Today's Aviation Week had three relevant articles.
- Another article on upgrading aircraft to use digital telemetry, GPS, etc. This time it was discussion of the steps that Delta is taking with some of their aircraft. Nothing new or radical is reported. It's just another article how to upgrade at reduced cost. Long term (assuming the FAA mis-managers don't completely ruin things) the digital upgrades should reduce fuel use, air pollution, noise pollution, and flight times. Switching from voice to text messaging makes sense for all the routine flight control. There are two pilots and messaging doesn't interfere with flying the way it does with driving. It's faster and avoids the confusion over exact numbers that sometimes affects the voice controls. It also carries a lot more messages per second over the limited radio channels.
- A report on prototype effort by British Airways, as part of joint effort with Solena Fuels and GreenSky London, to build a $500 million plant to convert waste biomass into fuels. It's to be built in Tilbury and go operational in 2016. The plant will take 565,000 metric tons of sorted municipal waste and generate 50,000 tons jet fuel, 50,000 tons diesel, 20,000 tons naptha, and 50 megawatts excess electrical power.
The feedstock is dry sorted municipal waste. That means metals, glass, and other recyclables have been removed. (Technically it's called refuse derived fuel - RDF). Part of the deal is the attraction of using something that somebody else collects and pays you to take, as are airline commitments to reduce carbon impact. These fuels count as bio-fuels with no carbon impact.
It's a plasma torch gasification, so plastic, tires, etc. can be processed. It uses the usual syngas F-T processes, with the latest chemical reactor and catalyst designs.
- An article about the complaints about latest idiocy on carbon tax for aviation. The European Parliament has clearly said that they will collect tax on aviation travel outside Europe, has created a bureaucratic monster, and all the non-EU countries (US, Russia, China, etc.) have reacted with immense hostility. This choice abrogates promises to use ICAO international processes for aviation CO2 controls. One of the absurdities is that a charter airline that flies one 747 per week is considered de minimus carbon contributor and avoids most of the paperwork. A business jet operator that flies one business trip per month is not considered de minimus and must follow the full bureaucratic procedures.
The annual paperwork cost (filings, people, etc.) is estimated at $100K/yr. For an airline this is just another piece of the regulatory burden. For business jet operators this is a big extra cost. There is a series of "free" allowances. Again, even for small airlines the cost of filing and qualifying is justified by the value of the allowances. For business jet operators, the filing cost exceeds the value of the allowances.
The laws justification was CO2 emissions, but clearly the regulations are designed to eliminate private aviation and business jet operations in favor of commercial airlines. Extending the reach outside Europe is a simple power and money grab by the EU Parliament.