Attempting to leave no trace is a noble, often unsung pursuit. You don't have to tiptoe across rice paper to sense the courage of that ideal. For aviation manufacturers and suppliers, a greener footprint calls for vision, commitment and stewardship. Practices that foster energy efficiency, pollution prevention, longer lifecycles, recycling and responsible disposal no longer bow to the bottom line. "There's more consistency around the world about the need to be environmentally accountable," says Goodrich Environmental, Health and Safety Director Dennis Hussey.
Attempting to leave no trace is a noble, often unsung pursuit. You don't have to tiptoe across rice paper to sense the courage of that ideal. For aviation manufacturers and suppliers, a greener footprint calls for vision, commitment and stewardship. Practices that foster energy efficiency, pollution prevention, longer lifecycles, recycling and responsible disposal no longer bow to the bottom line. "There's more consistency around the world about the need to be environmentally accountable," says Goodrich Environmental, Health and Safety Director Dennis Hussey. "The expectations from society, the government, customers and stakeholders are higher."
For Lufthansa Technik, the model is prescient: Fuse MRO objectives with environmental performance. According to LHT Engine Parts and Accessories Repair VP Dieter Tabbert, the philosophy is "not to scrap but to repair engine parts and components in order to extend their service life." Over the last 20 years, even with considerable expansion in production, Lufthansa has cut waste generation in half. Today more than 50% of its waste is recycled. "We are constantly enhancing our repair methods and inventing new ones in order to reduce scrap and reduce the cost of material," says Tabbert.
At Spirit AeroSystems, employees participate in lean manufacturing workshops for process improvements, which include streamlining manufacturing, elimination of unnecessary process steps and waste, material substitution that is more environmentally friendly and increased recycling efforts. Environmental Health and Safety Director Raymond Dewyer points out that Spirit "has drastically reduced" its use of water as well as its emissions, the toxicity of materials used within its manufacturing processes and its consumption of electricity while increasing the amount of material it recycles.
PUTTING STANDARDS TO PRACTICE
Given the virtues of the International Organization for Standardization's principles and systems, it's not surprising that many major aviation manufacturers and suppliers have incorporated ISO 14001 into their environmental policy and management structures. Designed to help companies curtail adverse operational impacts on the environment, this standard encourages green performance, management systems, protocols, auditing and lifecycle assessment.
Goodrich, a steadfast proponent of ISO 14001, estimates that up to 80% of the environmental impact of a product is determined in its design stage. "We believe in making sound design decisions and investing in benign technologies," says Hussey. "Through regulatory diligence, innovation and customer-focused design, we strive to reduce the environmental impact of our products." More than a dozen Goodrich sites have received external ISO 14001 registration and 15 additional sites maintain internal ISO 14001 registration.
Since 1999 Lufthansa Technik has operated under a certified environmental management system pursuant to ISO 14001 and for more than a decade it has followed the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme, a voluntary initiative designed to advance environmental proficiency. The aircraft maintenance provider observes rigorous protocols in its handling of hazardous substances and routinely releases a public statement that reports on its environmental performance. "Sustained environmental protection has always been for us a mission with special priority," LHT tells Airline Procurement.
Spirit AeroSystems, also ISO 14001 certified, carefully monitors the use of sustainable and unsustainable resources, actively seeking to minimize the use of products and services that have negative impacts on the environment. "Our ISO 14001 certification is one of our major drivers toward continuous improvement of our environmental practices," acknowledges Dewyer. "Lean manufacturing and improvements to our supply chain management, such as JIT, are also positive, nonregulatory influences."
Some of Spirit's higher-impact efforts include product substitution and replacement, recycling industrial wastewater, recycling manufacturing materials such as metals and wood and replacing lighting fixtures and electric motors with higher efficiency units. "We also make sure that our suppliers are aware of the impact that their products and processes can have," Dewyer adds.
LEANER ENGINES, GREENER MRO
When you think of an aircraft engine, you usually don't envision emerald pastures or natural springs. Even so, aircraft engines and MRO activities have come a long way on the ecological front in recent years. For Pratt & Whitney, the desire to build a lighter, more fuel-efficient engine with reduced noise and emissions led to development of the Geared Turbofan. "When you want to make an engine really efficient and quiet, its fan should be as large as possible and turn as slow as possible," explains Commercial Engine Programs VP Robert Saia.
Pratt's GTF allows the engine's low-pressure spool to operate at high speeds for peak efficiency while the fan operates proficiently at slower speeds to reduce noise. With its geared configuration, the manufacturer has been able to make a leaner engine and reduce its rotating stages. "More importantly, we've eliminated about 1,500 airfoils," he points out. About 1,000 of these are located in the low pressure turbine. "These are pretty expensive because low turbine airfoils operate in such high temperatures," he says.
Pratt projects that its GTF will reduce fuel burn over current single-aisle engines by more than 12%, lower NOx emissions over the 2008 standard by 55%, cut noise by 50% and reduce maintenance costs by 40%. "When you're in a short-range operation, doing 10-12 two-hour flights per day, it's almost a trade because 1% in fuel is worth somewhere on the order of 9% in maintenance costs," adds Saia. In October, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries selected the GTF to power its new regional jet. A flight test program will begin in mid-2008 and Pratt expects the engine to enter service in 2012-13. Subsequently, Bombardier said it intended to choose the engine for its proposed C Series jets.
The company's engine wash service, EcoPower, was developed in 2004 primarily as a solution to groundwater contamination.Fully transportable, EcoPower uses atomized, purified water to wash engines in a closed-loop system that captures all effluent, effectively eliminating the possibility of ground contamination. "We get a very effective and thorough wash without using any detergents because we ensure that the water droplets impinge themselves on the blades as they progress through the engine," says EcoPower Program Manager Anapam Bhargava. What's more, a process that used to take between 4 and 8 hr. now can be completed in less than 90 min.
Currently, Pratt's EcoPower service ranges in cost from $3,000-$5,000 per wash but can reduce fuel burn by as much 1.2% and increase engine EGT margin by as much as 15 deg. C. Since it launched the service in 2005, the company has washed more than 800 engines using the technology.
LHT's engine wash service, Cyclean, also has seen favorable results. It boasts turnaround times of less than 1 hr., EGT margin improvements and reductions in fuel flow, maintenance costs and CO2 emissions. "Engine performance is optimized and tremendous amounts of kerosene can be saved with this service," LHT tells Airline Procurement.
REUSING, RECOVERING, RECYCLING
According to a recent industry forecast, 200-300 commercial aircraft over the next 15-20 years will reach their end-of-life and go out of service. What then to do with all those empty cockpits, idle engines and grounded wings?
Tarbes Advanced Recycling & Maintenance Aircraft Co., an end-of-life aircraft dismantling firm, was established in June with the aim of recycling aircraft parts in a secure and environmentally friendly way. Comprising six industrial partnersAirbus, SITA France, Snecma Services, Equip'Aero, TASC aviation and AeroconseilTARMAC Aerosave is an extension of the Process for Advanced Management of End-of-Life Aircraft test project, a €3.2 million ($4.7 million) initiative that began in February 2006 to establish standards for the environmental management of retired aircraft. Under PAMELA, Airbus has established a facility at Tarbes Airport in southwest France to determine best practices for dismantling airframes and other parts such as engines, landing gears, pylons, batteries and hydraulic pumps.
Specialists involved with the project estimate that 50%-70% of dismantled parts can be recycled. Some material separation will require special equipment. Materials such as aluminum alloys, steel, copper and plastics will be cut and organized in containers for collection and reprocessing elsewhere. Much of the composite material will be crushed and worked into concrete or plastics. As more and more aircraft containing composites retire and become defunct, new processes and procedures will have to be developed to handle exotic alloys and metal-fiber laminates in ways that are resourceful, cost-effective and environmentally responsible.
For A J Walter Aviation, a London-based company that supplies, repairs and leases aircraft spares, simply following local government guidelines for scrapping and recycling procedures has proven to be the most responsible and economic way to ensure that environmental standards are upheld. "As a stocker and distributor, recycling and scrapping are not that complicated for us because we don't manufacture anything or store any hazardous materials," AJW Quality Manager Nigel O'Dell explains. "The green practices we work toward are local government polices and procedures on recycling basic waste. If we did have to scrap any harmful materials or aircraft parts, we would probably look to have this done at an approved maintenance facility and keep a record of it."
Goodrich on the other hand has plenty to account for in regard to manufacturing waste. That's why its chemical management program is so rigorous. Some of its key elements include secure controls to ensure that only approved chemicals and necessary quantities enter certain facilities; material safety data sheets for all chemicals used on-site; required programs for the proper handling, distribution and storage of chemicals; compliance with regulatory requirements related to chemical management, and management of environmentally sound and safe chemical disposal.
"Green chemistry is certainly an important practice for many manufacturers," says Hussey. "Composites are becoming more and more popular; they're lighter and more fuel efficient, but we need to be careful and environmentally conscious. We need to think about the entire lifecycle and the aftermarket. We'd prefer to curb pollution by being proactive. We realize we need to do this on a voluntary basis or it will catch up with us in the end."