|Airlines commit to Solena Fuel|
No need to convince airlines of this - they have a strong financial motivation for reducing their fuel consumption. A decade ago, fuel accounted for about 15 percent of airline operating expenses. Today, it's 35 percent. Hence, the added fuel fee and the methodical slashing of any of the amenities, and thus all associated costs. Fortunately, out of necessity comes innovation.
At the recent Paris Air Show, nine major airlines committed to using Solena biofuels for their San Francisco based flights. While many so-called bio-fuels are primarily petroleum with a bit of corn added, this company is developing a zero emission fuel. I don’t profess to fully understand the technology – but I did note that they have commercialized the use of algae growth from recycled urban and agricultural wastes and a Plasma Gasification Vitrification process. Worth checking out their website.
Another big factor has been the strong push within the airlines industry to “push beyond the cost,” implementing lean manufacturing at levels which rival that of Toyota. Perhaps because of the many constraints of cost, safety, and the very real connection between fuel use and weight, this industry has been at the forefront of the development of new materials and manufacturing technology. Now, with engine improvements for efficiency, the new generations of airlines may not look much different, but have made radical leaps forward in technology.
Southwest airlines was the catalyst to cause the industry to re-examine the assumptions of gate turn-around time and operations costs. By purchasing only one model of plane, they were also able to standardize all maintenance and supply chain activities. It seems that Frontier Airlines has employed much of the same strategy.
|Future Vision - Airbus|
What does the future hold? Boeing completed the first test flight of a hydrogen fuel plane in 2008, PC-Aero has developed the ElektraOne electric light aircraft, powered by solar cells on the hangar roof. And faster flights (…. memories of the Concord). Yes, but will there be more legroom?