I am thinking of all of you that receive and read my posts. I am confident that, while it make take much longer than any of us would like, we will emerge from the pandemic in time. I certainly hope and pray that we and all of our loved ones and friends are healthy and sound now and at that time.
I imagine that the new normal will be different and some of our behaviors that we used to take for granted will not return to the past status quo. One aspect of an altered reality will be airline travel. Most of us didn’t think twice about heading to the airport and jumping on a flight to all points on the compass. Not only do I anticipate that commercial airline travel will be slow to recover but will be permanently altered. Not sure exactly how but I can’t imagine we’ll be as nonchalant as before. Remote work, teleconferencing, lowered costs for businesses and traveling to overseas locals will all have an impact.
In thinking about airplane travel, I have copied two related articles. They both are about how a warming atmosphere are changing the aviation industry. The first article is about the endeavor to decarbonize it by developing electric airplane engines. NASA is now getting engaged. Electric flight is far behind electric cars and trucks but will develop over time. And while only 2% of global CO2 emissions, they need to be eliminated and eventually will be.
“widespread adoption of electric airplanes…would cut a massive slice out of current emissions levels. Commercial aviation represents 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions and 12% of transportation-sector emissions — and the raw numbers continue to grow.”
“NASA’s first all-electric airplane may soon take flight from California’s Armstrong Flight Research Center… NASA’s demonstrated investment in perfecting an aircraft with zero in-flight emissions offers a glimpse into the future of air travel.”
“”The X-57 Mod II aircraft delivery to NASA is a significant event, marking the beginning of a new phase in this exciting electric X-plane project,””
Regardless of how airplane engines are powered now or in the future, a more disruptive climate is already impacting air travel. It’s not your imagination that if you travel by air, and especially if you do it frequently, that you are experiencing more and longer delays and greater amounts of turbulence.
“Climate change is causing increasingly erratic behavior in the summer jet stream”
“Beyond more frequent, longer storms, airlines also have detected more choppy air.”
“Extreme weather is no longer exceptional…
Weather delays in the U.S. have been trending higher the past four years, upending historical patterns and jumping to an 11-year high for this year’s summer storm season…
Fast-moving summer storms tend to cause more last-minute disruptions because they’re hard to predict. But airlines have also noticed that those events — as well as ice and snowstorms in winter — last longer than in the past”
“”Our perspective is, climate change is real and we now have to prepare to deal with that reality,””
Just as we may look back on the recent past as the golden age of water, we may also have the same attitude about air travel. The industry is certainly currently in and also heading for an unpredictable future as COVID-19 fades into the past and we all worry about the next pandemic now that we realize that the risk is real.
NASA’s first all-electric airplane may soon take flight from California’s Armstrong Flight Research Center.
The agency-designed plane, dubbed the X-57 Maxwell, was commissioned about a year ago from Empirical Systems Aerospace (ESAero), which delivered the Mod II phase of the vehicle to NASA last week. It still faces extensive ground testing before being cleared for flight tests, but NASA’s demonstrated investment in perfecting an aircraft with zero in-flight emissions offers a glimpse into the future of air travel.
Though widespread adoption of electric airplanes is unlikely before the yet-to-come pinnacle of the electric vehicle revolution on the ground, such a transition would cut a massive slice out of current emissions levels. Commercial aviation represents 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions and 12% of transportation-sector emissions — and the raw numbers continue to grow.
A key goal of NASA’s electric plane project is to use the new aircraft to develop certification standards for an emerging electric aviation market before development in the private sector spins out of control. A press release from the agency states that evaluations on the X-57 will be made available to regulators and industry leaders.
Private companies at the forefront of electrifying aviation have mainly focused their efforts on building hybrid vehicles. Startups such as Zunum Aero and Ampaire have sold small numbers of limited-capacity hybrid electric aircraft, most seating fewer than 12 people (Greenwire, June 28).
The all-electric market is even smaller, with Israel’s Eviation at the forefront after their announcement of a nine-seat all-electric model at the Paris Air Show in June. Eviation’s plane won’t make its first flight until 2022.
It’s possible that NASA’s X-57 testing program won’t just inform regulatory standards for the industry, but will help push the industry forward as the agency’s commitment to electric aircraft evolves based on the results of the new plane’s performance.
“The X-57 Mod II aircraft delivery to NASA is a significant event, marking the beginning of a new phase in this exciting electric X-plane project,” said X-57 Project Manager Tom Rigney.
ESAero plans to deliver two other configurations of all-electric aircraft to NASA’s Armstrong facility as part of the project. The agency shared that it also recently completed successful testing on a new wing design for the coming Mods III and IV.
Extreme weather is no longer exceptional, and that’s forcing changes at some of the world’s most diligent storm trackers: airlines.
Weather delays in the U.S. have been trending higher the past four years, upending historical patterns and jumping to an 11-year high for this year’s summer storm season, according to government data for the 30 biggest airports. In June, for example, United Airlines Holdings Inc.’s Denver hub registered as many disruptive storms as it had for the entire previous summer.
“We’re going to anticipate that the summer weather is probably going to be a little more difficult than traditionally — that this is not going to be changing,” Delta Air Lines Inc. Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian said in an interview. “We’ve seen a pattern here, certainly in the last couple of years.”
Fast-moving summer storms tend to cause more last-minute disruptions because they’re hard to predict. But airlines have also noticed that those events — as well as ice and snowstorms in winter — last longer than in the past, said Jim DeYoung, United’s vice president of network operations, citing conversations at industry gatherings.
The airline industry’s experience tracks scientific consensus that global warming is affecting the vast systems responsible for nor’easters, blizzards and thunderstorms. Climate change is causing increasingly erratic behavior in the summer jet stream, which may be linked to “remarkable weather extremes” in recent years, said Michael Mann, director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center and co-author of a 2018 study on the topic.
To environmental activists, airlines aren’t just victims of climate change; they’re also perpetrators, as burning jet fuel emits greenhouse gases. But whatever the cause, carriers have been forced to address the effects, as have industries from dairy farming to auto retailing.
United has overhauled its system to re-accommodate passengers and improved how it routes planes around storms. American Airlines Group Inc. is beefing up staff to handle diverted flights. Delta is throwing out its old assumptions about how bad storms will be. In the winter, carriers cancel flights and move planes and crews to unaffected airports so service can resume quickly once a storm system has passed.
Severe weather outbreaks from last winter into this summer were “a turning point,” DeYoung said.
“Rather than the storms affecting operations for two or three hours, they seem to last all day,” he said. Chicago-based United is building tools to respond more quickly to thunderstorms that “pop up out of nowhere.”
United and other carriers are ensuring that smaller airports that receive diverted planes during storms have the staff and equipment to handle them. United also is providing crews and passengers with more specific details on how weather will affect flights.
“Our perspective is, climate change is real and we now have to prepare to deal with that reality,” DeYoung said.
Beyond more frequent, longer storms, airlines also have detected more choppy air. Course and altitude changes to avoid turbulence cost U.S. carriers as much as $100 million a year and consume an additional 160 million gallons of fuel, according to a recent study by insurer Allianz SE and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Each minute of delay costs an airline $74.20, according to the trade group Airlines for America. That puts the total tally at more than $1 billion for the roughly 14 million minutes of weather-related flight delays tracked by the Federal Aviation Administration at the 30 biggest U.S. airports for the latest fiscal year.
Delta no longer can assume that delays will be relatively consistent year-to-year so is re-setting its assumptions annually based on new data. The Atlanta-based carrier also is bringing in more employees, from pilots to tarmac workers, sooner during storms to help offset shortages caused by delays, CEO Bastian said.
Delta and other airlines are also adding buffer time to their schedules for periods prone to storms so that staffing plans and passenger itineraries don’t have to get changed at the last minute.
While Southwest Airlines Co. said it hasn’t adjusted operations in response to changing weather trends, it does have new tools to deal with delays. The Dallas-based carrier recently began rolling out an automatic rebooking function for when flights are disrupted and started scanning bags at planes to better track when they are loaded on a new flight because of a cancellation.
American has begun using more airports to take diverted flights from its Dallas-Fort Worth hub — reducing its reliance on Austin, Texas — and has increased staffing to coordinate diversions. The Fort Worth-based airline also has invested in improved forecasting and is developing an app to help displaced flight crews find hotels faster, said JonCarlo Gulbranson, American’s vice president of operations and crew performance.
“It’s predominantly technology and being smarter with our current resources,” he said. — Mary Schlangenstein, Bloomber