Staff blog: Aviation

Two recent ICCT studies on the fuel efficiency of airlines revealed different gaps between the most and least efficient airlines operating transatlantic and transpacific routes. Could this be due to passenger load and frieght carrage?
One might assume that the larger the plane, the more fuel-efficient it is per passenger due to economies of scale. But in the case of flights over the Pacific, conventional wisdom turns out to be wrong. Size matters, but not in the way you think.
Would ICCT's recent transpacific fuel efficiency ranking change if dedicated freighters were taken into account? Did the rankings incorrectly reward airlines for carrying belly freight when putting that cargo on a dedicated freighter would have saved more fuel overall? The numbers show that, since increasing payload to aircraft's structural maximum increases the fuel efficiency of each flight, belly freight is indeed one weird trick for improving airline efficiency.
Bombardier's new aircraft is mired in trade disputes, and that's creating some uncertainty over Delta Air Lines' order for 75 CS100 planes. But if Delta keeps its eye on the fuel savings it will reap—and remembers that the clean-sheet design CSeries is going to easily meet the ICAO CO2 standard—it will buy those aircraft, and more.
Next year, EPA has the chance to propose an ambitious GHG standard for aircraft to promote low carbon aviation. It alluded to the possibility of going further than the UN’s weak recommendations in the 2016 endangerment finding, where it argued that it would set aircraft standards “at least as stringent as ICAO’s.” Here’s hoping that EPA agrees with Boeing, GE, and, yes, ICCT and goes further than ICAO’s least common denominator standard.
One of the key challenges faced by engine and airframe manufacturers in developing fuel-efficient products is the looming risk that their significant investment will not pay off. The more this risk is lowered, the better the chance that we will see a much-needed improvement of aircraft fuel efficiency. In this final post of the series, we explore ways to lower the risk faced by these risk-averse industry players.