Thinking green and outside the snake box

One well-known legend about Saint Patrick pits the missionary against an obstinate old snake, which didn’t care to be banished from the Emerald Isle. Patrick outsmarted the wily serpent and convinced him to get into a box, which was then pitched into the ocean.

Today, ingenuity is synonymous with “thinking outside the box”. A growing number of airlines and manufacturers are now looking to push the boundaries of modern-day boxes to usher in what could be a greener – cleaner – future (which could, of course, be profitable too).

On the eve of Saint Patrick’s Day, here is a trinity of noteworthy efforts in no particular order:

1) Electric wheel drive – A system being developed by aptly-named WheelTug will facilitate the ground manoeuvring of aircraft. Because engine taxiing is reduced, environmental benefits could include savings, through fuel cuts, in emissions such as CO2 and NOx. Delta Air Lines is providing assistance as launch customer. Wheettug%20JPeg.JPG

2) Alternative fuels – Last month a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 carried out a London Heathrow-Amsterdam flight in part using biofuel. The aircraft flew with one of four GE CF6 engines using a mix of biofuel composed of babassu oil and coconut oil, a concoction that Richard Branson deemed good enough to drink. Environmentalists panned the test, calling it a publicity stunt. Nonetheless, other carriers are now following suit. Hard on the heels of the Virgin test, Continental Airlines says it will pursue a biofuels demo with Boeing and GE in the first half of 2009.

3) Green aviation conferences – Two timely events are in the offing: the Green Skies Conference and Exhibition on May 21-23 in Orlando, Florida, and the Eco-Aviation Conference on June 18-20 in Washington DC. Major industry players are expected to attend both.

Of course a number of other projects are also worth mentioning, including new engine technology (of which I’ve blogged extensively here). Now I’m off to prepare for some reckless Irish dancing, and to enjoy a drop of that Liffey water.

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