Airbus and the environment

  • 30-Jun-2008 06:46 EDT
Airbus quiet.jpg
Noise levels certified on the GP7200-engined A380 are equivalent to those already approved for the Rolls-Royce Trent-powered version of the aircraft (now in service with Singapore Airlines), reducing the airliner’s environmental effect. Airbus is now helping to research and evaluate the potential environmental friendliness of aviation GTL synthetic fuels.

Very large aircraft do not necessarily have to impose high noise levels on the environment, a fact that has been demonstrated by the Airbus A380’s appearance at international air shows and during its world tours. Now, Airbus is claiming its A380 as the quietest long-range aircraft in service. The aircraft, with Engine Alliance GP7200 powerplants, has received external noise levels validation from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the U.S. FAA. External noise certification was part of the process for the joint EASA and FAA type certification for the GP7200.

The noise levels certified on the GP7200-powered A380 are equivalent to those already approved on the Rolls-Royce Trent 900-powered A380, according to the company. The levels are 17 EPNdB (effective perceived noise in decibels) cumulative margin to the ICAO Chapter 4 noise standard, which is more stringent and voluntarily used by Airbus instead of the mandatory Chapter 3 standard. The company stated that the A380 was now “easily compliant” with today’s most stringent noise standards and “well prepared” for the future. Mario Heinen, Airbus Executive Vice President, A380 Program, said the aircraft “is consistently meeting and often exceeding its design targets.”

The Engine Alliance A380 generated at least 50% less noise than “its nearest competitor” at takeoff and on landing, claims Airbus. Both engine variants of the A380 meet the most stringent noise rules at any international airport, including London Heathrow’s QC2 for departures and QC0.5 for arrivals. Airbus regards that ability as being of major benefit both to A380 operators who have more flexibility to operate night-time flights, and to airports, because passenger capacity would be increased while limiting the impact of noise on the surrounding communities.

The certification program for the GP7200-powered A380, including noise testing, has been carried out with A380 flight test aircraft MSN009. In May of last year, that aircraft confirmed its low noise emissions during a series of certification tests that were performed at the Spanish Air Force base at Morón de la Frontera in southern Spain and jointly witnessed by European and U.S. noise authority specialists. Airbus has stated that compared to “the former largest commercial aircraft,” the A380 seated over 40% more passengers in a typical three-class, 525-seat configuration, with seat-mile costs 20% lower and range capability over 1000 nmi longer.

The A380’s fuel burn is also low. The company’s figures show that it consumes less than 3 L/100 km per passenger. The GP7200 validation statement came shortly after the announcement at the Dubai Air Show that Airbus was one of several major companies and organizations to sign an agreement to research the potential benefits of synthetic jet fuel in aerospace engines. The others are Qatar Airways, Qatar Petroleum, Qatar Fuel, Qatar Science and Technology Park, Rolls-Royce, and Shell.

Objective of the research work is to examine the feasibility and potential benefits of using GTL (gas-to-liquid) synthetic jet fuels, which takes natural gas and converts it to liquid kerosene. “The properties of GTL kerosene are largely similar to conventional jet fuel, making it a ‘drop-in’ replacement for today’s kerosene, capable of being used in today’s aircraft and airports without modification,” said the signatories in a joint statement. Focus of the research will be evaluating potential improvements in local air quality, fuel economy, and overall reduction in CO2 and other emissions. Specific studies are also to examine potential operational benefits for airlines, including enhanced payload-range, reduced fuel burn, and increased engine durability.

Initially, the synthetic fuels would be mixed with standard kerosene to enable the group to model aircraft and engine performance, with a view to exploring the potential of fully synthetic fuels.

Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Shell are members of the industry-wide Commercial Alternative Aviation Fuels Initiative (CAAFI). GTL fuels are being developed to meet international standards required for aviation use under the auspices of CAAFI.

“No one industry has all the answers,” said Christian Scherer, Executive Vice President, Strategy and Future Programs, Airbus. “Cooperation remains key to finding technology-driven solutions that address global and local environmental challenges facing us.”

Shell and Qatar Petroleum are building what is described as the “world-scale” integrated Pearl GTL complex. Due to start up at the end of the decade and located in Ras Laffan Industrial City, Qatar, Pearl GTL will produce 120,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day of condensate, liquified petroleum gas and ethane, and 140,000 barrels per day of cleaner, high quality GTL fuels and products. This will include 12,000 barrels a day (equivalent to some 500,000 t per annum) of GTL kerosene.

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