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The future of flying is batwing – and it's all to save the planet

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  • Pat Neuman
    Britain The Times November 02, 2005 The future of flying is batwing – and it s all to save the planet By Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent AIRLINE
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2005
      The Times November 02, 2005

      The future of flying is batwing – and it's all to save the planet
      By Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent

      AIRLINE passengers of the future will have to do without window
      seats and fly in giant "batwing" aircraft as a result of aviation
      industry proposals to tackle climate change.

      Greenhouse gas emissions from flights will continue to increase for
      at least another 20 years — even under the most optimistic timetable
      for introducing these new planes.

      But today the industry will present a vision for air travel of the
      future in which technology eventually solves the problem. The
      Greener by Design group, which includes Airbus, Rolls-Royce and the
      Department for Transport, believes that the new airliners will enter
      passenger service in 2025 and that, by 2055, they will make up a
      third of the world's fleet, or more than 10,000 aircraft.

      Known as "flying wings", the new airliners will be based on designs
      that were produced by Sir Frederick Handley Page in in Britain 1961.

      The entire fuselage would be turned into one wing, which would
      create far less drag than a conventional cigar-shaped fuselage.
      Engines would sit on top, with the wing shielding the noise from the

      Passengers would sit in rows of up to 40 seats across. Only a
      handful of the 500 seats would be next to windows but those
      passengers lucky enough to get them would have a spectacular forward
      view. However, the aircraft would have to bank more gently to avoid
      nausea among those seated nearer the wing-tips, on the ends of rows.

      Sir Frederick's design was considered too expensive and risky by the
      industry in 1961, and he died the next year, a disappointed man.

      But his ideas have now been resurrected as the prospect of tough
      environmental controls and the rising cost of fuel force aircraft
      manufacturers to think more radically.

      Boeing is working on designs for a military flying wing that will
      serve as a troop carrier or tanker. Cranfield University, in
      Bedfordshire, is producing a scale model for Boeing, which will be
      used for flight tests.

      Airbus is also working on a flying wing design under a four-year,
      £20 million research project that is funded by the European Union
      and expected to report in 2009.

      Professor John Green, chairman of the Greener by Design technology
      group, said that flying wings would consume only a third of the fuel
      used by existing aircraft. They will be constructed of toughened
      plastic, rather than aluminium, to reduce their weight by several
      tonnes. The whole outer surface would be covered in millions of tiny
      holes, drilled by laser, to reduce drag by sucking in air as it
      flows over the wing.

      The impact that today's conventional aircraft would eventually have
      on the world's climate would be reduced even further by changes in
      the way that airlines operate.

      All airliners will alter their cruising altitude to avoid the
      conditions that form condensation trails, which many scientists now
      believe to be more damaging than carbon dioxide emissions because of
      the way they trap heat in the atmosphere. Professor Green said that
      airliners could also reduce the amount of fuel they burn by flying
      in formation, as jet fighters do. Taken together, these changes
      would bring total aircraft emissions below their present levels by
      2025 — despite the expected number of flights being doubled.

      The airline industry hopes that the report, which was presented to
      officials at No 10 last week, will convince ministers that there is
      no need to impose taxes on aviation fuel.

      But green groups last night questioned the industry's claim that air
      travel could continue to expand without sacrificing the environment.

      Jeff Gazzard, co-ordinator of the Greenskies Alliance, said: "The
      industry is trying to present a plausible scenario in order to carry
      on growing as fast as they can.

      "But they have yet to offer a plausible timetable for introducing
      flying wings.

      "They are trying to imagine their way out of the problem with
      artists' impressions that are worthy of Walt Disney. The only
      realistic solution is to fly less."


      Wednesday, 02 Nov 2005
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