Monday, July 25, 2005

Mid-air refueling for commercial aircraft

The Times reports that:

"Passenger jets could be refuelled in mid-air under proposals by the aviation industry to save fuel and reduce the environmental damage from flights.

"Giant tanker aircraft would fill the tanks of up to four airliners in a single trip, reducing the total fuel burnt by about a fifth even after taking into account the fuel used by the tankers."

Wow - I didn't see that coming!

"The proposal has been put forward in a report by the Royal Aeronautical Society's Greener by Design group. The group includes representatives from the Department for Transport, Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Cranfield University."

Greener by Design was formed in 1999 by the Airport Operators Association (AOA), British Air Transport Association (BATA), Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS), and Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC). It brings together experts from the aviation industry with Government bodies and research institutions to seek practical, environmental, and "economically sustainable solutions to the challenge posed by aviation's impact on the environment."

"The report concludes: 'The potential benefits of air-to-air refuelling for long-haul flights are sufficient to justify a rigorous assessment of it from an environmental, logistical and economic standpoint.'

"John Green, the group's senior scientific adviser, said that existing long-range aircraft were an inefficient shape because they needed large fuel tanks and big engines to propel the extra weight.

"He said that fuel was so heavy that a third of what was used on long flights was burnt simply in carrying enough fuel to remain airborne for up to 18 hours. Airliners also waste several tonnes of fuel on take-off because of the enormous thrust needed to lift so much weight. Fuel accounts for almost half of the 395 tonnes that a British Airways 747 weighs when taking off from Heathrow bound for Singapore."

I guess we'll see!

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