Environmentalists and the South East Regional Assembly (SEERA) think that we should just simply fly less because it is such a polluting means of travel but cheap flights have given people new freedoms that they are reluctant to give up. Also airports like Gatwick are key economic drivers. Could the batwing be the answer?
The Greener by Design Group, which includes plane makers and the Department for Transport (DfT) believe that a 45 year old design might be the salvation of the airline industry.
Since the demise of coal powered steam trains, planes are undeniably the means of travel that produces the most greenhouse gases but the growth of air travel over the last two decades has been so phenomenal that politicians are reluctant to limit people’s freedom.
Sir Fred Handley Page designed the batwing plane in the 1960s. The entire fuselage is a single wing that produces far less drag than the traditional plane and engines sit on top of the wing.
The plane would have 500 seats with rows of 40 across extending right into the wings. Only a handful would be next to a window.
Batwing aircraft would consume only about a third of the fuel of a normal aircraft and they could fly in formation to further reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Their cruising altitude could be altered to reduce vapour trails which also contribute to global warming. Professor John Green – Chair of the Greener by Design Group – suggests that these changes could reduce total aircraft emission to their present levels by 2025 despite a doubling of the expected number of flights.
The earliest that the batwing could be in service is 2025 and they could make up a third of all aircraft by 2055 but environmentalists have condemned the idea as being “worthy of Walt Disney” and are still pushing for a reduction in air travel.
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