From the moment new aircraft are thought of, engineers are working out how to make them more efficient. In fact, aviation is one of the most technologically-advanced and innovative sectors in the world.
Unlike ground vehicles, which don’t need to be optimised for efficiency to the same extent as aircraft because they can refuel often, long-distance aircraft must carry all their fuel with them. Fuel is expensive, heavy and takes up a great deal of storage room. Its weight can limit the range of an aircraft and it needs to be stored in tanks which affect the wing size and the payload able to be carried. At the same time, the aviation industry is doing all it can to limit its environmental impact.
Each new generation of aircraft has double-digit fuel efficiency improvements, even up to 25% more fuel efficient than the one it replaces. This has led to today’s modern aircraft producing well over 70% less CO2 per seat than the first jets in the 1950s. But there is more work to do.
New technologies on the horizon have the potential to significantly decrease greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, and solutions that are being implemented today also promise other savings. Even small savings here-and-there offer significant benefits in total.
Being able to operate efficiently is critical to the future of the aviation industry, not just for environmental reasons but also for financial ones, especially since fuel makes up over 30% of airline operating costs.
To formalise and compliment the market-driven evolution in aircraft fuel efficiency, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreed on a CO2 emissions standard in February 2016, which will apply to all new aircraft designs from 2020 and newly-built existing models of aircraft from 2023.