Aircraft energy efficiency has not improved in a decade

16.12.2009   (Transport & Environment)
A new study on aviation says the pace of improvements in aircraft energy efficiency is very
slow, and no progress has been made in the last decade. It calls for a carbon
dioxide emissions standard for aircraft already in production.

The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has examined emissions
from more than 25,000 planes produced between 1960 and 2008. It shows improvements
in fuel efficiency for the first three decades, but virtually no improvements
in the last 20 years when there have been few new aircraft designs.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation recently proposed a CO2 standard
for new aircraft designs, but rejected suggestions that designs currently in production
should be subjected to a maximum level of emissions.

But Daniel Rutherford, a co-author of the ICCT’s report, says this will mean
improvements will happen far too slowly. ‘Conventional wisdom holds that fuel
prices drive constant improvements in new aircraft efficiency,’ he said, ‘but
our analysis suggests efficiency improvements only tend to come with the introduction
of new designs, which are much less common today.’

As a result, the ICCT fears that without a CO2 standard covering aircraft from
both new and existing lines, airframe manufacturers could have a financial incentive
to delay the introduction of more efficient engines in favour of older, unregulated

In a separate development, the head of the low-fares airline EasyJet has accused
airframe makers of delaying delivery of cleaner, more fuel-efficient planes. ‘They
are in no hurry to bring them out,’ Andy Harrison told a news conference, ‘because
the cash flow they have from the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320 narrow-bodied planes
is what they are interested in, and they want to keep that going.’

Responding to the accusation, a spokesperson for Airbus told Air & Business
Travel News that technology to make planes quieter was available, as was technology to combat
, but that combined technology tackling both noise and emissions concerns was still in development
and ‘would not be available for around another 10 years.’
The study (20 pages) is at