Airbus has recently launched its ‘Smarter Skies’ vision of how aviation will look in 2050. There are some good ideas but the overall package is looking more disingenuous than smart.

Aviation is fighting hard to protect the status quo against the demands of environmentalists. In Europe, Airbus describes the situation on its website under the heading ‘The Environment and Air travel’:

‘Air travel is an invaluable global asset which is at the heart of today’s global economy. Therefore, safeguarding aviation’s economic & societal benefits is crucial. More than 56 million jobs and USD $2.2 trillion of global gross domestic product are supported by the air travel industry. The aviation industry’s global economic impact is 3.5 per cent of global GDP. If aviation were a country, it would rank 19th in size by GDP – approximately the size as Switzerland or Poland. Globally the aviation sector is expanding. Passenger demand doubles every 15 years and by 2050 it could be handling 16 billion passengers and 400 million tonnes of cargo annually. In the meantime, passengers have become increasingly mindful of the ecological impact of their travel choices.’

Four sentences before any mention of the environment, in a section specifically about the environment, is a peculiar way to present their case.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Boeing’s environmental report 2012 is more upbeat:

‘At Boeing, we are focused on creating cleaner, more efficient flight. Each new generation of products we bring to the marketplace is quieter, consumes less fuel and is better for the environment.’

This claim is referenced to the dawn of the jet age when we discovered how to pump fuel out the back and ignite it to produce thrust. Boeing omits to mention that only their newest planes match the fuel efficiency of the propeller driven airliners of the 1950s.

Policy makers should look outside the aviation industry, for advice and the policy choices available, as the industry is hell bent on defending an antiquated vision of aviation which has no place in the 21st century.