Flying the Greener Skies

Going green, Peachy — By Roberta on March 11, 2009 at 10:07 am

MD-80 by a NoseHave you flown lately?  If so you’ve probably noticed that though the planes are packed to the gills these days, there are fewer of them, and finding a good deal online is getting harder and harder. That’s because major airlines worldwide have been raising prices and scaling back capacity to adjust to the fact that people are just not flying like they used to.  There are fewer planes in the air than last year, and more cuts are coming soon.  The skies are definitely getting cleaner and greener.

As the global financial crisis deepens, we can expect this trend to continue. I’m not trying to minimize the pain this will cause.  It’s going to be hard on people who work for the airlines as well as passengers, and all the associated services like tourism , airports, and the hospitality industry will suffer too, but in the long run it will force re-organization and really help the environment.

Jet planes, even the newest ones, are not only  fuel hogs, they also spew out more than their share of harmful carbon emissions.  I was astounded to read that one trans-Atlantic flight creates more carbon emissions than driving the average American car for an entire year.  Multiply that by the thousands of flights that take off daily, and you’ve got a big problem. Then there are contrails (those white exhaust fumes you see coming from planes overhead.)  They form ice crystals in the upper atmosphere and trap heat, making yet another contribution to global warming.Air Hostess

Using the Google Maps Flight Emission Calculator, I found that  the CO2 emitted on a flight from Newark  Airport to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport (a distance of 718 miles) was a whopping 306 pounds per passenger.  How’s that for a carbon footprint?

The major American carriers recently announced plans for even deeper cuts.  Delta will cut international capacity by 10%. United is trimming by 15% and American airlines will cut international capacity by 2.5% and  lower domestic capacity by another 9%. Most foreign and domestic carriers are planning to follow suit.  That’s a lot of CO2 emissions avoided, not to mention  a lot of  jet fuel  saved.

While I’m not jumping for joy over the economic implications of these cuts, I have to admit that I see  greener skies as a real silver lining of the current economic crisis.

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