Passenger planes will fly in formation – Airbus
PASSENGER planes flying in formation like birds could become a feature of aviation in years to come, Airbus has revealed.
The world-famous firm that has a factory in Filton predicts the development could happen on high-frequency routes from 2050.
Outlining a vision for the future last night, engineering executive vice president Charles Champion also said that by the middle of the 21st century flights in Europe and the United States could be an average 13 minutes shorter, saving about nine million tonnes of fuel per year.
In its latest vision for sustainable aviation in the future, Airbus envisages:
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âAircraft climbing more steeply on take-off to minimise noise and allow for shorter runways.
âHighly-intelligent aircraft able to "self-organise" and select the most efficient and environmentally- friendly routes
âPlanes free-gliding on their approach into airports to reduce emissions and noise
âPlanes clearing the runway quicker on landing and passengers reaching terminals faster
âThe use in aviation of sustainable biofuels and other potential energy sources such as electricity, hydrogen and solar power
âShorter journey times could be achieved by the optimisation of air traffic management and on-board technology systems.
Shorter flights could lead to the saving of more than 28 million tonnes of avoidable carbon dioxide emissions a year, as well as saving five million flying hours.
Mr Champion said: "Our engineers are continuously encouraged to think widely and come up with 'disruptive' ideas which will assist our industry in meeting the 2050 targets we have signed up to.
"These, and the other tough environmental targets, will only be met by a combination of investment in smarter aircraft design and optimising the environment in which the aircraft operates. That is why our latest Future by Airbus Smarter Skies concepts focus on not just what we fly, but how we may fly in 2050 and beyond."
Airbus will showcase a number of new developments at this year's ILA Berlin Air Show, from September 11-16, including the A320 with Sharklets – fuel-saving wing tip devices.
Earlier this week, John Leahy, Airbus' chief operating officer for customers, said Airbus was "well positioned" to meet the continued upward demand worldwide for new aircraft during the next 20 years.
Airbus predicts passenger numbers will grow by 4.7 per cent a year and more than 27,000 passenger aircraft of 100 seats or more will be needed between 2012 and 2031.
This will include about 1,700 very large aircraft, such as the Airbus A380 superjumbo for which the wings are designed and built in Filton.
"This generates the need for bigger aircraft like the A380," Mr Leahy said. "We are ready to respond to these needs. Airbus is on track for deliveries of 30 A380s this year – having provided 81 of these aircraft to date, which are operating more than 100 flights per day, carrying over one million revenue passengers per month."
He noted that the world's aviation "mega-cities," where airports serve more than 10,000 daily long-haul passengers, will increase from 42 in 2011 to more than 90 by 2031.
Mr Leahy added: "Aside from growth in international traffic, by 2031 four of the world's biggest traffic flows will all be domestic – US, China, within Western Europe and India – and these account for a third of world traffic."