Aviation Industry Already Applying 'Green' Solutions

As part of the FAA reappropriation measure, dubbed NextGen, the federal regulator is putting a heavy emphasis on "green" business practices and research initiatives.

The groups has already notified the Transportation Research Board that in April it will be publishing a request for proposals seeking two or more substitutes for jet-A kerosene fuel.

Altman added that DARPA has three projects that is it funding with the eye on Richard Branson's Virgin Group $400 million prize to reduce carbon emissions.

As Boeing designed the 787 Dreamliner it had looked beyond just engine noise levels and fuel emissions, said Jeanne Yu, Boeing's director of environmental performance. The 787 does reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent and has a 60 percent smaller noise footprint.

However, the key to the program has been a life cycle of environmental concerns. The company has been trying to minimize the plane's impact during the manufacturing process as well as its flight operations and maintenance requirements.

With an eye on the plane's retirement, Yu has worked with a number of firms to form the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association. It is working to find a high-end next use of the carbon fiber composites that makes up the bulk of the 787.

In the post-787 generation of aircraft, Yu said that Boeing is working to develop effective fuel cells that can power the bulk of an aircraft's on-board systems so as not to reduce the efficiency of the turbine engine, which now powers the aircraft.

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