Thu 31 Mar 2011 – The public in the year 2050 is informed, understands and is convinced that the aviation sector has made the utmost progress in mitigating its environmental impacts and therefore considers air travel is environmentally sustainable. So says a new report launched and endorsed by the European Commission that sets out an aspirational vision for the European air transport system by the middle of the century. The long-term strategy for research and innovation in aviation was developed by a ‘High Level Group’ of European aeronautics and aviation industry and research representatives. According to ‘Vision 2050’, compared to the year 2000, technologies and procedures will allow a 75 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions per passenger-kilometre, a 90 per cent reduction in NOx emissions and a reduction of 65 per cent in perceived aircraft noise emissions. Airbus CEO Tom Enders, a member of the Group, said the goals would need investment and immediate action.
By 2050, population and economic growth will have led to an increase in the global volume of air traffic from 2.5 billion passengers expected this year to around 16 billion in 2050. Within Europe, the number of flights is expected to nearly treble from a present 9.4 million to around 25 million, despite the advent of high-speed rail. The report optimistically predicts that a combination of measures, including technology development, operational procedures and market-based incentives will mean that aviation’s environmental impacts will have been mitigated at a rate outweighing the effects of increasing traffic levels.
In this brave new world, industry dependence on crude oil will have been reduced by drop-in liquid fuels from other sources at a competitive cost, facilitated by a coherent research strategy, regulatory enablers, streamlined certification and approval processes, and the establishment of sustainable supply chains. Europe will be established as a centre of excellence on sustainable alternative aviation fuels, based on a strong European energy policy, envisages the report’s authors. The continent will also introduce to the world market a real new generation of air vehicles and efficient, quiet and environmentally friendly engines.
In addition to significant improvements in aircraft and engine fuel and noise efficiency, the air traffic control system will have been optimised to provide the most efficient trajectories and allowing flights to arrive within one minute of planned arrival times. Revenues from the Emissions Trading Scheme – yes, it’s still going strong – will have been used to supplement funding for research, technologies, products and fuel innovations.
On the ground, the progressive introduction of fuel cells and battery-powered vehicles at airports will have made an important contribution to reducing the sector’s carbon footprint.
“As a result of these efforts, society in 2050 considers that travel by air is environmentally friendly,” says the report. “Strong, coherent research networks and partnerships between private and public actors drive innovation and are enabled by strong public funding and a range of globally-recognised, efficient instruments.”
Commenting on the publication of ‘Vision 2050’ at the Aerodays aeronautical research conference co-organised by the European Commission in Madrid, Tom Enders of Airbus said: “The implementation of fuel saving technology in our aircraft has allowed us to satisfy a 45% increase in demand for air transport over the last decade with only a 3% increase in the use of jet fuel. Innovation has allowed us to do more with less, but these ambitious goals set out by this Vision need investment and action now in order to safeguard Europe’s position as a leader in sustainable aviation, in a changing economic and political landscape.
“The future of aviation must take into account technological advances, but also passenger demands. Air traffic demand doubles every 15 years and as more people travel by air, it will take huge step change advancements to handle this increase in traffic while simultaneously preserving our environment.”
European Commission – 2050 Vision report (download here)
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