Technology is focused on developing more fuel-efficient engines, lighter planes and cleaner alternative fuels. Boeing's 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A380 will be lighter, more fuel efficient and 30 percent quieter than the international noise standard. Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic have invested in both. Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France have ordered the Airbus A380. Continental and Northwest Airlines are the only US carriers that have ordered the Boeing 787.
The first commercial jet flight test of a biofuel recently took place when Virgin Atlantic flew a passengerless Boeing 747 from London to Amsterdam using a biofuel derived from a sustainable source — palm oil and coconut oil — that doesn't compete with food or fresh water sources.
Operations include rethinking the way the business operates both as a corporation and a business — reducing emissions and waste created in ground operations and in the air. Airlines are recycling such things as motor oil and retired computers.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates infrastructure improvements — including implementing Single European Sky (SES) and the US NextGen Air Transport System (NextGen) — could reduce aviation CO(-2) emissions by 12 percent. NextGen will replace the antiquated radar-based US Air Traffic Management system with satellite technology, which will enable planes to fly more as the crow flies — point to point to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. But NextGen cannot move forward until Congress passes the FAA 2007 reauthorization bill.
What can passengers do to reduce emissions from their flights?
- Pack lightly; take public transportation to the airport; take the most direct route possible (in Europe passengers combine air and high-speed rail for a more eco-friendly trip); fly airlines with newer, more fuel-efficient planes;
- Consider buying voluntary carbon offsets (you contribute funds toward an offset project to mitigate CO(-2) emissions from your flight). Many airlines and travel agencies now offer carbon offsets.
As part of the FAA reappropriation measure, dubbed NextGen, the federal regulator is putting a heavy emphasis on "green" business practices and research initiatives.
Green issues, or environmental concerns including global warning, are among the current hot button issues in the scientific, business, and political circles