Study shows aviation can redouble its efforts on emissions

The aviation sector could be doing twice as much to reduce the fuel consumption of planes than is currently expected. That’s the finding of a new study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) which says new aircraft could be consuming 25% less than they do now within eight years and 40% less in 18 years.

The ICCT presented its report three days before the start of the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) triennial general assembly in Montreal. It analysed the cost-assessment of fuel-efficiency technologies for aircraft that are expected to be viable over the next two decades, using models approved by Nasa and the US Department of Defence. It concludes that aircraft makers are not making the most of technology that will soon be viable.

The latest designs from the aircraft industry are based largely on re-engining existing aircraft rather than starting the design process for planes from scratch. As a result, they miss out on reducing aerodynamic drag and other design benefits, with ICCT saying the aviation sector could more than double the fuel and emissions savings it is currently expecting. ‘This study shows that aircraft manufacturers can in fact literally redouble their efforts to reduce emissions,’ said Anastasia Kharina, an aviation researcher who worked on the report.

Despite advances in aero-engine technology, emissions reductions over the years have been much slower than in other sectors. A report in December 2005 by the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR) said fuel efficiency in aviation had at best been exaggerated and at worst had not happened at all, because the aviation industry had taken selective data from only the jet engine era to show its improvements.