A plastic airplane with productions problems; perhaps the future of aviation is not as one might have expected. Nonetheless, with the ANA launch of the much awaited (three years overdue) Boeing 787 Dreamliner (image from Extra Vaganzi) earlier this week, airlines and aircraft manufacturers have good reason to be satisfied – at least for now.
Boeing’s Dreamliner is the first in-air commercial passenger flight to really address the growing problems of fuel prices; problems that make it close to impossible for the operators to save for a rainy day. But if the smiles and cups of sake at the Tokyo launch are anything to go by, operators now feel they have a serious way to lighten their expenses.
Boeing 787’s one-piece composite barrel construction , plastic air frame and raked wing tip ensures maximum wing efficiency, resulting in a low-carb diet meaning 20% less fuel consumption than ordinary carriers of its size (200-250 passengers) due to its low weight.
Less fuel consumption naturally also means lower emission. Lower emission, in case you hadn’t guessed it already, also means a greener flight. This is all good of course, but Boeing and their friends in aircraft manufacturing still face many obstacles to become environmentally friendly. But, for now, the ageing fleets around the world are happy with this new addition – Dreamliner already have 800 orders in their spread sheet. With lower operation costs and the possibility to call themselves green, many airlines will welcome the lower maintenance costs, long range capabilities and lower fuel consumption the Dreamliner offers.
In the coming years, Airbus will join the competition with its A350 XWB, also powered by a twinjet engine and argued to save up to 30% fuel consumption. On top of research into environmentally progressive manufacturing, fuel cells might also provide an opportunity for engine start and powering the cabin air-condition. After that is achieved, it will be interesting to see how designers, technologists, engineers and manufacturers embrace the more radical ideas that are being talked about in the industry. Personally, I will be looking forward to the day a carbon bodied box-wing flight with turbo-electric propulsion and panoramic views of the sky can take me anywhere for a couple of pounds, making the trip environmentally friendly and economically kind to not only the operators but also the passengers. That would make it even greener and give me the opportunity to save for a rainy day. First stop would be Tokyo where I would celebrate with sake, of course.