Risen Fuel Cost
The aviation industry has been on the leading front driving economicgrowth through creating a viable transportation network all over theworld. The aviation industry has been the major pillar in the openingof new markets in the world. It provides a global transportationsystem that is the main backbone for the growth of global businesses.The fact that people can move from place to place has enabled thespread of ideas and physical goods transportation around the world,therefore, boosting trade. Lots of revenue concerning dollars isgenerated yearly from the aviation industry. It links multipleeconomies and exchange of products and ideas. General aviation hasalways been on the forefront enabling medical transportation, helpingwith disaster relief and creating a means of access to rural andisolated areas that may be lacking a proper transport network (GAO,2014).
According to the U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO, 2014)over the past years, the industry has been facing severe economicthreats that may stifle its aspired growth. One of the leadingproblems identified as a great economic threat has been the risingfuel costs. The effects of this rising cost have been felt widely bythe concerned stakeholders. These range from employees of theairlines to consumers using the services being offered by theaviation industry. It is, therefore, mandatory for the aviationindustry to make major adjustments to its current strategy if it isto continue its activities, make profits and combat the rising costsof fuel. In trying to mitigate the financial impact being caused bythe increasing fuel prices, some airlines have tried to restrain thegrowth of their domestic seat capacity. Some have configured theirfleets in such a way as to make them more fuel efficient and someresorted to improving their aerodynamics as others try to reduce theweight of the items being carried by the passenger on board. Anothermeans employed to manage their fuel costs is the use of fuel hedging.Airlines have entered into contracts designed to provide a morecertain assurance over the price of fuel in the future. Makingmergers amongst themselves have enabled aircraft to tame the soaringcost of buying fuel (GAO, 2014).
Effects of risen fuel costs
According to GAO (2014), it is estimated that fuel accounted forapproximately 33% of the costs incurred by major U.S airlines. Thisrise in the cost of fuel has a negative effect on the price costs ofairline carriers. An increase in the cost of fuel by even 1 dollaradds an approximate 17.5 billion dollars to the cost being incurredby the airline.
The economy is affected entirely when there is a rise in fuel cost.These costs being incurred by the airlines are passed downward to theemployees of the airlines and even to the public. On the businessmarket, these costs have led to some airline companies declaringbankruptcy and many employees being laid off from their daily jobsbecause the industry cannot meet the remuneration of its employees(Crawford J, 2016).
Among the many strategies that have been adopted by the airlinesinclude reducing flight schedules and even eliminating some of theless active routes altogether. A higher percentage is cutting Longhaul flights. This is because long-haul flights have a tendency toburn more fuel per mile than the economically sustainable shorttrips. It is reported that extra weight over the long haul flights isadded by the extra fuel carried by a plane which is needed to makethe extra trip. This has led to a reduction in flight numbers whichthus replicates to fewer employment opportunities for the public.Many employees are being laid off and in turn replaced with newtechnology to combat costs and increase the efficiency of theaviation industry (GAO, 2014).
The effect of cutting the number of flights per day affects not onlythe employees but also the passengers. Passengers are limited to thenumber of options of flight since they don’t have a wide range tochoose from. This also affects the pricing of tickets. The low numberof flights is directly proportional to high ticket prices. Customersare bearing the blunt of higher fuel costs because the airlinestransfer the high fuel costs to the passengers using the airlines.Airlines are obliged to increase ticket prices and reduce the extraservices that they render to their customers.
Another extra cost being institutionalized by the airlines due tohigh fuel cost is the additional fee on service amenity. Thisincludes baggage carried by passengers to the in-flight meals thatare served to customers by the airline. These charges are termed asancillary fees and are not included in the fares that are directlycharged for transporting passengers.
The high fuel prices have also led to airlines reducing theircarrying capacity or deciding to restrain their capacity growth. Thisis aimed at enabling them to control the cost they incur yearly whilemaintain or increasing fares through a controlled limited supply ofseats about the market demand. Some airlines have restrained theirdomestic growth capacity.
The increased fuel prices have resulted in higher costs incurred inthe general aviation operators which have thus led to a fall in thegeneral aviation activity and the sales of aircraft. The annualnumber of general aviation operation which includes take-offs andlandings at the airport has dramatically reduced. It is unanimouslyagreed that fuel prices have caused the hours flown by generalaviation users to drop dramatically. Increases in fuel prices reducethe usage of the piston aircraft as the economy has an active effectin the use of piston engine aircraft.
Fuel cost greatly affects the level of aircraft sales being precededby the health of the economy. The high cost of fuel has thereforecaused the sales of the general aviation aircraft to dropsignificantly. Many general aviation operators are currently lookingagain at turboprops. This motivation stems from the fact that theyhave higher fuel efficiency.
Steps to Cope with High Fuel Prices
Most of the airline companies are replacing their old less fuelefficient aircraft with new planes that are more technologicallyadvanced planes that are more fuel-efficient. More fuel-efficientaircraft are replacing old less fuel-efficient airplanes at a veryfast rate. Companies like Boeing which make many of the commercialaircraft reported that there had been a surge in the orders beingmade of their aircraft ever since the fuel prices started rising.This replacement process has also negatively affected some of theindependently owned maintenance and repair businesses because theywere the original primary service providers. These independentlyowned businesses have resulted in the companies laying off some oftheir mechanics while some of them have gone out of businesses(Perullo C, 2013).
The airline companies have also invested more fuel-efficient ways ofoperating their planes. These ways include flying the planes at aslower pace, taxiing using a single engine instead of two andresulting in installing winglets that help reduce the air drag. Theweight of items within the aircraft, some of which included seatbackphones and galley equipment like ovens, were either removed orreconfigured. The aircraft also resorted to carrying less fuel andwater with the cargo being distributed in a way to make the aircrafthave a more fuel-efficient center of gravity (GAO, 2014).
Another decision is the invention of solar-powered planes and evenelectricity to power small aircraft. There has been a push to usealternative fuel like the hydrogen fuel cells (Staples M, 2014).Biofuels are currently being hyped for use as they work like thefossil fuels that are currently in use. Biofuels are made fromrenewable sources like agricultural waste and algae. These bio-fuelsplay nice with engines, and they have a potential to reduce theaircraft’s carbon footprint by an approximate 80 percent.
Availability of alternative aircraft fuels is a key element of thestrategies to manage the energy challenges that are facing theaviation industry. They help expand the supply of jet fuels beyondthe current fossil fuels which thus improves jet fuel price stabilitywhile enhancing its supply security. This contributes greatly topositive economic development. The FAA has the goal of overcomingmany of the barriers to the development of alternative jet fuels andidentify opportunities to reduce the cost (Mukhherjee I, 2014).
This notable idea is, however, crippled a little by the deficiencyof infrastructure that can produce biofuels in large amounts whichcan be sufficient enough to shake the fossil fuel industry. Bio-fuelsare available in very limited supply.
Technologies for Reshaping Flights for Fuel Efficiency
The globe has experienced a tremendous increase in air traffic overthe last few years at such a high rate that carbon monoxide emissionshave increased tremendously. Most airlines have reported that thecosts they incur regarding fuel have even surpassed labor costs asthe largest consumers of their expenses. There is an availability ofrenewable energy, but its cost is more expensive than thepetroleum-based kerosene that is currently in use. With this in mind,the aviation industry is trying to embrace new technologies, shapesand new materials that would dramatically transform the flights.There has been a surge towards improving the aerodynamics of theplanes. Another effort is to increase the use of lightweightcomposite materials. Boeing has been on busy trying to find ways toreplace some of its mechanical components with electronics ones. Itspowerful lithium ion battery is being tested to replace themechanical components and thus reduce the weight of the plane and inreturn increase fuel efficiency. However, there have been previoussetbacks regarding these batteries overheating and thereforeaffecting the plane (Perullo C, 2013).
Use of Gear Turbofan Engines
This is a technology aimed at making turbofan engines being used bythe planes to be more efficient by adding a gear. It is reported thatthis fan-drive gear system engine has the capability of cutting theuse of fuel by an approximate sixteen percent. What this translatesinto is a decrease in carrier operating cost by an approximate 20percent, it will dampen the noise levels by an almost half thecurrent noise and cut the carbon dioxide emissions by estimated threethousand six hundred metric tons in a year (Kadosh K, 2015).
The modern turbofan engines are capable of creating thrust on aplane by expelling fast-moving hot gasses from their inbuilt core.They also are built with extra fans that push slower air which may beon the outside of the engine. This slower air thus mingles with thehotter and faster gasses found at the rear of the plane. This doublesup the thrust of the plane. The other typical engines have a bypassratio of 8:1, while these modern turbofan engines have a betterbypass ratio of 12:1. This means that the thrust and efficiency ofthe modern turbofan engine are much better than the older engines. Abypass ratio of 12:1 means that twelve pounds of air hitting theengine bypass the core for every pound that enters. The core’sturbine works better at faster speeds than the jet engine’s fanwhich is more efficient at slower speeds. The addition of the gearboxto the engine system, therefore, enables the two to spinindependently each at its optimum speed. The engines are made in away to have larger fans while the turbines are smaller and lighter(Kadosh K, 2015).
Some of the problems with the new engines are that because of theirlarger fans, it creates a difficult in trying to retrofit it beneaththe wings of the current aircraft. This implies that for their use tobe met, new airplanes have to be designed to accommodate the engines.Another notable problem is the fact that the gears work on metal tometal gear system which will require frequent inspections for cracksand fatigue (Kadosh K, 2015).
Employing open-rotor engines
These are propeller-driven engines that will be used on a largeraircraft. This modern engine will involve high-speed propellers whichhappen to spin in opposite directions. Through this mechanism, itresults in faster flight speeds and a decreased noise level. Theengines burn lesser fuel than the common engines while lowering thenoise of aircraft (Perullo C, 2013).
Use of Composite Ceramics
Other aviation researchers are focussing their effort on designinglighter materials that can allow for hotter combustion. The materialsneed to be light but stronger enough to withstand the hottertemperatures which are a result of burning fuel and air mixing in theengine. Engine parts that are made purely from ceramics have beenlaboratory proven to withstand temperatures approaching 1300 Celsiusto 1500 Celsius. Ceramic composites will thus allow the engines torun hotter by hundreds of degrees Celsius. Use of ceramic engine andbody parts is estimated to decrease the weight of the plan to anapproximate 10 to 30 percent. With a decreased plane weight, therewill be increased the fuel efficiency of the plane (Halbig M, 2013).
The notable problem with the complete use of ceramics on the engineof the plane is that ceramic is very brittle. This problem is solvedby developing composite ceramics reinforced with ceramics. Ceramicfibers are introduced into materials with ductility thus making themmore flexible. The more robust and reliable microstructure canwithstand temperatures of up to 17000 Celsius (Halbig M, 2013).
Use of the High-Speed Heat Exchanger
Air is first compressed before it enters the core of the aircraft’sengine. Trying to compress an amount of air that can combust enoughto reach maximum speeds, however, poses a big challenge of meltingthe metal due to high temperatures. This requires an efficiencytechnology to take care of this problem.
A heat exchanger is a pre-cooler which is made of a spiral tubematrix each having a very thin wall. The spiral matrix of tubes hasbeen made so thin so as to keep the plane as light as possible. Theheat exchanger can cool air that is hot at a temperature ofapproximately 1000 0C to a low of -1500 C in a matter of very fewmicroseconds. This cooling rate has been estimated to be faster thanthe time taken to blink one eye. The way that this technologicaladvancement improves fuel efficiency is through the creation ofexcess power for more thrust without increasing combustiontemperature. Chilling the air that enters the compressor enables theengine system to compress it at a lower power rate. This means thatthe turbine can create more power that is used to generate morethrust without increasing the temperature that is inside thecombustion chamber of the engine. This thus equates to less fuel usedfor combustion with the advantage of making the plane even lighter(Perullo C, 2013).
The challenge posed by this very fast cooling system to such lowtemperature is that it risks forming frost on the engine which maylead to it being blocked and the results will be detrimental.However, there is a technology that prevents the formation of frostand therefore preventing its build up and a possible engine block.
Investing in Fleets
Substantial investments are being made towards using new and moreefficient aircraft for the fleets. Among them, there are aircraftdesign improvements which help reduce fuel consumption. The engineand airframe designs are designed in a way to reduce much fuelconsumption. Manufacturers are focussing daily on improving theefficiency of the engines and the reduction of air-drag on theplanes. Technology has greatly increased fuel efficiency with anestimated 40 percent save on fuel consumption. The airframe designhas reduced the air friction experienced by the flying airplanes thuspromoting better aerodynamics and being lighter (GAO, 2014).
Minimizing the aerodynamic drag
It has become a regular activity during maintenance programs toinspect the aircraft and identify any possible causes of aerodynamicdrags. These are corrected promptly thus improving fuel efficiency.Fuel vents are constantly under study and improvements to reducedrag.
There is enough evidence that a regular and efficient airplaneengine washing results in an approximate 1.2 percent efficiencybenefit. Instituting a regular internal washing improves performanceand results in better fuel consumption. Enhanced performance kits onengines help reduce fuel consumption and also have the benefit ofreducing carbon emissions (GAO, 2014).
Use of lighter aircraft paints
As much as aircraft paint may seem extremely insignificant, they doadd to the weight of the plane and affect fuel efficiency. Lightercoatings are being instituted to chip down on weight while resistingchipping and cracking.
Operational Measures to reduce fuel consumption
The Auxiliary Power Unit (APU)
This auxiliary power unit normally runs on fuel and meets therequirements of the plane when it is switched off and is on theground. It has multiple uses some of which include air conditioningand lighting. In the recent past, many airports have started to offerground-based electrical supply in a bid to cut down on the fuelconsumed in running the APU (GAO, 2014).
Another mechanism is to reduce APU use for a more efficient groundpower conditioning system. In some instances, only a single airconditioning pack is used during the operation of the APU while onthe ground to reduce fuel burn.
Reducing the amount of time spent on gate arrivals
Mechanisms are employed to reduce gate arrival delays such that theamount of time spent by an arriving aircraft on the gate is reduced.This reduces fuel burn and therefore reduces the fuel consumption.
Using idle reverse and braking on landing
To save fuel, there has been an effort to select maximum reversethrust such that the fuel is saved.
Determining amount of reserve fuel being carried by plane
This measure will ensure that the aircraft does not carry too muchreserve fuel which will be more than the regulatory requirement. Thisis also used to determine the weight of the aircraft accurately. Ahigher level of accuracy enables aircraft to carry only the usablereserve fuels, therefore, improving the efficiency of fuel use.
The cost of airline fuel affects a large number of institutions andindividuals. It is an important component of operations expenditureas both passengers, and general aviation is affected by its rise. Theaviation has become very unstable due to the unstable cost of fuelsin the world. The air travel that ensures continued service deliveryis also affected directly by the state of the economy. This makes ithard for many service providers to quickly match the supply of theair services to the rapidly changing demand considering that fuelprices are continually on the rise. With this highly volatileenvironment, higher fuel costs have dealt a major blow to theaviation industry. Increased costs have contributed to reducedprofits for the companies in the airline industry. The increase infuel prices has reduced the earnings of major airline companies withsharp increases in prices being a major contributor to huge lossesbeing incurred by the industry.
New technologies are being sought after to reduce the weight ofairplanes, increase fuel efficiency and in return increase theprofits in the airline industry. The uses of the lightweightcomposite structure are swiftly gaining pace in the building ofaircraft because they increase laminar and smooth airflow over theaircraft surface. This increases the total lift of the airplane andplays a big role in reducing drag. This has helped reduce the amountof fuel being used by the aircraft. All these improvements demand alower engine power to fly with a similar speed and altitude andtherefore present a major improvement regarding fuel consumption.
The airframe technology promotes good flight dynamics and aircraftcontrol with the reduction of drag. Use of biofuels increases thecompetition on fossil fuels thus positively reduces the prices beingcharged for fossil fuels. Embracing better propulsion technologiesresults to fuel burn better and increased thrust force thusincreasing efficiency.
Since the fuel prices affect both the employees of the aviationindustries and even the clients to this aviation companies, thegovernment should invest in many types of research geared towardsmeeting solution that will reduce fuel prices. High fuel priceswidely affect the economy with many employees losing jobs whileticket prices increase drastically and hamper businesses. The effectis widely felt, and even the government is dealt a blow regardingrevenue collected as dwindled revenues from the aviation industrycannot improve the economy.
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