While the prediction is for passenger traffic to grow at a rate of 4.9% per year, air freight is expected to grow even faster, at a 5.8% clip per year. Airbus says that combined with on going fleet renewal, this will create demand for 3,800 freighter deliveries, with 900 of them, worth $200 billion, to be newly built in factories.
“Air transportation is definitely a growing industry contributing to economic development and generating wealth around the world,” said Airbus chief operating officer, John Leahy. “We are committed to being a key player in making this industry eco-efficient by providing the most technologically advanced products and responding with a full ‘life-cycle’ approach.”
In fact Airbus has already successfully completed the world’s first-ever flight by a commercial aircraft using a liquid fuel processed from gas (Gas to Liquids-GTL). It did so in an Airbus A380 on a flight from Filton in the UK to Toulouse in France. For the manufacturer, it is the first stage of a test flight program to evaluate environmental impact of alternative fuels in the airline market.
In the short term, GTL could be available at certain locations to make it a practical and viable drop-in alternative fuel for commercial aviation, according to Airbus. “GTL has attractive characteristics for local air quality, as well as some benefits in terms of aircraft fuel burn relative to existing jet fuel. For instance, it is virtually free of sulfur,” says Airbus. Synthetic fuel can be made from a range of hydrocarbon source materials including natural gas or organic plant matter by a process called Fischer-Tropsch.