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Rising oil prices and climate change drive efficient aircraft design

 Rising oil prices and climate change drive efficient aircraft design
30/03/2017

The aviation industry has enjoyed a boom in growth over the last three years as fuel prices have steadily dropped. This has meant that passengers have been enjoying low fares to their favourite destinations. However, OPEC, the organisation for oil producing nations, has announced that it is cutting production of oil. This has already resulted in a jump in the prices of oil to its highest since July 2015 and it won’t be long before passengers will feel the effects of this as seat prices are set to rise.

What has this meant for aircraft manufacturers? When Airbus launched the A380 in 2005, the titanic plane aimed to transport the most amount of people in the most efficient way possible. It came with a multitude of innovations to increase cabin space while reducing weight and increasing savings for the airlines. Boeing replied with the smaller 787 Dreamliner to cater for fewer passenger numbers, but providing more cabin space and an improved experience for short to medium flights at a high efficiency.

As the manufacturers of planes produce bigger aircraft, passengers demand more space and, for business and first class passengers, this desire for more space is being satisfied.

Airbus will re-release the A330 under the name A330neo, promising 14 per cent better fuel economy per seat. Lighter composite materials and better interior design has meant that manufacturers and airlines can capitalise more on business and first class passengers who want an improved flying experience.

As operating costs increase for airlines, it is up to manufacturers to build and supply more efficient planes with better equipped cabins for all passengers.

So what about the aircraft? Airbus’ latest A330neo features similar features as its competitor, the 787. Even in economy, it has 18-inch wide seats, more legroom and 66 per cent more room in overhead storage plus Wi-Fi for all passengers. Premium fare passengers get even more toys with bigger screens and the next generation of on-board entertainment systems.

But it has been in first class, across all fleets, where the most innovative solutions have been developed - creating the most amount of space where it is in high demand for customers willing to pay for it.

Emirates and Etihad Airways aim to create a similar look and experience to that of an ultra-luxurious car. Only available on the spacious A380, Etihad offer their hotel in the clouds with The Residence. Featuring three rooms including a bedroom with an en-suite shower room, the interior is more like a boutique London hotel than a traditional aircraft.

What can premium passengers expect? In the first class suites of Emirates and Etihad space in the cabin comes at a premium. Aircraft interior designers have come up with many innovative ways to create space for their most important passengers. The common theme of the Gulf aircraft is luxury. Both offer fully reclining seats with complete privacy using motorised sliding doors. Rotating televisions and motorised sliding refreshment bars are just some of the luxury features that are available at the touch of a button. French polished woods and cream leather seats adorn the first class suites to give passengers a taste of what it’s like to fly in a private jet.

For the future of aviation, airlines are introducing weight saving measures and trying to increase the amount of personal space for passengers in all areas of the cabin. For each 10kg weight reduction, about 10 tons of CO2 can be avoided in one year.* Therefore, the planes of the future need to be built to improve fuel efficiency and yet still consider passengers’ comfort – a design challenge for all involved.

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