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Fri, Jun 15, 2007

EasyJet Unveils Its Concept For A More Eco-Friendly Airliners

Hopes "ecoJet" Will Be In Service By 2015

If you design it... maybe someone will build it. That's the thinking behind the unveiling Thursday of a new, environmentally-friendlier short-range airliner concept by European low-cost-carrier easyJet.

Dubbed the "easyJet ecoJet," easyJet says the aircraft would need to be 25 percent quieter, and emit 50 percent less CO2 and 75 percent less NOx, than current narrowbodies -- Boeing's 737 (shown above) and Airbus A320 families.

EasyJet says the ecoJet would also have to generate less than 47g of CO2 per passenger kilometer -- a staggering figure. For comparison, easyJet says its current fleet generates 97.5g of CO2 per passenger km; the Toyota Prius hybrid automobile emits 104g of CO2 per km; and the European car industry has recently been given a target to achieve 130g of CO2 per kilometer.

"The aviation industry has an excellent record in reducing the environmental footprint of aircraft," said easyJet CEO Andy Harrison. "Today’s aircraft are typically 70% cleaner and 75% quieter than their 1960s counterparts. Now we are planning the next generation that will help towards taking the plane out of the emissions equation."

The design would also contain a number of key features to make it radically more environmentally efficient, including rear-mounted "open-rotor" engines (also called unducted fans) the carrier says offer unrivaled environmental performance for short-haul flying, due to their higher propulsive efficiency. The aircraft would also cruise at lower speeds, to reduce drag.

To address noise issues inherent in the unducted fan design -- which have conspired to kill implementation of such technologies since the 1980s -- easyJet says the blades would be kept at subsonic rotational speeds for takeoff and landing, and the rear empennage design helps reduce noise heard on the ground.

The carrier says it is working with "all the relevant airframe and engine manufacturers on the next generation of short-haul aircraft" to bring the design to market.

The airline would not say what -- if any -- manufacturers have signed on to develop the project... although its worth noting easyJet's ecoJet model shares many similarities with a Boeing design, dubbed "Fonzie," that first came to light last year. Like the ecoJet, "Fozzie" sports a long, narrow fuselage, winglets, and two unducted turbofans mounted atop a reinforced tail structure.

Hmm...

FMI: Learn More About The ecoJet

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