The latest Airbus A320neo has a 15% lower fuel burn than the original A320 model released in 1988. But, as the average commercial lifespan of a passenger aircraft is roughly 20-30 years, these staggered reductions in fuel consumption are nowhere close to satisfying current regulatory standards.
The urgency to adapt has in turn put a lot of pressure on innovation within the aerospace field. Companies are actively working on making aircrafts with lighter structures, more efficient engines, and talk of electrification is rife.
While at face value these avenues all look promising, aerospace research and design is a laborious drawn-out process – with companies increasingly outsourcing research and development projects to universities and, on average, projects taking around 20 years to be sanctioned for production.
But how can aerospace prioritise innovation in sustainability when contemporaneously they must also attempt to make aircrafts faster?
Since the Information Revolution, the global pace of communication and commerce has grown exponentially. However, air travel isn’t any quicker. In fact, commercial aircrafts have become slower since the jet age, and whilst most experts can agree that supersonic travel became commercially available prematurely, after 50 years since the advent of Concorde, travelling at the speed of sound looks a number of years away from being commercially available to the masses.