The way that aircraft are designed can help reduce the environmental impact that they create. Both the aircraft and its engines generate noise; while the aerodynamics of the aircraft can affect fuel efficiency and emissions.
The Royal Aeronautical Society supports research on sustainable aviation through its Greener By Design programme. The programme brings together research institutions, airports, airlines and others involved with the aviation industry.
Aircraft and aircraft engines have to meet minimum international standards to be allowed to fly. These standards are developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and cover safety as well as the environment.
In environmental terms, the key standards are around aircraft noise and engine emissions. Clearly, it is in the commercial interests of aircraft manufacturers to ensure their aircraft meet these standards.
To help improve environmental performance further, ICAO has also set longer term targets and announced a future, more stringent standard for CO2 emissions.
Each generation of new aircraft is likely to be quieter and cleaner than the aircraft that they replace. However, aircraft typically have a long service life, and the design and manufacturing process takes a long time to complete. This in turn means it can be some years before the performance benefits of newer aircraft make a substantial difference to overall emissions and noise levels.
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