Environmental Impacts of Aviation

hybrid electric aircraft

The aviation industry will always be beneficial to the global landscape as it has paved the way for effective and reliable transportation, social and economic development, and helps to forge relationships and partnerships between distant nations, among other benefits. With a growing global economy, it is clear that we will only become more reliant on aviation in the future.

However, as the industry grows, it is important to understand the impact aviation has on the environment. Aircraft engines emit lots of noise, harmful gasses and particulates all of which have their effects on global ecosystems and climate change.

Fortunately, when compared to other industries, aviation still is one of the most efficient and cleanest. Operators, manufacturers, related organizations, and industry leaders have been working together to create solutions for future aviation environmental sustainability.

There are several ways that the aviation industry affects the environment, including:

Air Pollution and Climate Change

As with all activities that involve combustion, aircraft release gases such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and lead into the atmosphere where they can cause varying reactions and contribute to global warming, as well as ocean acidification. The aircraft are not the only part of the aviation sector that contributes to impacting the environment. Airport vehicles, aircraft manufacturers, and the maintenance of airport infrastructures, all have a part to play.

Noise Pollution

Aircraft noise has always been an issue that has been difficult to take action on. Some of the issues raised include the increased traffic that bigger airports are experiencing, as well as the expansions happening at both regional and smaller airports. Many airport communities have needed to create legislation that fines airlines for not following or breaking noise abatement procedures.

Water Pollution

Through mishaps in the fueling and deicing operations, fuel spills and deicing fluids containing propylene glycol or ethylene glycol could get washed off through drains and channels and pollute local water resources.

The Aviation industry has become more aware of the effects the industry has on the environment and has begun to take steps to reduce those negative effects. Improvements in aviation technology have made engines more fuel-efficient and clean-burning. Researchers are also exploring the use of alternative biofuels and new propulsion methods to emit less harmful gases and particulates into the atmosphere.
Other recent improvements include improved aerodynamics through the use of lighter and stronger composite materials. New wing and airframe designs improve airflow and result in less fuel being required to maintain the same speed. Composite materials are also substantially lighter and stronger than aluminum and help to reduce fuel needs.

Airlines and aviation authorities have come up with different measures to reduce the noise generated by the aircraft. A new approach concept called the “continuous approach” is being used to use less fuel and also create less noise around airport environments. With the continuous approach, airlines start descent later and continue the descent without stopping until reaching the runway, using less thrust and creating less noise. Some types of aircraft have also been banned from certain airports, and some have been restricted to flying only during specific time frames.

Some communities also place any fines airlines pay for breaking noise ordinances into a community trust that is used to plant trees around the airport and create healthy bio ecosystems that help balance out the negative effects on the environment.