payouts, report claims

The Guardian, 27 August 2018
Plane journeys are taking longer than a decade ago, according to a report that claims the change is down to airlines “padding” their schedules to create the impression passengers were reaching their destinations on time. Carriers are adding extra time to flight schedules, in some cases up to 30 minutes, to ensure they maintain punctuality and are therefore less likely to be liable for compensation payouts, the investigation by Which? Travel claimed.
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Singapore’s Wigetworks readies production-spec Airfish 8 WIG craft

Jane’s 360, 9 April 2018
Wigetworks, a Singapore-based firm specialising in wing-in-ground effect (WIG) technology research and development (R&D), is aiming to finalise the design of the production-ready version of its Airfish 8 (AF8) WIG craft prototype by the end of 2018 and is preparing to commence production when a launch customer is secured, company officials told Jane’s.
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Global pilot shortage hits Australia, with cancelled regional routes just the beginning

ABC News, 22 July 2018
Passengers are becoming used to flights being cancelled due to weather, or even volcanoes, but now a new trend is beginning to upset travel plans across the country. Airlines are having to cancel flights, and even entire routes, because there literally isn’t anyone available to fly the plane.
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