An Etihad Airways Airbus A330-200 tail at Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH). Image from AUH.
This post was written by Steve Fulton, Technical Fellow at GE Aviation for AirlineReporter.com. Steve has been nuts about airplanes for as long as he can remember, working in high school in the antique airplane restoration business and trading work time for flying time in a PT-17 Stearman and Piper J-3 Cub. As a Technical Fellow, Steve spends his time meeting with GE customers to interpret their needs and translate that into innovative products and services, and he is continually seeking new ways to improve the air transportation industry.
It isn’t your imagination: more people are flying than ever before. The FAA predicts that air travel in the U.S. alone will double in the next 20 years, and will reach one billion passengers by 2021. Unfortunately, the finite amount of airspace to handle all of this air traffic is not being used as efficiently as current technology and methods would allow.
In an effort to improve this situation, I have spent the past 20 years working to accelerate the global adoption of a new air travel system that is characterized by predictability. This system, which I have likened to an interstate highway system in the sky, will help make air travel more efficient, providing numerous time, cost and environmental benefits. In fact, the impact of deploying this system at 46 regional airports across the United States could conservatively save an estimated 12.9 million gallons of gas and reduce 274.6 million pounds of CO2 emissions, not to mention slice off two years of time spent in the air.
In addition to allowing flights to depart precisely on time by better managing the flow of air traffic in and out of airports, highways in the sky will also allow aircraft to fly more accurate trajectories by shifting from ground-based navigational aids to a satellite-based system. Because pilots are no longer reliant on ground-based aids, it is now easier to maneuver aircraft in constrained mountainous regions, improving access to remote locations and increasing global connectivity.
Each country, airline and route has its own unique infrastructure, and therefore requires a specialized approach when working to solve the global airspace congestion issue. The work being done at Abu Dhabi International Airport, for example—where Airbus is collaborating with Etihad Airways to roll out optimized trajectories that shorten the approach paths to the runway—is different from the work in the mountainous airspace between Cusco and Lima. It is important to find a solution that is tailored to the distinctive needs of one challenge, while assuring its interoperability with other air traffic management systems on a regional and worldwide scale.
Making more efficient approaches can save time, money and the environment. Image from GE.
A significant effort along these lines is SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research), a collaborative initiative to reform the European airspace and unite all of the varying systems of its countries under a singular air traffic management program. Last month I attended CANSO’s World ATM Congress, where the consistent theme was enhancing the performance of airspace and doing so by all stakeholders working together. CANSO is committed to collaborating with its partners and stakeholders and is working to make sure all of the talk and proposals of the event are converted into actions and deliverables. A good example of this is CANSO’s commitment to work with IATA and its member airlines on the implementation of ICAO’s System Block Upgrades on the aircraft, further rollout of Performance-based Navigation and the implementation of ADS-B worldwide. These are important elements necessary for deployment of highways in the sky across the globe.
Ultimately, it is a puzzle with many unique and intricate pieces, and many players working to fit them together. Thanks to David’s invitation to allow me to speak to the passionate, informed community that he has worked to cultivate, in my coming posts I hope to discuss some of the regional efforts to implement a revolutionary technology that is improving the way we travel. I hope to provide informative and interesting insight into how the aviation industry is working together to accommodate the rising demand in air travel, and ensuring sustainable growth.
The GEnx-1B engine, that is used on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Image from GE.
This story was written by Steve Csonka, Director Environmental Strategy & ecomagination, GE Aviation for AirlineReporter.com.
As you may have inferred from Dale Carlson’s comments in an earlier blog post, many of us at GE Aviation are excited about our roles. I have been passionate about aviation since my teenage years when I took up general aviation flying – learning my “stick and rudder” skills in a Cessna 172 while living in the panhandle of West Virginia. I‘ve spent 27 years in the commercial aviation industry with airlines and with GE Aviation, and in my current role, I am focused on improving the sustainability of aviation so future generations can experience the same passion.
The value of the aviation enterprise is interwoven into the fabric of our worldwide society – providing fast, safe, and dependable transportation of people and goods. In fact, it is estimated that aviation is currently responsible for more than $2.2 trillion in global economic impact, or 3.5% of total worldwide gross domestic product.
However, we recognize that with our successes come additional challenges –noise around airports, local air quality emissions, greenhouse gases, and inflation of customer operating costs with rising fuel costs. The good news is that we continue to make progress in tackling these challenges using advanced technology. At GE, we call these efforts ecomagination – striving to deliver operating and environmental performance with technology. At GE Aviation, our sustainability efforts align with industry goals and focus on three pillars of improvement: operations, infrastructure, and technology.
For operational improvement, GE Aviation offers services that help customers make flight routes more efficient, schedule engine maintenance and “ClearCore” engine washing, and decide how much fuel to load on planes for peak operating performance. Every one of these procedures is critical for saving fuel and, in turn, costs and emissions.
On the infrastructure side, GE Aviation is looking beyond making efficient engines and is working with customers and regulatory authorities to make efficient flight paths. Stay tuned for more on this from GE Aviation’s Steve Fulton!
For the technology pillar, my colleague Dale explained in his guest post how GE Aviation researches and develops new, efficient technology. Whether it is the GEnx on the 787 and 747-8 (which just entered service), or CFM’s LEAP engine for the next generation single aisle transcontinental aircraft, GE’s technology enables our customers to burn less fuel, shrink the noise footprint around airports, and dramatically lower NOx emissions.
One innovation I’m excited to talk about is drop-in, renewable Jet fuel that, once commercialized, will enable the industry to achieve up to 80% reductions in net carbon emissions versus petroleum based fuel. The industry is also looking for alternative fuel sources that use a range of raw or waste materials that do not need to compete with food production or land use. So far, the industry has identified two pathways for the production of renewable Jet fuels, and is in the process of evaluating and validating at least five more.
Can you imagine a world where fuel comes from the waste stream and other biomass? I can. GE Aviation was one of the first companies, along with CFM, to test a biofuel-powered engine in flight. At last year’s Paris Air Show, GE Aviation showed an engine that was powered by 15 percent biofuel, and we will continue to discuss our biofuel-powered engines at this year’s Farnborough Air Show. Watch a video about our most recent renewable Jet fueled demonstration flights below, which, along with several other commercial flights, flew into Rio de Janeiro during the recent Rio+20 activities in June:
Renewable fuel development is occurring around the world, and we expect commercial production to commence over the next 2 years.
With all these innovations in operations, infrastructure and aircraft technology (including biofuels), I believe we have ample opportunity and reason to be passionate about the future of aviation. Stop by GE Aviation’s exhibit at the Farnborough Air Show this week to explore more of our sustainable tech: Booth #7, Hall 4.
This story was written by Dr. Dale R. Carlson, Advanced Technology and Preliminary Design, GE Aviation for AirlineReporter.com.
I’ve been passionate about aviation for as long as I can remember. So, as a leader of technology development for GE Aviation, I consider myself one of the luckiest guys in the world.
My team and I get to experiment with and investigate technology that will be used in the aviation industry decades from now … exciting things like electric and hybrid propulsion, self-healing materials and blended wing bodies. What most people don’t realize is the amount of time it takes to develop these complex, game-changing technologies.
It’s not like the consumer electronics world of computers and smartphones where new models become obsolete within six months. In our aviation world, developing new technology takes time, sometimes 30 years (or even more!).
Why does it take so long? Because we need to prove that every new technology does not negatively impact flight safety. You wouldn’t want it any other way!
Let’s take the introduction of composite materials – including carbon fiber – into a commercial turbofan engine, for example. We began working on composites development in the 1970’s through a NASA program, tested it in the 1980’s for the unducted fan engine, and finally commercially introduced it a decade later on the GE90 engine powering the Boeing 777 aircraft. This was a 25+ year process. Check out the video below for more information about the research and development of our composites.
As you can imagine, this exciting technology takes a lot of time, money and people to develop. GE spends more than $1 billion in R&D year over year. To get a better picture of how such an extensive R&D team works, see our new infographic of our global network of scientists and experts working to bring engines from concept to “first flight.”
GE Aviation RD Infographic. Click for larger.
Luckily, we also have tools today that enable us to build products more efficiently. Sometimes we can even use digital engine models with computer simulation as a means for certification testing (where appropriate). We also conduct module rig tests and individual component tests prior to testing the engine as a system. Watch the video below to see our flight test airplane in action.
In fact, we used these digital testing tools to certify the GEnx, our newest and most fuel-efficient jet engine yet. The GEnx will be on display at this year’s Farnborough Air Show next week, in addition to other military, systems and services offerings. I can’t wait to see what everyone else will be highlighting at the exhibition this year.