Another day, another green aircraft startup.
There seems to be no end of them, but maybe that’s a good thing for humanity, and, a more environmentally friendly future.
According to a report in Simple Flying, outgoing CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Alexandre de Juniac, pegged sustainability as the biggest challenge facing his successor, Willie Walsh, once the industry gets back to some sort of post-Covid normal.
So far, these solutions have revolved around new engine technology, new construction materials, and new ways of powering aircraft.
But what if the aircraft, as we know it, is ready for a radical redesign? We’re talking really radical, of course.
Enter Alabama startup SE Aeronautics (the SE standing for Super Efficient) have reworked the entire concept of a wide-body airliner, and revealed an innovative tri-wing design that they say will have an 80% lower carbon footprint than traditional planes, Simple Flying reported.
The SE200 promises more efficient flight, lower cost of operation, increased passenger safety, and a useful lifespan that is double that of a traditional aircraft.
Lloyd Weaver, Chief Engineer at SE Aeronautics, says that the company has considered everything in the design of this aircraft, commenting:
“Our innovative technology and new aircraft design will lower fuel consumption by 70% and lower CO2 emissions by 80% as measured by per seat kilometer. The innovative design is a more efficient, light-tri wing configuration that greatly improves lift over drag, resulting in short take-off and landing (STOL) capabilities and extremely long flights. The construction is all composite, molded in one tough, safer piece. We also incorporated super thin, long wings and complete streamlining from the nose to the tail. We did it all.”
The principle of the aircraft is embedded not only in its unusual tri-wing design but also in its construction.
Rather than being fabricated from bolted-together panels, the SE200 features a monocoque design, meaning it is molded from one single piece of composite, Simple Flying reported.
This, the company says, will reduce fatigue and make the aircraft safer for passengers.
The super-thin wings (which do not exactly instil confidence) are no longer doubling up as fuel storage. Instead, fuel is stored in a bladder atop the fuselage. This, the company says, will make the plane capable of floating for long periods in the event of an emergency water landing.
Propulsion will be delivered by two super-efficient engines mounted at the rear, which the company says will give it a thrust of 64,000 lbf, Simple Flying reported.
SE Aeronautics has considered cargo, too, with a “state of the art bulk container system” and a maximum takeoff weight of 170,000 lb.
In terms of passengers, the aircraft is intended to carry around 264 passengers to a range of 10,560 miles.
That gives it longer legs than the A330neo and 787 families and almost takes it as far as the A350ULR, Simple Flying reported.
But are these things enough to really allow such a radical redesign to compete with Boeing and Airbus?
Tyler Mathews, CEO of SE Aeronautics, believes it is. He commented:
“This aircraft will be the most practical, profitable and permanent solution to the grossly underperforming airliner technology of today. Our manufacturing efficiency will allow us to produce our aircraft in significantly less time than the current traditional method. But the jewel in the crown is really our ability to get that fuel consumption rate down by 70%. We are going to revolutionize the industry.”
The aviation industry is under pressure to reduce carbon emissions, yet air travel continues to grow in popularity around the world.
According to BBC News, it contributes about 2% of the world’s global emissions, and this is set to rise.
IATA, the airline trade body, predicts that passenger numbers will double to 8.2 billion a year by 2037. Planemaker Boeing forecasts there will be demand for 42,700-plus new aircraft over the next 20 years. Airbus predicts much the same.
Yet by 2050, the European Union wants the industry to reduce emissions of CO2 of 75%, of nitrogen oxides by 90%, and noise by 65%.
And a new Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, agreed by 70 countries, came into force in 2020.
As a result, the industry is searching for new solutions, including bio-fuels, hybrid electric technology, hydrogen fuel cells, new, more efficient aircraft engines and advanced aerodynamic designs.