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Historical Fuel Efficiencies of Regional Aircraft

Historical Fuel Efficiencies of Regional Aircraft

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Published by Brian Xistos
To develop approaches that effectively reduce aircraft emissions, it is necessary to
understand the mechanisms that have enabled historical improvements in aircraft efficiency. This
paper focuses on the impact of regional aircraft on the U.S. aviation system and examines the
technological, operational and cost characteristics of turboprop and regional jet aircraft. Regional
aircraft are 40% to 60% less fuel efficient than their larger narrow- and wide-body counterparts,
while regional jets are 10% to 60% less fuel efficient than turboprops. Fuel efficiency differences
can be explained largely by differences in aircraft operations, not technology. Direct operating
costs per revenue passenger kilometer are 2.5 to 6 times higher for regional aircraft because they
operate at lower load factors and perform fewer miles over which to spread fixed costs. Further,
despite incurring higher fuel costs, regional jets are shown to have operating costs similar to
turboprops when flown over comparable stage lengths.
To develop approaches that effectively reduce aircraft emissions, it is necessary to
understand the mechanisms that have enabled historical improvements in aircraft efficiency. This
paper focuses on the impact of regional aircraft on the U.S. aviation system and examines the
technological, operational and cost characteristics of turboprop and regional jet aircraft. Regional
aircraft are 40% to 60% less fuel efficient than their larger narrow- and wide-body counterparts,
while regional jets are 10% to 60% less fuel efficient than turboprops. Fuel efficiency differences
can be explained largely by differences in aircraft operations, not technology. Direct operating
costs per revenue passenger kilometer are 2.5 to 6 times higher for regional aircraft because they
operate at lower load factors and perform fewer miles over which to spread fixed costs. Further,
despite incurring higher fuel costs, regional jets are shown to have operating costs similar to
turboprops when flown over comparable stage lengths.

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09/26/2011

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The Historical Fuel Efficiency Characteristics of Regional Aircraft from Technological, Operational, and Cost Perspectives

Raffi Babikian, Stephen P. Lukachko and Ian A. Waitz* Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics Massachusetts Institute of Technology 77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139

ABSTRACT To develop approaches that effectively reduce aircraft emissions, it is necessary to understand the mechanisms that have enabled historical improvements in aircraft efficiency. This paper focuses on the impact of regional aircraft on the U.S. aviation system and examines the technological, operational and cost characteristics of turboprop and regional jet aircraft. Regional aircraft are 40% to 60% less fuel efficient than their larger narrow- and wide-body counterparts, while regional jets are 10% to 60% less fuel efficient than turboprops. Fuel efficiency differences can be explained largely by differences in aircraft operations, not technology. Direct operating costs per revenue passenger kilometer are 2.5 to 6 times higher for regional aircraft because they operate at lower load factors and perform fewer miles over which to spread fixed costs. Further, despite incurring higher fuel costs, regional jets are shown to have operating costs similar to turboprops when flown over comparable stage lengths. Keywords: Regional aircraft, environment, regional jet, turboprop 1. INTRODUCTION The rapid growth of worldwide air travel has prompted concern about the influence of aviation activities on the environment. Demand for air travel has grown at an average rate of 9.0% per year since 1960 and at approximately 4.5% per year over the last decade (IPCC, 1999; FAA, 2000a). Barring any serious economic downturn or significant policy changes, various
*

Contact author: 617-253-0218 (phone), 617-258-6093 (fax), iaw@mit.edu (email)

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organizations have estimated future worldwide growth will average 5% annually through at least 2015 (IPCC, 1999; Boeing, 2000; Airbus, 2000). As with all modes of transportation, improvements in the energy efficiency of the aviation system have failed to keep pace with industry growth, resulting in a net increase in fuel use and emissions with potential climate impacts (Lee et al., 2001). Carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapor (H2O), nitrogen oxides (NOX), sulfur oxides (SOX), and particulates (soot), are examples of aircraft emissions which may alter atmospheric processes. A scientific assessment published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) attributes 3.5% of the total radiative forcing resulting from human activities to aviation and suggests that the impact of aircraft emissions at altitude is potentially twice as severe with respect to climate change when compared to ground level emissions (IPCC, 1999).1 The forcing contribution of aircraft emissions is expected to increase in future decades as aviation fuel consumption continues to grow. Governments, airlines and manufacturers are currently debating the need for future limits on aircraft emissions and the effectiveness of various emission-reduction strategies. At the same time, regional aircraft are playing an increasingly important role in the evolution of U.S. airline operations.2 Traffic flown by regional airlines grew almost 20% in 1999 in the U.S. and is expected to grow 7.4% annually during the next decade, compared to 4% to 6% for the major U.S. airlines (FAA, 2000a). This growth has been spurred by the widespread adoption of the regional jet (RJ), which has allowed airlines to expand hub-and-spoke operations, replace larger jets in low-density markets, replace or add to turboprop (TP) equipment in longer short-haul markets, and create new hub-bypass routes (Trigerio, 1999; FAA, 2000b; Dresner et al., 2002). Regional jets made up ~25% of the regional aircraft fleet in 2000, up from only 4.2% in 1996 and their share is expected to increase to nearly 50% by 2011 (FAA, 2001). The success of the RJ has been largely attributed to their popularity with travelers, who prefer them because they are more comfortable, quieter and faster than TP's (FAA, 2000b). Although regional aircraft currently perform just under 4% of domestic revenue

Radiative forcing expresses the change to the energy balance of the earth-atmosphere system in watts per square meter (Wm-2). A positive forcing implies a net warming of the earth, and a negative value implies cooling. For the purpose of this study, regional aircraft are referred to as those with more than 19 but fewer than 100 seats. Large aircraft, on the other hand, refer to aircraft with more than 100 seats.
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The same technological metrics for large aircraft types were taken from Lee (2000). 2000a). Regional jets are designed to fly at altitudes flown by larger commercial aircraft. aircraft kilometers. JIG. 2000. the increased use of RJ's is changing the dynamics of airport and airway congestion. and cost characteristics using an integrated database of aircraft performance parameters. revenue passenger kilometers (RPK).passenger kilometers (FAA. Differences between turboprops and regional jets are highlighted to provide insight into the potential impact of the growth of regional aircraft use on the energy efficiency of the U. 3 . Detailed traffic and financial statistics were obtained from the U. Traffic data includes. Gunston. 2. In addition.S.2. they account for almost 7% of jet fuel use and for 40% to 50% of total departures (ATA.and wide-body aircraft. airline operations. Eurocontrol. and costs. aviation system. Department of Transportation (DOT) Form 41 Schedule T2 and P5. this paper quantifies and explains the historical energy efficiency of regional aircraft through an investigation of their technological and operational characteristics. To assist in such an evaluation. respectively (DOT. and fuels issued. airlines operating regional aircraft. 2000. Future regulations or agreements aimed at reducing the environmental impact of aviation will need to consider the rising importance of regional aircraft to the U. but rather from airlines operating both regional aircraft and those with more than 60 seats. and propulsion efficiencies of thirtythree of the most important regional aircraft introduced in the last forty years were compiled from published sources and through correspondence with industry representatives (ICAO. It further relates trends in energy efficiency to aircraft operating costs. financial measures. operational. Regional jets also require longer runways than TP's. The characteristics of regional aircraft are also compared to those of larger narrow. available seat kilometers (ASK). 2001).S. structural. DATA AND METHODS Trends in regional aircraft energy use were related to technological. aviation system. among other statistics. providing alternative perspectives from which to analyze technological evolution. 2001). 1998.S. 1995. the statistics presented herein are not compiled from all U. 2001). RAA. and traffic statistics. Due to DOT reporting rules. increasing high-altitude traffic and burdening airspace capacity. The aerodynamic.S. which may strain already congested airports.

while investment costs (I) consist of depreciation and amortization accounts. 2001). Flying operations costs including fuel. 3.3 When appropriate. EI and EU are related by the load factor (α). Cost data from Schedule P5. is a measure of how much energy is required to perform a unit of actual work—moving a passenger one kilometer. The energy efficiencies of aircraft are measured by the specific energy usage (EU) and specific energy intensity (EI). is a useful metric for evaluating aircraft environmental performance. the ratio of boarded passengers to available seats. Crew costs in this case only consist of pilot.Currently. 2001). EU indicates how much energy is required to perform a unit of potential work—moving a single seat one kilometer—and is closely related to environmental performance of the aircraft system itself. Using as benchmarks the Lockheed L-188 and the DHC-8-300. The average EU of TP's and RJ's are plotted versus year of introduction along with the overall fleet efficiencies. about 60% of all RPK's are performed by regional airlines reporting on Form 41 (FAA. copilot and other flight personnel salaries. expressed in units of energy consumed per ASK (Joules/ASK) and energy consumed per revenue passenger kilometer (Joules/RPK). respectively. they are taken together as the DOC+I. and direct maintenance costs make up the direct operating cost (DOC). in comparison. related to energy consumed. 3 4 . as cabin crew costs are not reported on Form 41. All costs were discounted to 1996 dollars using GDP deflators provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the U. size. mission. EI = EU α (1) Energy usage varies greatly for different types of aircraft according to the level of technological advancement. The vertical bars in the figure represent the range of values obtained for each aircraft type over the period 1968-1999 on a per annum basis.S. propulsion system type and various operational efficiencies. THE ENERGY INTENSITY OF REGIONAL AIRCRAFT Energy efficiency. Figure 1 shows the historical EU characteristics of regional aircraft.2 was divided into direct operating costs (DOC) and investment related costs (I). Department of Commerce (DOC. EI. Load factors close to one signal that an aircraft and its fuel are being effectively utilized. as shown in Equation (1). crew. The energy usage of regional aircraft consistently improved over this period.

Figure 1 also shows that the regional aircraft fleet average is heavily weighted towards the EU of the TP fleet. improving at an annual rate of around 1. the EU of turboprops has decreased by ~40%. reflecting the fact that TP's have traditionally made up a majority of the aircraft operated.5%. the EU of the regional fleet decreased by approximately 22%. Regional jets improved ~50% over a similar time period. reflect the evolution of 5 . the beginning of such a trend is already apparent. between 1975 and 1992. the fleet EU curve will approach the average usage of RJ's. In fact. averaging almost 2% annual improvement when the highly successful CV-880 and ERJ145 are used as benchmarks.6 5 BAC111-400 Regional Jet Fleet B1900 BAC111-200 BAE146-100 J31 F28-4000/6000 4 CV880 Regional Aircraft Fleet BAE-146-300 F100 RJ200/ER SA227 RJ85 EU (MJ/ASK) 3 F27 CV600 F28-1000 L188A-08/188C SA226 DHC7 S360 BAE146-200 DHC8-100 ATR42 S340A EMB120 J41 D328 DHC8-300 BAE-ATP ATR72 EMB145 2 Turboprop Fleet 1 Turboprops Regional Jets 0 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 Year 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 Figure 1: The EU of regional aircraft and fleet averages. although they have improved their EU at a faster rate and have recently approached the efficiencies of modern turboprops. Figure 2 shows the EU of regional aircraft compared to thirty-one larger aircraft studied in Lee et al. Regional jets have been approximately 10% to 60% less efficient than TP's.5% following the introduction of the new generation of RJ's in 1992. but increased by approximately 0. As regional jets such as the CRJ-200 and the ERJ-145 replace TP's and become an increasingly important part of regional airline operations. introduced in 1959 and 1989 respectively. These aircraft. This suggests that the average fleet EU may increase in the future. (2001). introduced between 1959 and 1995.

Engine efficiencies were quantified in terms of thrust specific fuel consumption (TSFC).5 4 Regional Aircraft Fleet EU (MJ/ASK) 3 2 1 Large Aircraft Regional Aircraft Large Aircraft Fleet 0 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 Year Figure 2: The EU of regional aircraft compared to large aircraft. structural efficiency was evaluated using operating empty weight (OEW) divided by maximum take-off weight (MTOW). 4. fuel and payload. Finally. Aircraft technology characteristics were described by three aircraft performance metrics. and large aircraft were analyzed to explain historical reductions in EU. TECHNOLOGICAL AND OPERATIONAL INFLUENCES ON ENERGY USAGE The technological and operational characteristics of regional jets. Increases in TSFC have been 6 .S. aircraft technology since the beginning of the jet era and were selected to represent the U. the thrust produced by the engine divided by the rate of fuel flow. fleet. a measure of the structural weight necessary to carry the structure itself.1 Engine Efficiencies Cruise values of thrust specific fuel consumption (TSFC) have improved approximately 25% since 1960 for both RJ and TP engines. which relate directly to the energy usage of aircraft in cruise flight according to the specific air range (SAR) equation. turboprops. as shown in Figure 3. Historically. Aerodynamic efficiencies were assessed in terms of maximum lift over drag ratio (L/DMAX). 4. regional aircraft EU has been 10% to 100% higher than that of their larger counterparts.

high-bypass ratio engines contributed to the noticeable drop in TSFC values in the early 1970's. evident in Figure 3.5 and 6. Initially developed for longhaul. high-bypass ratio engines were not installed on smaller aircraft until more than a decade later. small jet engines exhibit higher TSFC's than larger engines. whose product is the overall propulsion system efficiency (ηO). However. were equipped with low-bypass engines. For engines with bypass ratios between 4. They generally have fewer compressor stages or they utilize space saving but less efficient centrifugal compressors. both introduced in the first half of the 1980s. and as a result. This trend is partly caused by the lower pressure ratios. One result of this delay in technology adoption is that the TSFCCR values for RJ engines have been 10% to 25% higher than those of large aircraft since the early 1970s. 7 . those with thrust ratings smaller than 100kN are 5% to 10% less efficient than engines with thrust ratings above 100kN. the result of improvements in propulsive and thermal efficiencies (ηP and ηT). Propulsive efficiencies have significantly improved with the development of the high-bypass ratio engine. For example. lower thermal efficiencies of small engines. Even when the influence of large differences in bypass ratio is accounted for. Only in the latter half of the decade were turbofans developed for RJ's and the smallest of what are called large aircraft in this study.30 B707-300 B720-000 25 20 15 10 B737-400 B727-200/231A F28-4000/6000 BAE-146-300 DC9-40 BAE146-100/200/RJ70 RJ200/ER F28-1000 B737-300 DC9-10 B747-400 DC9-50 CV880 EMB145 DC9-30 B737-100/200 RJ85 F100 MD80 & DC9-80 D328 EM170 B747-100 DC10-30 B767-300/ER L1011-500 B747-200/300 B757-200 F27 RJ700 B737-500/600 CV600 B767-200/ER DC10-10 MD11 DHC7 J31 A310-300 A320-100/200 B777 EMB135 L188A-08/188C SA226 SA227 J41 S360 DC10-40 EMB120 CV580 D328 L1011-1/100/200 ATR42 ATR72 A300-600 DHC8-400 DHC8-300 S340A B1900 BAE-ATP DHC8-100 BAC111-400 TSFC (mg/Ns) 5 Turboprops Regional Jets Large Jets New Regional Jet Engines New Turboprop Engines 0 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 Year Figure 3: Improvements in TSFC for different aircraft types at cruise. the DC-9-80 and the 737-300.5. wide-body aircraft.

8 . and engines with smaller thrust ratings typically have lower thrust-to-engine weight ratios (T/WE). Turboprops have comparatively low T/WE ratios because of the extra weight required for the mechanisms that alter propeller pitch and a reduction gearbox that connects the turbine to the propeller (Ojha. aircraft powered by small turbofans and turboprops are relatively heavier for the payload they carry compared to large aircraft. and to accommodate increased engine weights (IPCC. Turboprops typically derive 85% of their thrust from a propeller. 1995). and that TP's in turn are less efficient than RJ's. 2001). while jet exhaust provides the remaining thrust. As a result. Lee et al. engines producing less than 100kN of thrust have T/WE ratios 25% lower than engines producing more than 200kN of thrust. Figure 4 shows that the structural efficiencies of aircraft have decreased between 10% and 25% for all aircraft types since 1959.Figure 3 shows that TP engines are 10% to 30% more efficient than jet engines at cruise. structural weight reductions have been largely offset by structural weight increases to enable improvements in aerodynamics and the integration of inflight entertainment systems. Furthermore. There may be several reasons for this trend. This is particularly advantageous during take-off and climb stages of flight when aircraft move relatively slowly.75% (Greene.2 Structural Efficiencies A 1% reduction in the gross weight of an empty aircraft will reduce fuel consumption between 0. 4.7 and altitudes below 25. but an important effect is that of engine weight. The lack of improvement is partly due to the fact that most aircraft today are still about 97% metallic. and slats on civil aircraft.000 feet. Typically.25% and 0. However. Advanced materials such as improved aluminum alloys and composites have been successfully used for control surfaces. limiting the operation of turboprops to Mach numbers below 0. despite the development and use of advanced materials. 1999). Figure 4 shows that RJ's are less structurally efficient than large aircraft. with composites used only on relatively few components such as the tail. flaps. The efficiency of a propeller decreases with increasing airspeed and altitude however. Their high TSFC is the result of the propellers’ ability to accelerate large amounts of air at low speeds. Engine weights do not scale linearly with thrust. 1995..

. have been driven by better wing design and improved propulsion/airframe integration made possible by improved computational and experimental techniques (IPCC.1 DHC8-100 ATR72 BAE146-100/RJ70 EMB120 S360 J31 SA227 S340A D328 DHC8-300 DHC7 L1011-1/100/200 BAE-ATP J41 RJ200/ER CV600 F28-1000 BAE146-200 B1900 SA226 MD80 & DC9-80 BAC111-200 B737-500/600 ATR42 BAC111-400 RJ85 EMB145 DC10-10 F28-4000/6000 F100 DC9-10 FH227 BAE-146-300 F27 B737-100/200 B767-200/ER A320-100/200 A300-600 DC10-40 DC9-40 B747-400 B777 CV880 DC10-30 L1011-500 A310-300 MD11 DC9-30 L188A-08/188C B737-400 B747-100 DC9-50 B767-300/ER B707-300B B747-200/300 B757-200 B737-300 B727-200/231A Turboprops Regional Jets Large Aircraft 0. Figure 5 shows that the aerodynamic efficiencies of regional aircraft are similar to those of large aircraft.5 OEW/ MTOW 0.CR values are compared across aircraft types. Less of a trend is evident for either RJ's or TP's. partly because L/DMAX for several older aircraft models are unavailable. 4.4 0.4 Influence of Technology on Energy Usage The technological parameters examined above can be used to estimate the cruise values of EU (EU. are shown in Figure 5. 1999).CR can be calculated using the specific air range equation (SAR). and it quantifies the distance 9 .3 Aerodynamic Efficiencies Historical trends in aerodynamic efficiency. In this section. and then compared to total EU values plotted on Figure 2.7 0.3 0. 2001).CR). 4. Aerodynamic efficiencies of large aircraft have improved approximately 15% since 1959. Nevertheless. calculated EU.2 0. EU.0 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 Year 1985 1990 1995 2000 Figure 4: Historical trends in structural efficiency. The SAR is the basic model for describing the physics of aircraft in steady cruise flight. These gains.4% per year (Lee et al.0.6 0. making it possible to compare the energy usage of aircraft based on technology characteristics alone. averaging 0. mostly realized after 1980. or maximum lift-over-drag (L/DMAX) ratio.

flown per unit of energy consumed.25 F28-1000 F28-4000/6000 S360 A320-100/200 A310-300 20 15 10 B747-400 RJ200/ER B767-200/ER B777 B757-200 F100 B747-100/200/300 A300-600 F27 BAC111-200/400 ATR72 DHC8-300 B737-300 S340A MD11 DC10-30 ATR42 L1011-500 B707-300B BAE-ATP DC10-10 D328 B707-100B/300 DC9-30 EMB120 B737-500/600 DC10-40 MD80 & DC9-80 BAE146-100/200/RJ70 BAE-146-300 SA227 B737-100/200 J41 L1011-1/100/200 J31 B727-200/231A B737-400 B767-300/ER L/Dmax 5 Turboprops Regional Jets Large Aircraft 0 1955 Data Unavailable For: EMB-145 FH-227 CV-880 Nihon YS-11 BAE RJ85 SA-226 Beech 1900 DHC-8-100 CV-580 L-188 CV-600 DHC-7 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 Year 1985 1990 1995 2000 Figure 5: Historical trends in L/DMAX ratios. jet: SAR JET = Velocity L 1 ⋅ ⋅ TSFC ⋅ hF D W (2) turboprop: where: SARTURBOPROP = η PR L 1 ⋅ ⋅ PSFC ⋅ hF D W (3) W = WFUEL + WPAYLOAD + WSTRUCTURE + WRESERVE hF = Heating value of jet fuel ηPR = Propeller efficiency Additional manipulation of the SAR equations yields formulas for estimating the EU.CR for jet and turboprop aircraft (Equations 4 and 5): jet: J 1 = = ASK SAR JET ⋅ Capacity TSFC ⋅ W L Velocity ⋅ ⋅ Capacity D (4) 10 . The SAR equations are shown below as Equations (2) and (3) for jets and turboprops respectively.

Turboprops were shown to have better TSFCs than RJ's.000 ft.85. and L/D remains constant for both. a reasonable figure for modern propellers (Anderson. nor large aircraft have a distinct technological advantage that results in lower fuel consumption under optimal cruise conditions. TP's. including RJ's. Figure 6 shows that EU. Also. values from similarly sized aircraft with the same engine type were substituted.000 ft. For turboprops. It is also assumed that velocity and TSFC remain constant for jets. Neither RJ's.CR and total EU values further reveal that large aircraft achieve total efficiencies much closer to their 5 EU. at Mach 0. PSFC and ηPR remain constant for turboprops. turbofan and turbojet powered aircraft. Comparisons of calculated EU. ηPR is set to 0. Ojha. while TP's are assumed to cruise at 20. 11 . for the twelve regional aircraft for which L/D information was not available. Values of WFUEL and WPAYLOAD were taken from data available in Form 41. WRESERVE is taken as half the per block hour fuel consumption of a given aircraft to account for fuel reserve regulations.turboprop: J 1 = = ASK SARTURBOPROP ⋅ Capacity PSFC ⋅ W L η PR ⋅ ⋅ Capacity D (5) In all calculations. and at velocities specified in JIG (2001). but the benefits of this advantage are offset by lower TP structural efficiencies.85. 1989.CR for regional and large aircraft.CR values for regional aircraft and large aircraft fall approximately within the same band of variability in any given time period. are assumed to cruise at 35. 1995).CR Large Aircraft Total EU Large Aircraft EU.CR Regional Aircraft Total EU Regional Aircraft 4 3 MJ/ASK 2 1 0 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 Year Figure 6: Differences between EU and EU.

12 .5 to 3 times higher than aircraft flying stage lengths above 1000 km.5 EU (MJ/ASK) 2.CR must therefore be caused by fuel consumption incurred during non-cruise portions of aircraft operations. The impact of operational differences.6 times higher than the calculated EU.6 times higher for large aircraft. Figure 6 shows that total EU is on average 2.5 Aircraft introduced during or after 1980 only 0 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 Stage Length (km) 7000 8000 9000 Jets Turboprops Figure 7: Variation of EU with stage length.0 1.5 times greater than EU.CR. and are.5 Influence of Operations on Energy Usage Aircraft operations—airports served. and as a result. on average.CR values. Insight into the causes of these trends can be gained by examining the efficiencies associated with ground and airborne activity characteristics of RJ's. spend more time at airports taxing. non-cruise stages of flight.5 1. They fly shorter stage lengths than large aircraft. Differences in EU and EU. A closer inspection of regional aircraft EU. idling. which shows the variation of EU with stage length for turboprop and jetpowered aircraft (both RJ's and large jets) introduced during and after 1980.5 3.0 0. Aircraft flying stage lengths below 1000 km have EU values between 1. and especially distance flown. total RJ EU values are approximately 3. and flight altitudes—have a particularly significant impact on the EU of regional aircraft.2 greater than EU. on EU is evident in Figure 7.0 2. 4.CR indicates that while total TP EU values are on average 2. more efficient at similar stage lengths. Also. and maneuvering into gates. but only 1. TP's show a distinct pattern from that of jets.cruise values than regional aircraft. and in general spend a greater fraction of their block time in non-optimum.CR for regional aircraft. 3. stage lengths flown. TP's and large jets.

6 0. Because regional aircraft take-off and land so often.75 and 0. This is evident in Figure 8. compared to between 0. maneuvering to and from gates. The ηg of regional aircraft varies between 0. Regional jet service additions to date have focused on congested major urban airports as opposed to secondary urban airports (Dobbie.90. and idling due to delays.65 and 0. A useful efficiency metric for evaluating the amounts of time aircraft spend on the ground compared to in the air is the ratio of airborne hours to block hours (ηg). 13 . Four of the top ten airports in terms of regional aircraft operations are also among the top 1.4.90 for large aircraft. which shows a steadily decreasing ηg with decreasing stage length for all aircraft types.5 0.6 Ground Efficiencies All aircraft consume fuel on the ground at the airport while taxing. Regional aircraft flying into large airports are likely to have to taxi further to get to the runway and face greater congestion-related delays than aircraft serving smaller community airports.7 0. They therefore incur a fuel consumption penalty relative to longer flying aircraft.9 0. Continued rapid growth of the regional airline industry has the potential to worsen congestion and delays at already stressed airports. The high variability in ground efficiency for regional aircraft in general may be reflective of the fact that they serve airports of various sizes.1 0 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 Stage Length (km) 7000 8000 9000 Turboprops Regional Jets Large Aircraft Figure 8: Variation of ηg with stage length.3 0.4 0. they are an important part of major airport operations. 1999).8 ηg (Airborne Hrs / Block Hrs) 0.2 0.0 0. Aircraft that fly short stage lengths have lower ηg because of the need to taxi and maneuver more often for every unit of time spent in the air.

regional jets require longer runways than turboprops. The larger the fraction of airborne time an aircraft spends climbing. and time spent performing holding patterns above congested airports. in part replacing or augmenting turboprop operations. During these stages of flight. increases the average energy usage above that incurred during cruise. 2001). The ratio of minimum flight hours to airborne hours. flight plan changes due to airway congestion. One estimate by a TP manufacturer suggests that a 50-seat RJ requires 40% more runway length than a similarly sized TP for a 550 km mission at full load (ATR. and is especially high during the energy-intensive climb stage. It is worth noting that the airborne efficiency metric also captures the influence of other in-flight inefficiencies. in addition to take-off and climb effects. and assumes that this distance is flown at cruise speed with no additional time required for take-off. decreasing logarithmically below 1000 km. Even for stage lengths shorter than those typically flown by RJ's. and in particular. such as indirect routings. Minimum hours refers to the shortest amount of time required to fly a given stage length along a great circle (minimum distance) route. climb. RAA. 2002). Each of these inefficiencies. the energy usage of an aircraft is different than during cruise.ten airports with the greatest minutes of delay per operation (FAA. Further compounding congestion problems. the longer it spends at high rates of fuel consumption.7 Airborne Efficiencies Regional aircraft spend a significant part of their airborne hours climbing to or descending from cruise altitudes. This can be explained by the fact that TP's typically cruise at altitudes several thousand feet below jets 14 . While RJ's follow the trend associated with large aircraft. This characteristic of short stage length flight contributes to the higher EU of regional aircraft. or airborne efficiency (ηa) serves to quantify the fraction of flight time aircraft spend at cruise speeds. TP's exhibit efficiencies that are approximately 20% higher than regional jets. Figure 9 shows the variation of airborne efficiency with stage length. 2000b. of RJ's in airport operations. 4. The fact that regional jets require runway lengths similar to large aircraft may prove a bottleneck at some airports as regional jet routes are introduced. TP's follow a more efficient pattern. Future efforts to reduce taxi times and improve the timely routing of aircraft to runways to improve ground efficiencies will need to consider the increasing importance of regional aircraft. descent or landing.

EU increases rapidly for all 15 .CR shown in Figure 6.9 ηa (Minimum Hrs/Airborne Hrs) 0.CR with the product of the ground and airborne efficiencies. For values of ηg*ηa below 50%. stage length trend shown for turboprop and jet-powered aircraft in Figure 7. overall high altitude airspace congestion is likely to worsen as regional jets increase in popularity.6 0.8 0.8 Total Impact of Operations on Energy Usage The ground and airborne efficiencies together capture the important operational characteristics of commercial aircraft and effectively explain the differences between EU and EU. For long-range aircraft capable of achieving combined efficiencies of more than 90%. and therefore spend less time climbing to cruise altitudes. The airborne efficiencies of TP aircraft may also be higher because they serve smaller airports where they are less likely to encounter congestion-related airborne delays. As operational efficiencies decrease.5 0. energy usage. They also spend less time at the high rates of energy usage associated with climbing flight. the total energy usage can be expected to be more than three times cruise values of energy usage. The typical operational altitude of RJ's has other implications.1. total energy usage becomes a greater multiple of the cruise.4 0.2 0. Ground and airborne efficiencies also help explain the shape of the EU vs. the total energy usage is expected to be only 10% to 20% higher than cruise values of energy usage.1 0.7 0. 4. or optimum.3 0. Figure 10 shows the variation of the EU/EU.0 0.0 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 Stage Length (km) 7000 8000 9000 Turboprops Regional Jets Large Aircraft Figure 9: Variation of ηa with stage length. Because regional jets fly at the same altitude as large aircraft.

0 4. In 1970. Over the period covered.9 Influence of Load Factor Figure 11 shows historical load factor trends for large aircraft. aircraft flying stage lengths smaller than 1000 km due to the lower ηg and ηa achieved at these distances. the RJ fleet has been used more efficiently.2 0.6. Similarly in 1999. the RJ fleet EU was 13% higher than for the TP fleet. the EI would nevertheless have improved by a third. As a result. Turboprops have lower EU compared to RJ's at similar or shorter stage lengths because they achieve higher airborne efficiencies. the influence of ground and airborne efficiencies on EU is diminished.3 0. Load factors improved almost 50% for large aircraft between 1960 and 1999. 16 . but the EI was only 3% higher.0 Turboprops Regional Jets Large Aircraft 0 0. the EI was only 9% higher.CR 3. The effect this has had on EI is illustrated in Figure 12.4 0.0 EU / EU. while the EU of the RJ fleet was 40% higher than for the TP fleet.0 1. and the EU begins to rise steadily above 2000 km.0 Figure 10: Variation of EU/EU. 4. Even if aircraft technologies during this period afforded no improvement to the EU of the large aircraft fleet.0 0. regional jets and turboprops reporting on Form 41.0 2. Although the TP fleet has historically had lower EU than the RJ fleet. This rise is caused by the need for long-range aircraft to carry a greater fuel load. which translates into higher average fuel consumption at cruise.8 0.0 5.9 1.1 0.7 0.5 0.CR with ground and airborne efficiencies. aircraft operating at stage lengths between 1000 km and 3000 km have the lowest energy usage among aircraft considered in this study.6 ηg* ηa 0. At stage lengths greater than 1000 km. RJ's have consistently had load factors 10% to 30% higher than for turboprops.

higher fuel costs. they are nevertheless cost competitive with turboprops.4 0.7 0. 8 7 6 5 4 3 Turboprop 2 1 0 1965 EU (MJ/ASK) Regional Jet Turboprop Regional Jet Energy Consumption EI (MJ/RPK) 1970 1975 1980 1985 Year 1990 1995 2000 2005 Figure 12: Effect of load factor on fleet energy intensity. there is less cost- 17 . and consequently. such as fuel.1 0.6 0. often decreasing the energy usage of the fleet at the same time. This occurs for two reasons: RJ's have historically operated at higher load factors. 5. As a result.0.0 1965 Turboprops Large Aircraft Regional Jets Load Factor 1970 1975 1980 1985 Year 1990 1995 2000 Figure 11: Historical changes in load factor. and variable costs.2 0. are less important components of the unit costs of aircraft flying short stage lengths.8 0.5 0.3 0. Although RJ's are characterized by higher energy usage. COST CHARACTERISTICS OF REGIONAL AIRCRAFT The development and implementation of new technologies and the adoption of efficient operational practices have generally been the means by which airlines and aircraft manufacturers have pursued cost savings.

Figure 13 provides a breakdown of DOC+I in 1999 for the large jets considered in Lee (2000) and the regional jets Turboprops Pilot Salaries 14.0% Amortization 18.7% Airframe Materials 4.0% Amortization 16.5% Insurance 0.7% Airframe Materials 3.8% Labor for Engines 0.0% Airframe Materials 1. fuel costs make up a smaller percent of the total operating and ownership costs of regional aircraft.6% Labor for Airframes 5.saving incentive for regional airlines to operate more energy efficient aircraft than for airlines operating larger aircraft.6% Aircraft Fuels 21.8% Pilot Salaries 19.7% Other Flying Operations 13.3% Depreciation 11.8% Other Flying Operations 12.3% Figure 13: DOC+I breakdown for different aircraft types in 1999.0% Labor for Airframes 3.1% Engine Materials 2.5% Labor for Engines 0.4% Insurance 0.4% Other Direct Maintenance 20.5% Aircraft Fuels 12.3% Labor for Airframes 3.6% Insurance 0.and wide-body aircraft.6% Other Direct Maintenance 15.8% Labor for Engines 0. 5.5% Depreciation 8. 18 .4% Large Jets Pilot Salaries 21.7% Other Flying Operations 11. A historical relationship between regional aircraft operating and capital costs is identified in this section.5% Depreciation 5.9% Other Direct Maintenance 7.2% Amortization 23. providing an outline of the acquisition costs airlines have been willing to assume in return for operating cost savings.9% Engine Materials 0.2% Engine Materials 1.4% Regional Jets Aircraft Fuels 16.1 Regional Aircraft Operating Costs As compared to larger narrow.

the result of improvements in avionics and reductions in maintenance and fuel costs. fuel costs as a fraction of total costs steadily decrease as stage lengths decrease. 5. and turboprops examined in this study.2 Regional Aircraft Unit Costs Unit cost. Figure 14 plots the average DOC/ASK cost for regional and large aircraft types. and turboprops have unit 19 .10 0. which are important for judgments on the competitiveness of different aircraft types. which make up a higher portion of DOC+I for regional aircraft. respectively. fuel costs made up almost 22% of the DOC+I costs. The historical trend for large aircraft shows a 25% to 35% improvement between 1959 and 1995. regional aircraft are two to five times more expensive to operate than large aircraft. is the cost of a unit of potential passenger service and is a useful means through which to elucidate the relationship between the technological and operational characteristics of an aircraft and the costs of its operation. In general.06 0. regional aircraft show no distinct upward or downward historical trend. regional jets and turboprops. For the large aircraft. when measured as DOC/ASK. fuel cost normalized) Turboprops Regional Jets Large Jets 0.08 0. Lower fuel costs are largely offset by increased maintenance costs.02 0 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 Year of Introduction 1990 1995 2000 Figure 14: Unit direct operating costs of large jets. In contrast. while they only made up 17% and 13% of the total costs of RJ's and TP's. When expressed as DOC/ASK.12 DOC/ASK (1996$. In addition. The vertical bars represent the range of values found in the data.04 0. are not taken into account. and they exhibit considerable variability both within the same aircraft type and from one aircraft type to another.0. demand-side considerations such as achievable load factors.

956.897 respectively The relationships in Equations (6) and (7) can be interpreted physically.5 times those charged by the major airlines (FAA. 2000) and additional knowledge of the particular characteristics of regional aircraft. and their contribution to DOC/ASK decreases with increasing stage length.917 ⋅ + 9. 0. which in 1999 were approximately 2. according to the relationships shown in Equations (6) and (7). 2000a). but they contribute significantly to DOC/ASK at short stage lengths. The high unit costs of regional aircraft are reflected in the yields of regional airlines (the price charged per RPK). It was found that stage length (SL) and EU could account for most of the variability in unit costs. To explain the unit cost characteristics of regional aircraft. When load factors are considered (which are 10% to 20% lower than for large aircraft). t/tCRIT for coefficients: 3. Longer-flying aircraft have a greater number of miles over which to spread fixed costs. t/tCRIT for coefficients: 3. In general.106 ⋅ + 2. N = 33.0111 ASK SL ASK (7) R2 = 0.529 × 10 − 2 ⋅ − 0. The 1/SL term represents the contribution of fixed costs to total unit costs. 20 .742 × 10 −3 ⋅ − 0. 2. Only data from 1990 to 1999 were used because of an irregularity in the Form 41 traffic database that prevented stage lengths from being calculated for records dated prior to 1990. The analysis was performed separately for both regional jets and turboprops. although they may be expected to increase with aircraft size. 3.06 respectively regional jet: DOC MJ 1 = 15.064. 3. Several potential explanatory variables were considered based on insight gained from previous work (Lee.93.5 to 6 times more expensive to operate than large aircraft on a DOC/RPK basis. this limits the scope of the analysis to aircraft introduced after 1975.costs sometimes twice as high as regional jets. Fixed costs do not vary with stage length flown.786. Fixed costs are therefore less important for longer-flying large aircraft.689. turboprop: DOC MJ 1 = 11. multivariable regression analyses were performed to identify the key parameters that determine the DOC/ASK of regional aircraft.29. N = 78.0208 ASK SL ASK (6) R2 = 0. Further discussion of demand-side considerations for regional jet operations is provided by Dresner (2002). regional aircraft are 2.

10 0.04 0. 5. suggesting that fixed maintenance and other similarly fixed costs play an important role in determining unit costs of aircraft flying short distances.For example. particularly when the higher load factors achieved by RJ's are considered.06 0. aircraft with lower MJ/ASK values have lower variable costs not only because of lower fuel costs but also because of the lower cost of operation made possible by the use of advanced technologies and designs. fuel-efficient RJ's are competitive with all but the most efficient TP's.08 0. and median values were determined by the average values of EU for the various aircraft studied. which vary in some relation to stage length. Neither TP's nor RJ's exhibit distinct maintenance cost trends with increasing stage length. but remain constant on a per mile basis. and median values of energy usage plotted versus stage length.14 High EU 0.02 0 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 Stage Length (km) Median EU Low EU Turboprops Regional Jets High EU Median EU Low EU 800 900 1000 Figure 15: Variation of DOC/ASK according to stage length and EU. Figure 15 shows the estimated unit costs of TP's and RJ's at high. In general. 21 . fuel cost normalized) 0.12 0.0 MJ/ASK). TP's with low EU (about 1.5 MJ/ASK) are capable of achieving unit costs that are approximately 15% lower than RJ's with low EU (about 2. At stage lengths flown by both aircraft types. low.3 Unit Costs of Regional Jets and Turboprops Compared Equations (6) and (7) are also useful for comparing the unit cost characteristics of TP's and RJ's at common stage lengths and at typical values of energy usage. From a cost perspective. The MJ/ASK term of Equations (6) and (7) captures the influence of variable costs such as fuel and pilot wages. many maintenance costs are fixed and are accrued on a per cycle basis. High. Operational data are also superimposed on the curves.16 DOC/ASK (1996$. However. this is 0. low.

the unit cost savings achieved by low EU TP's compared to high EU TP's is between 0.024 and 0. which corresponds to savings between 30% and 46% depending on stage length flown. unit costs reductions at a given stage length are smaller. This corresponds to a 40% to 60% savings depending on stage length flown. a RJ with a high EU flying a 600 km stage length has unit costs 1. This calculation yields a 0. For RJ's. The variability in unit costs among regional aircraft is caused by the significant impact of small differences in stage length flown. Variations in EU within regional aircraft types also have an important influence on unit costs. a 45% increase in unit costs is anticipated when flying a 400 km stage length instead of a 650 km stage length. These results suggest that reductions in fuel costs have played a more important role in reducing 22 . Similarly. Finally. The impact of both stage length and level of technology on unit costs is made apparent in Figure 15. but include savings due to maintenance and other non-fuel related cost reductions. and are between 0.009 1996$/ASK fuel cost saving in going from high EU to low EU for TP's. Recognizing that the unit fuel costs for a given EU can be calculated by multiplying the EU (in MJ/ASK) by the fuel price (1996$/MJ. regional jets have unit costs that are 9% to 15% lower than turboprops.8 times higher than a RJ with low EU. Similarly. and a 0.013 1996$/ASK fuel cost saving for RJ's. Figure 15 shows that unit costs are twice as high for a TP with high EU flying a 300 km route compared to a TP with low EU. for any given stage length. regional aircraft have higher unit costs than large aircraft because they fly much shorter stage lengths. the unit cost savings in going from high to low EU can be calculated.3 MJ/ASK for TP's. Note that these are not all fuel cost savings. At median values of energy usage (about 2. The dependence of regional aircraft unit costs on stage length explains the cost characteristics of regional aircraft identified in Figure 14.026 1996$/ASK. For a TP with low energy usage.044 and 0. a 77% increase in unit costs can be expected when flying a 250 km route compared to a 450 km route. Specifically. In general.not the case as fuel efficiencies worsen.8 MJ/ASK for RJ's). RJ's have lower unit costs than TP's because they have historically served longer routes. Fuel cost savings make up 16% to 21% of the unit cost savings of TP's. but make up 49% to 51% of the unit cost savings of regional jets. fuel cost normalized to the 1996 price). 2.056 1996$/ASK. for a low energy usage RJ.

DOC/ASK for RJ's than for turboprops. Aircraft costs were taken from Thomas and Richards (1995). The rate of fleet replacement depends on many factors.10 Figure 16: Variation of regional aircraft cost with unit costs adjusted to 400 km stage length using Equations (6) and (7). 2001). are correlated with DOC/RPK (Lee et al. and that the EU of RJ's has improved a greater amount over the time period covered than the EU of turboprops. This suggests that airlines operating large aircraft are willing to pay higher capital costs in return for lower operating costs realized over the life of the aircraft.08 DOC/ASK (1996$ fuel cost normalized) 0. Regional aircraft exhibit a similar trend.00 0.02 0. 23 . Specifically. Figure 16 shows the variation in new aircraft cost when unit costs have been adjusted to a 400 km stage length (using Equations (6) and (7)). It was shown earlier that.4 Aircraft Capital and Operating Cost Relationship Large aircraft capital costs.046 1996$/ASK is worth between $80K and $90K per seat in acquisition costs. given that fuel costs are a smaller portion of total DOC for TP's compared to RJ's.04 0.077 1996$/ASK to 0. aircraft technologies have improved over time resulting in more fuel-efficient aircraft.031 1996$/ASK decrease in unit costs from 0.. There is a pattern showing that unit costs are lower for more expensive aircraft. growth in 400 350 Price per Seat (1996$ thousands) Turboprops Regional Jets 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 0.06 0. a 0. the ability of new aircraft to impact total aviation emissions will depend on how fast it takes to integrate them into the airline fleet. 5. However. although only when the influence of stage length is factored out. normalized on a per seat basis. This is not surprising. including safety requirements. in general.

5 to 2 times greater than larger aircraft. Even though advances in technologies offer the potential to reduce the impact of aviation on the environment and lower operating costs. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS In the U.S. 1999.and widebody aircraft. they account for 7% of jet fuel use and for 40% to 50% of total departures (ATA. and the availability of financing (Balashov and Smith. regional traffic. and cost characteristics. TP's are at an advantage compared to RJ's because they are designed to cruise efficiently several thousand feet below jet aircraft and can therefore reach cruising altitude and speed in less time than RJ's. industry profitability. 2000). regional aircraft spend a larger fraction of airborne time climbing to altitude at inherently higher rates of fuel burn. stimulated by the widespread acceptance of the RJ. 2000. ADL. 6.demand. aviation system. In addition. operational. these benefits must be considered in terms of the economic and customer requirements of airlines and aircraft manufacturers (IPCC. In addition.. RAA. Regional aircraft fly shorter stage lengths and therefore spend a disproportionate amount of time on the ground taxing and maneuvering compared to large aircraft. is expected to grow faster than the rest of industry. In this respect. 2000a). Fuel costs currently make up 26% of the DOC of large aircraft compared to 20% for regional jets and 13% for turboprops. These characteristics were also compared with those of larger narrow. Although they only perform approximately 4% of domestic revenue passenger miles (FAA. 1992).S. this paper has characterized the historical reductions in the energy use of regional aircraft by quantitatively describing and comparing their technological. efforts to mitigate the impact of aviation on the environment will have to take into consideration the increasing importance of regional aircraft operations. Technologically advanced RJ's can compete in terms of direct operating cost with all but the most efficient TP's. Regional aircraft have values of energy usage on the order of 1. The difference in EU is not caused by significant differences in technological sophistication. despite being less fuel- 24 . prices of labor and fuel. The cost drivers for technology development and implementation for regional aircraft were also investigated. 2001). In an effort to gain insight into the potential impact of the simultaneous growth and transformation of regional air travel on the energy efficiency of the U. but rather by operational differences.

Washington. New York. U. FAA. 2002. Third Edition. R. New York. Back Fleet Database v. REFERENCES ATA.W. FAA Aerospace Forecast Fiscal Years 200025 .. the EI of the RJ fleet has been comparable to or better than the EI of the TP fleet.. France. In press. Airbus. 2000. L. The Boeing Company. Federal Aviation Administration.K. Dobbie. Boeing. Regional Jet Services: Supply and Demand. 18-21. Washington. 2000 Annual Report. A. Eurocontrol Experimental Centre. Avions de Transport Regional. 2000a. France. 29. 1989. ICAO Journal 54(7). Boeing Market Outlook 2000. Blagnac. J. D. 2000. Final Report to Department of Environment. Ltd. McGraw-Hill.0.3. Anderson. 2002. Airbus. New Haven. ATR. Dresner. B. 2000. sustainable growth. Introduction to Flight. ATR—Versatility to Suit Regional Operation. 1992. FAA. Air Transport Association of America. Study into the potential impact of changes in technology on the development of air transport in the UK. 2000. Airbus Industrie. Journal of Air Transport Management. Little. Base of Aircraft Data R. Smith. 15-17. Boeing. This occurs because fuel costs have less of an impact on the operating costs of regional aircraft compared to large aircraft. Seattle. ATR. ADL.4. ICAO analyses trends in the fuel consumption by world’s airlines. D.. In addition. 2000. 2001. Bretigny. Airbus Global Market Forecast 2000-2019. FAA. Washington. Balgnac. Cambridge. ICAO Journal 47(6).C. Eurocontrol. As a result... Airlines see direct link between improved environmental performance. 2001. Air Transport Association. France. ADL. FAA Aerospace Forecast Fiscal Years 2001-2012. Back Aviation Solutions. RJ's have historically operated at load factors approximately 10% to 30% higher than turboprops.3. Back Associates. Arthur D. Balashov. D.C. 1999.efficient. Transport and Regions (DETR). Connecticut. Federal Aviation Administration.

Virginia. FAA. Alexandria.. W.C. Oklahoma City. 2001. D. JIG. Virginia. Form 41 Schedule P5. Greene. A. Commercial air transport energy use and emissions: is technology enough? Presented at the Conference on Sustainable Transportation–Energy Strategies. DOT. National Income and Product Accounts Tables.. Lukachko. RAA. International Civil Aviation Organization. 1995. Waitz.A. Lee. OK. Ojha. 2001. J. Historical and future trends in aircraft performance. First Edition.S. Washington. 26 . Aviation and the Global Atmosphere. Historical and future trends in aircraft performance.C. Thomas. MS Thesis. S. Washington. Regional & Commuter Aircraft. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 1995. Schafer. ICAO. D. Annual Review of Energy and the Environment 26.. DOC. Samson Low. 1995. California. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The MITRE Corporation. 2001. A. Regional Aircraft Association. Cambridge University Press. Jane’s Information Group.C.C. Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft.. Washington. K. www. D.P. 1998. Montreal. 167200..org. ICAO Engine Exhaust Emissions Data Bank. Gunston.. Jane’s Information Group. 2000 Aviation Capacity Enhancement Plan. B.C.. D. Washington. ed.. DOC.. Trigerio. Airliner Price Guide. \AIAA. The Airliner Price Guide of Commercial. New York. 2001. Washington. Pacific Grove. I. The impact of regional jets on congestion in the NAS. L..S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. J.2 and T2. 2000.J. 1995.2011. Flight Performance of Aircraft. Lee. Federal Aviation Administration. Cambridge. 1999. Cambridge. D. Fall Edition. Department of Commerce. IPCC. S. New York. 2001. Jane’s Aero-Engines.. 1999. FAA. Bureau of Economic Analysis. J. Department of Transportation. Martin & Co.. McLean. 1968-1999. U. DOT. D. U. ICAO. cost and emissions. cost and emissions.. FAA.J.raa. Richards. 2000b.

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