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.

In the near term, the group will be testing either 100 percent or blends developed from oil shale, ethanol, and biodiesel, Altman said. The long-range goal will be to develop a biomass fuel.

In the research, Altman said they are not only looking for an alternative to jet fuel but also alternative sources for APU, tugs, and other ground equipment.

In the tests so far, he said, the fuels have burned with fewer carbon, sulfur and particulate emissions. Altman said the ultimate goal will be to develop one fuel that can fuel all airport operations: the aircraft, the tugs, the buses and service vehicles.

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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