Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on October 31, 2007
While airplanes can hardly be considered green, both Airbus and Boeing have made strides toward environmentally improved air travel.
Airbus’s super jumbo-sized A380 claims to have “impeccable environmental credentials”, saying it has the lowest fuel burn of any large aircraft and that its noise during take-offs is half that of equally-sized planes. A new high bypass engine boasts overall fuel burn reduction — 17 percent less fuel per seat than today’s other large planes, which means lower CO2 emissions. The most astonishing statistic attached to the A380 is that it produces only 75g of CO2 per passenger and per kilometer, which is about half the target set by the European Union for 2008 automobiles.
Meanwhile, Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner –- the company’s first completely fresh jet since 1995 –- is their version of a jolly green midsize. The only large commercial aircraft built of carbon fiber (a lighter and more durable material than aluminum), this plane is considered by many to be the most environmentally friendly ever created. The lighter materials contribute to improved fuel efficiency and, according to Boeing, the Dreamliner produces a whopping 20 percent less CO2 than its competitors.
While the A380 also boasts the use of lighter weight materials in its construction, Airbus attributes their plane’s fuel efficiency to recent aerodynamic innovations, which greatly reduce the plane’s drag.
Perhaps the A380’s most impressive exterior feature is its new wing design, which allows it to take off and land in less runway space than today’s largest airplane. This means that despite carrying 40 percent more passengers per flight, the plane is able to easily land at existing airports without the use of a new infrastructure. And the added passenger capacity contributes to fewer flights and less overall resource consumption.
Boeing, on the other hand, is betting on the fact that future air travel trends will favor medium-sized planes that will better service smaller airports. If this turns out to be true, Airbus has got it covered. Their 787 rival, the A350, is expected to be unleashed into the skies around 2011.
As far as comfort goes, the Dreamliner boasts that its composite materials allow for more humidity in the cabin, which can greatly reduce jetlag.
But the sheer size of the A380 allows for more interior design flexibility. Singapore Airlines, the first airline to get their hands on the new Airbus, have opted to present a luxurious cabin created by French yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste. It will carry 471 passengers in three classes (instead of the 853 maximum the aircraft could hold), including 12 private suites down the center aisle (which the airline describes as a “class beyond first”) that feature beds with full-sized single mattresses covered in Givenchy linens. (In case you’re wondering, the “class beyond first” will cost around 25 percent more than the standard one-way first-class fare.)
There’s one thing both manufacturers are counting on. As far as the standard coach travelers go, environmentalists predict that fuel efficiency and other lowered operating costs will reduce the cost of commercial air travel and encourage more people to fly. We’ll see.