Editorial for "Aloft - An Inflight Review"
Flying is a central component of the globally networked world. At the same time, the environmental impact can no longer be ignored. Air traffic needs to become more environmentally friendly. This is where the cooperation of Airbus Group and the Heinrich Böll Foundation begins, because a climate-friendly flying is a common interest of all. An article from Aloft - An Inflight Review.
Air traffic is a key component of our modern, globally connected world. This applies to both our professional and our private lives. Aviation has created a global neork connecting people and goods. It is hard for anyone who wants to become familiar with the world and participate in global exchange to refrain from flying.
We currently record about 3.3 billion air trips per year. Within the next o decades, there are likely to be twice as many. Air traffic is growing rapidly, especially in Asia, the Middle East and in other emerging economies. Correspondingly, the number of passenger aircraft will increase, and, in the next en years, it is expected to double to around 37,500 jets.
Until recently, flying was limited to a small number of people, mainly in the western part of the world. This has changed dramatically in recent years. Cheaper ticket prices and the growth of a global middle class have led to a “democratization of flying.” Air travel has become a part of modern mass culture.
Supporters of the Green Party travel by plane more frequently than others. This sheds light on the conflicts environmentally conscious people are confronted with when it comes to the subject of flying. Mobility represents a taste of freedom. The global interconnection of politics, economy, science and culture are increasing. At the same time, the environmental impact of flying can no longer be ignored.
This is particularly true with regard to climate change. Considerable efficiency gains in fuel consumption are outweighed by high growth rates in international air traffic. As a result, this leads to an increase in climate-relevant emissions. We need a turnaround for aviation to contribute to climate protection. Air traffic needs to become more environmentally friendly and more sustainable.
This applies to engine technology, the fuels used, the aircraft design and the materials utilized, as well as to air traffic management and airport operations. It will take a few more decades before the vision of carbon-neutral flying becomes a reality. But on the way there, we will have to succeed in considerably reducing carbon emissions in aviation.
With the introduction of new jets, such as the A350 or the A320neo, the eco-audit of modern aircraft fleets will be improved by about 20 per cent. Nevertheless, reducing kerosene consumption must and will have to continue in the future. This will be especially true when taxes are levied on future CO2 emissions in global air traffic. The same applies to noise. Quieter aircraft are needed to achieve the optimal use of takeoff and landing times in densely populated areas.
At the same time, environmental issues are becoming increasingly important for public acceptance of air traffic. Despite all the improvements in noise and emission protection that have been made in recent years, a great deal must be done from a political and technical point of view.
An ongoing controversy is how to regulate the aviation industry and what constraints are effective. At best, they should take place at an international level, establish a uniform competitive framework and encourage technological innovations. The goal of an open dialogue between the Airbus Group and the Heinrich Böll Foundation in the past year was to explore the need for action with regard to attaining sustainable air traffic. In the course of the discussions, it became clear that, in spite of sometimes diverging views, there was a basic consensus on where the journey should go.
Economy and ecology are not necessarily at odds when it comes to the issue of sustainable aviation. On the contrary: ecological and economic reasoning are closely interwoven and mutually dependent. Despite the current moderate oil price, fuel is still the key cost factor in the aviation sector. Airbus will only survive in global competition when its aircraft can fly as ecfficiently as possible. In this respect a great deal has been done in recent years.
Nevertheless, even with common goals, there may be different views regarding the question of which road to take. This applies particularly to the design of the policy framework for air transport, taking economic effeciency and competitiveness of the industry into consideration. Accordingly, our series of open discussions also focused on this issue. The exchange beeen aviation industry experts, green climate politics and NGOs was definitely a worthwhile enterprise.
Although this publication does not provide final answers, it does provide important insights into the current state of technological developments and the political debate surrounding the sustainable future of flying, and it can serve as a basis for further dialogue in the coming years.