The Great Polluters

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THE GREAT POLLUTERS

We are willing to live with their pollution, but we can't smoke inside

 

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 747air.jpg (10759 bytes)
 

Airplanes are wonderful machines. Masterpieces of advanced engineering, 
airplanes are the realization of the greatest human dream: to fly.

The immortal Leonardo Da Vinci dedicated a considerable part of his life to make this dream come true. His attempts failed mainly because he did not have a device capable of generating enough power to propel his machines: the engine.

Thanks to airplanes, today our large planet has become a small place, for in a few hours we can accomplish journeys that would have taken months just a century ago.

As in everything, however, there is a price to pay. In this case, pollution.  It is ironic that there is so much emphasis on smoking inside airplanes andairports, while airlines conveniently forget to mention the airplane's contribution to environmental pollution.

Most people are unaware of the level of pollution created by airplanes. Most likely, if they were, they still would be willing to pay the environmental price in exchange for the advantages of air travel.  The point here is that airlines are unwilling to accommodate smokers, while dumping hundreds of millions of tons in the air that everybody breathes. No position could be more schizophrenic. Except that of governments, that is. 

Emission data from:
 

TECHNICAL DATA TO SUPPORT FAA'S ADVISORY CIRCULAR
ON
REDUCING EMISSIONS FROM COMMERCIAL AVIATION

 Prepared for:

 U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
MOTOR VEHICLE AND FUEL EMISSIONS LABORATORY
Ann Arbor, Michigan

 in cooperation with:

 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION
Washington, D.C.

 Prepared by:

 ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL ANALYSIS, INC.

DOWNLOAD THE STUDY IN PDF FORMAT

Also enclosed:

    APPENDIX I 

  • U.S. Commercial Service Airport Database. 
  • Geographic Information - Aircraft Activity Data


 

INTRODUCTION

Before proceeding with the document, let us become familiar with the terminology used in the study, and put forward a few qualifiers.

We have applied the figures of the study to Vancouver International Airport traffic statistics. Even though these statistics provide a breakdown of airplane categories (heavy, light, piston, etc.), the specific breakdown of aircraft model is not provided. Therefore, assumptions have to be made. We will be very conservative in our estimates.

For example, there is a huge difference between the emissions of an older Boeing 747- 200, and the emissions of a more modern 747-400. The 747-400 is cleaner than its predecessors by orders of magnitude. The same applies for lighter carriers- for example the McDonnell Douglas DC9-80. Nevertheless, we will assume that 50% of all the larger carriers of the heavy class are as clean as the 747-400, and the other 50% -- the smaller carriers of the same class -- are as clean as a DC9-80! Also, it has to be remembered that -- as in automobiles -- the aircraft emissions vary from unit to unit, depending on many factors such as age, payload, maintenance, etc.differently than antitobacco propaganda, we want to err on the side ofcaution - not exaggeration - when considering factors such as those mentioned above.

Thus, this analysis is not meant to be precise but merelyintends to point out the magnitude of airplane emissions with some meaningful figures for the layperson. The entire study from which these figures have been extrapolated is available for download above. 
 
  What is an LTO"

 LTO is an acronym for Landing Take Off cycle. It represents the cycle an airplane goes through during landing and take off. Specifically: 
 

  • Taxi and idle-out
  • Takeoff
  • Taxi and idle-in
  • Climb-out
  • Approach

Of those, the first three activities (taxi and idle-out, takeoff, and idle-in) are considered to be ground activities. The last two activities (climb-out and approach) are considered to be aloft activities up to 910 meters of altitude. To simplify the inventory process, a commonly accepted split of 50%-50% has been assumed between the ground-based emissions and aloft emissions.

ANALYSIS

The number of heavy passenger LTOs at the Vancouver International Airport in 1990 was 101,434. We report in the table below the complete list of LTOs divided by aircraft category.
 

AIRPORT HEAVY COMMER. JET TURBOPROP GENERAL PISTON HELICOPTER GLIDER COMMER. PISTON TOTAL Vancouver Int. 101434 2756 618 29805 336 0 23784 158733
As it can be seen, the total number of LTOs for all categories is much higher than the number of heavy passenger LTOs. For simplicity we leave to thereader the option of downloading the study to calculate the total emissions for himself, while we focus on the most popular category of airplanes.

So, let us consider the LTO emissions of a Boeing 747-400 (engines: PW4056), and the emissions of a McDonnel Douglas DC9-80 (engines: JT80-217C)
 

Manufacturer Aircraft Engine Carbon Monoxide (CO) Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) Hydrocarbons (HC) TOTAL Boeing 747-400 PW4056 31.55 lbs 115.02 lbs 2.54 lbs 149.11 lbs McDonnell Douglas DC9-80 JT80-217C 14.26 lbs 26.39 lbs 4.13 lbs 44.78 lbs
AVERAGE LTO HEAVY CARRIER EMISSIONS:
CARBON MONOXIDE (CO): 22.90 lbs - NITROGEN OXIDE (NOx): 70.70 lbs - HYDROCARBONS (HC): 3.34 lbs
TOTAL MEASURED EMISSIONS: 96.94 lbs

Since we want to concern ourselves mainly with the emissions of an airplane while it is on the ground (where the heaviest concentration of pollutants sit), it is necessary to further reduce these figures by 50% (see above), thus the total measured ground emissions are about 48.5 lbs.

 This does not seem much, if we consider the size and the power of these carriers. However, let us now consider the daily number of LTOs at the Vancouver airport:
 

101,434 : 365 = 278 daily LTOs

Then let us multiply the daily LTOs by the emission weight: 278 x 48.5 = 13,483 lbs per day ground emissions.

 Now it is time for some important consideration:  
 

  • The airplanes considered above employ new, environmentally friendly technology. New airplanes are only a fraction of any fleet.
  • An older airplane emits over 2 times the amount of a new one (example: a 747-400 emits 149.11 lbs/LTO; a 747-200: 325.27 lbs)
  • Only ground emissions have been considered. A large part of the heavy end of the aloft emissions eventually fall on the airport grounds, andpart of it gets into the buildings.
  • No other aircraft categories have been considered in the above simple calculation.
  • All the emission generated by ground support & service vehicles have not been considered.
  • Evaporative emissions of the raw fuel have not been considered.
  • Emissions from electric power production have not been considered.

It is therefore quite reasonable to double the amount of these emissions and still end up being on the conservative side when considering the exposure to pollutants at this airport. 

This brings the total amount to about 

9,855,000 LBS (49,275 TONS) PER YEAR.
27,000 LBS (13.5 TONS) EACH DAY. 
1,125 LBS PER HOUR

Isn't it ironic that the "smoke-free", "clean air" of the Vancouver Airport facilities is pumped in from this kind of outside environment" Let us see now how many cigarettes per hour the figureabove equates to:  

24,321,430

(This is based upon the assumption that all the 21 milligrams constituting the average emission of a cigarette are released in the atmosphere as opposed to being partially retained by the body, which is thecase in real life.)

Except for nicotine, the byproducts ofafter-combustion aircraft fuel and cigarettes are the same. The difference is one of scale -- tons versus milligrams.

We have often been asked: "how many cigarettes equal the take off of an airplane""

Let us say that the brand new, absolutely-smoke-free 747-400 leaves behind the equivalent of 3,224,000 cigarettes.


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