Monday, February 25, 2008

The begining of the end for racism

I have have reached the conclusion in the last several years that racism will be on it's way out when racist words and actions are far more injurious to their author then they are to the intended victim. I would like to think that among my family, friends, and even my community, that this is already the case. I am not naive enough to believe that this is true everywhere in the United States.

What I would like to believe is that the majority of the electorate will punish a candidate for racism on his or her behalf.

This article show that the Republican party seems to believe that any racism (or sexism) will hurt them in the general election.

Note, it is not necessarily that they believe racism is wrong, bit it will cost them votes.

This sums it up nicely

Not a big fan of Frank Rich, but he seems right on every account here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

10 Ways The Airlines Can Save Money And Help The Environment.

The aviation press and airline bloggers write extensively about how to reduce fuel expenses and preempt the coming regulation on their greenhouse gas emissions.

What you don't see is a lot of innovative proposals on how to do so. As a commercially rated pilot and flight instructor I have experience operating aircraft as well as working for a major aerospace company supporting flight planning software. I do know a little bit about this stuff, and it is clear to me that there are many things that airlines are not doing that could help the environment while controlling their costs.

Short term:

1. Airlines should work with airports to go oil free on all ground operations. It is easily within our current technology to power all aircraft tugs, luggage carts, employee shuttles, and other operational vehicles with bio-diesel. At the same time, the industry could be working with equipment suppliers on a new generation of hybrid electric or electric only vehicles. The stop and go nature of ground vehicle operations and the relatively small size of an airport make it the perfect application for the electric vehicles currently available. It is surprising how much pollution at airports is generated by vehicles other than aircraft.

2. Airlines and airports should be the first to buy electric power from 100% renewable sources. This is a no-brainer that would cost a small amount now, but do wonders for their overall carbon footprint as well as their PR.   I purchase my power from wind sources, why can't they?

3. Airlines need to initiate measures eliminate the wasteful process of tankering. If you don't know what tankering is, it is the practice of adding more fuel to an aircraft than is necessary in order to take advantage of regional price differences. For example, if fuel is $1.50/gal. in Dallas and $2.00/gal. in Denver, an airline will fill it's tanks in Dallas so as to purchase less fuel in Denver. The problem is that every pound of weight carried, including excess fuel, consumes even more fuel.

The least efficient way to transport fuel will always be in the fuel tanks of a jet aircraft. In the interest of reducing their carbon footprint, the airline industry could work with fuel suppliers to enter into global contracts. Fuel costs could be averaged out so that tankering is unnecessary. Fuel could be traded from one location to another between companies. It seems like some outside the box thinking is necessary here, but clearly overall consumption could be reduced if airlines never tankered fuel. Ultimately, there might even be some administrative cost savings as well.

4. Continuous descent approaches, or "green approaches" should be implemented everywhere as soon as possible. For a layman's explanation, look here.

5. Free Flight should be implemented as soon as possible. This is a system where aircraft fly direct to their destination whenever possible, rather than on circuitous airways.

6. Use larger aircraft with less frequency between major cities. Larger aircraft use less fuel per passenger than smaller aircraft. Many airlines schedule 15 flights a day or more between two airports using 100-150 seat aircraft. There needs to be an initiative to replace at least some of these flights with larger aircraft. As a bonus, crew and maintenance costs would be reduced and congestion would be relieved.

Medium Term

7. Go to Green Taxes:
Eliminate all passenger and movement based airline taxes and replace them with the equivalent fuel tax. This will be an incentive for airlines to retire less fuel efficient aircraft and replace them with newer, more efficient ones. In an ideal world, this would be a short term solution, but realistically, it would involve reworking a lot of regulations. As a bonus, the economies of Europe and the United States will get a boost through the increased sale of more fuel efficient aircraft.

8. Eliminate ground movement on engine power. A jet engine on the ground at idle consumes as much fuel as it does at altitude in cruise.  In other words, on most short flights to and from congested fields, your aircraft is likely to consume more fuel on the ground than in the air.

The solution: Have aircraft towed to the runway by tugs. This can be done very easily with a human operated tug, while the industry develops a system of driverless, cockpit controlled tugs. Ideally, such a tug would return to the gate autonomously, or semi-autonomously after it "drops off" it's aircraft at the runway. Virgin Airways has already experimented with this.

9. Start moving to Bio-Fuel blends Airlines need to work with manufacturers to certify existing engines for a bio-fuel standard. Even using B-10 (%10 BioFuel) would be a major reduction in oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Long Term:

10. Start moving now to develop spur aircraft and engine manufactures to develop Bio-Fuel and Alternative fuel powered aircraft. The industry should work with the next administration to partner with NASA in it's development. Now is the time to set reasonable goals for producing a carbon free airplane in our lifetime. There is no reason why an airplane delivered in 2008 should be replaced with another brand new oil burner in 2028.

Realistically, I wouldn't bet on almost any of these these proposals being adopted without major action from Washington. In my observation, airlines are so poorly managed, that they are still trying to work out the most basic problems dealing with their everyday operations.

It is really too bad, as almost every one of these proposals would reduce their costs and increase their profits. Neither the airlines nor their passengers want to see a useless "green tax" imposed on all flights one day.

Sadly, their management would rather sit back and work on the next merger deal than to worry about the future of their industry, let alone their planet.