Museum challenges aviators to cut carbon

There is a general feeling that pigs might fly before aviation becomes an environmentally-friendly travel option but an exhibition at London's Science Museum seeks to challenge this perception.

While the reality is that zero-carbon air travel is still a long way off for the general public, cutting edge research is demonstrating that significant reductions in emissions are possible and a combination of better aerodynamics, great fuel efficiency and lighter, stronger materials could all help to reduce the footprint of tomorrow’s plans.

The exhibition Does Flying Cost the Earth? looks at how scientists and engineers are making progress in these areas.

On display are models of a blended wing-body aeroplane – best known as a stealth plane – whose futuristic design not only makes it hard to spot but helps lift and cuts drag – slashing the fuel bill and carbon emissions by roughly a quarter.

Perhaps a more realistic proposition in the short term is Easy Jet’s EcoJet, an open rotor plane made from light-weight materials with rear-fitted engines and forward sweeping wings which combined lead to emissions savings of about 25%.

These could be taking off from commercial runways by 2016.

Holly Cave, content developer on the exhibition, said: “The aviation industry is often framed in the media as a big contributor of climate-changing emissions – but the real story is that while flying has a relatively small carbon footprint now, its impact on climate change is steadily growing.

“This exhibition is an ideal opportunity for visitors to see how scientists and engineers are working together to tackle aviation’s environmental impact and produce the aircraft of tomorrow. Visitors might also be surprised to see just how much flying can contribute to their personal carbon footprint, and can decide if they want to do something about it!”

The exhibition will run from 15 May until November 2008.

Sam Bond

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