Airbus and Lufthansa have introduced 'sharklets,' specially formulated wings – in effort to reduce carbon footprint.
THE AIRBUS A-320 in flight. Photo: Courtesy
HAMBURG – In the film Up In The Air, George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a
cutthroat “downsizing expert” who travels from city to city with one singular
mission: to fire employees, sparing management from doing so in
As such, Bingham is a world travel connoisseur, more comfortable
in an airport terminal than his own home. Evidence of his ease with flying is
shown in a montage where - in a seemingly fluid motion – he meticulously and
deftly navigates through the various security barriers with little
The rest of us aren’t likely to maneuver through the various
travel stages quite so gracefully or rack up the frequent flyer miles as
quickly. However, in recent decades, the number of airplane passengers has grown
exponentially. According to a 2012 report published by the Air Transport Action
Group (ATAG), the aviation industry carried 2.7 billion passengers in 2010,
marking a 1.5 billion increase from the 1.2 billion passengers carried in 1990.
Moreover, these skyrocketing figures are not expected to dwindle any time soon.
In 2030, ATAG predicts the aviation industry can expect approximately 5.9
billion people worldwide.
While these figures are promising economically,
a booming aviation industry that services more passengers, more aircrafts and
more fuel is troubling from an environmental perspective.
giant European aviation manufacturer, is well aware of the potential harm its
industry can have on the environment and it has taken several notable measures
to reduce its carbon footprint.
In 2007, Airbus’s parent company devised
EADS Vision 2020, a program intended to pinpoint the industry’s environmental
shortcomings and identify potential solutions to dramatically reduce its carbon
footprint by 2020. Ultimately, Airbus hopes that 2050’s carbon emissions levels
will be half as much as 2005’s emissions.
Their introduction of its A-320
jet with ‘sharklets’ is the company’s most recent example of working toward
reaching its eco-friendly goals.
These sharklets are specially formulated
2.4-meter wings that reduce the airplane’s drag, which will enable planes to fly
an additional 100 nautical miles, make for easier takeoff and ultimately reduce
fuel burn by 1 to 4%.
Earlier this month, after providing a tour of its
assembly facility in Hamburg, Airbus teamed up with Lufthansa Airlines to
inaugurate this new more aerodynamic model was flown in Europe.
it’s just steel and iron, you still have a deep relationship with the aircraft,”
pilot Bernhard Zinser said before embarking on the aircraft’s maiden flight from
Hamburg to Frankfurt.
Zinser explained that a pilot, like a doting
parent, feels a sense of pride whenever the industry unveils a new innovation
that will make his aircraft faster, greener and more technologically
While these kind of improvements will help protect the
environment, they may also very well save the commercial aviation industry. The
skyrocketing cost of fuel, ever-expanding airport infrastructure and increasing
personnel salaries are just some factors currently plaguing the airline
industry. European and American carriers are tasked with the additional
challenge of squaring off with their competitors in the Middle East who have
significantly less government regulation and restraints.
eco-friendly measures then, are not done altruistically. As far as commercial
airlines are concerned, going green is a crucial cost saving measure that must
be implemented whenever an opportunity arises.
In a promotional video
screened for journalists in Hamburg, Airbus explained how technologically
advanced, interactive and comfortable the future of aviation can be.
prophesizes “social areas” in the middle of an aircraft where passengers can
engage in recreational activities, seats that adjust specifically to the
contours of a passenger’s back and cabins made entirely out of plant
Such a vision is most likely a pipe dream or something
implemented for first class passengers at best. But what is real in the
meantime, are the efforts by companies like Airbus and Lufthansa to eliminate
unnecessary emissions and demonstrate environmentally sustainable
It’s certainly a flight in the right direction.
writer was a guest of Lufthansa.