formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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February 5, 2008 The Greening of Aviation

The Liberty Gazette
February 5, 2008

The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Visiting with folks during Liberty’s Recycling Day, we discussed environmental efforts in the aviation industry. We call it the Greening of Aviation.

One interesting development involves research of sharkskin. A research grant from the Lindbergh Foundation awarded to Dr. Amy Lang, U. of Alabama, will fund testing on Dr. Lang’s theory that some roughness on an airplane’s surface will break up the aerodynamic boundary layer, reducing drag by 30 percent. Reducing an airplane’s drag increases efficiency, and if that 30 percent is reached it would translate into billions of dollars in savings from reduced fuel burn.
Aircraft manufacturer, Embraer’s new division, the Environmental Strategies and Technologies Office, will contribute significant improvements to sustainable development. Meanwhile, Houston’s own Continental Airlines has proclaimed its commitment to promoting environmental responsibility, including a relationship with Sustainable Travel International, a non-profit group that provides education and support services for environmental conservation.

United Parcel Service is adding a new software package, “SafeRoute” to their air fleet which will change the way they fly arrivals. Instead of the more complex procedures this software, developed by UPS, will enable equipped airplanes to make continuous decent arrivals, improving safety and reducing noise, fuel burn, and emissions. It works by designating a tube of airspace–like a private traffic lane from altitude down to the runway. Current estimates are a 30 percent noise reduction, 34 percent reduction in emissions and 40-70 gallons less fuel burned per flight.

Linda: Aviation pioneer, Bertrand Piccard, is planning to circle the globe in 2011 in Solar Impulse, the aircraft he designed to operate completely on solar power; and GreenFlight International has been test-flying jets on 100 percent biofuel. Success on these flights has prompted them to plan an around-the-world flight later this year in a Learjet, using 100 percent biofuel.

Airports are more environmentally-friendly, too, such as Denver, Berlin and Tokyo’s major airports; and the FAA is reducing paper waste by providing more ways to inform pilots, mechanics, and others via electronic means. Meanwhile, the National Air Transportation Association has created a new Environmental Committee to research emissions, spill prevention and containment, changes to the Clean Water Act, and environmental impact of de-icing fluids.

Advanced Pilot Seminars offers a course on flying “green of peak,” a play on words in the aviation language, “lean of peak.” APS says it uses the most advanced engine cell in the U.S. and state-of-the-art multi-media technology to teach the best greening/leaning techniques. As an airplane increases in altitude, less fuel is needed in the mixture, so pilots lean the mixture to burn less. Flying lean of peak is cleaner for the airplane and the environment, cooler for the engine, and provides for a smoother ride.

If reading about these efforts inspires you to get involved, today’s your lucky day. NASA and CAFÉ are offering $300,000 in prizes in the 2008 General Aviation Technology Challenge, including a $50,000 “Green Prize” for noise reduction and environmental efficiency. Check it out at and click on the link to the 2008 GAT Challenge.

Here’s wishing you greener blue skies.

Mike and Linda can be reached at

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