3Condensation trails (contrails), which are caused due to the emission of H
O are of particularconcern to environmentalists. Contrails “consist primarily of water droplets and ice, and areformed when water vapour released from burning jet fuel condense at higheraltitudes” (David Suzuki Foundation, 2009). A cluster of contrails in busy airspace is shownin fig. 2 below. The effect of contrails is “to trap heat that would otherwise escape from theearth, which contributes to global warming”. During the day, contrails present in the Earth’satmosphere also serve to reflect some of the Sun’s heat (reducing the net heating). Howeverthis effect is obviously not present at night. According to a report carried out at theUniversity of Leeds (2006), “even though only one in four flights over the UK occur duringthe night, these flights are responsible for at least 60% of the climate warming associatedwith aircraft”. As a result of this, night time flying restrictions could help to reduce the effectof aviation activities on climate change.
Figure 2 An example of contrails caused by aircraft flights – David Suzuki Foundation (2009).
The fuel consumption of an aircraft is seen to be heavily dependent on its weight. For thisreason efforts are made by airlines to reduce weight can reduce the impact of aviation onglobal emissions, and save money on fuel costs. For a typical jet aircraft, “100kg of excessweight requires an additional 5000 kg of fuel per aircraft per year” (Airbus, 2004). Thedesign of an aircraft only plays a part in achieving reductions in fuel burn. Airlines may alsoachieve efficiency through:
Avoiding excess weight such as rubbish, unnecessary equipment and additionalsupplies.
Adopting climb, cruise and descent that minimise fuel burn.
Adding as little fuel reserves as possible, while adhering to regulations of the relevantauthority.
Keeping the aircraft ‘aerodynamically clean’.
Loading the aircraft correctly – to achieve a desirable CG position. (Airbus, 2004)