FAA: New tech, fuels necessary for cleaner future
18 June 2014, 2:55 p.m.
by Ben Iannotta, Aerospace America editor-in-chief
The navigation improvements being rolled out under the FAA’s NextGen initiative won’t by themselves bring the industry in line with the ambitious carbon reduction goals for aviation laid out in a 2012 policy statement, the FAA’s Carl Burleson told an audience at AVIATION 2014 Wednesday.
Burleson said improvements in engine technology and alternative fuels will also be needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 2005 levels by 2020, and “then reduce them thereafter, all while allowing the system to grow.”
He highlighted engine and aircraft research as top among the steps that will be necessary to meet the greenhouse gas goal, and also noise reduction goals.
“Certainly, operational improvements are important, but the reality is accelerating technology development in the aircraft and the engine is absolutely essential,” he said. “This is going to remain the critical technology path if we’re really going to reduce the environmental footprint of aviation,” he said.
Burleson is an economist and the FAA’s assistant administrator for policy, international affairs and environment.
He reminded the audience that the FAA is about to start the second phase of its CLEEN program, short for Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise. Contractors are conducting engine research under that initiative. Each dollar the government spends is matched by a dollar from the contractors.
Burleson said too often important new technologies never make it across what he and others call a “valley of death” separating research breakthroughs from operational implementation. “The CLEEN program has really been developed to try to bridge that valley of death. I think it’s been very successful,” he said.
As for fuels, Burleson said work on alternatives to kerosene is showing promise, even if not all fuels “actually work out.” Among the challenges is that production of biofuels can’t be allowed to compete with food production, he said. On top of that, the aircraft must be able to accept the fuels without expensive design changes.
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