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Efficiency Challenges Tied To Aerodynamics, Propulsion, Weight

With an eye toward 2030, NASA is focusing on the four E’s.  No, it’s not a small but very wide shoe size.  It about designing the next generation of passenger-carrying airplanes – suitable replacements for the Boeing 737 and the Airbus 320.  The four E’s are: environment, efficiency, electrification, and economy.  NASA says these are vital to the sustainability of aviation.

Robert Pearce, NASA’s associate administrator for aeronautics, said, “In order to lessen our impact on the environment, we must increase aircraft efficiency in every way we can, integrate electrification to aid or replace current propulsion methods, and do it all in a way to benefit the economy.

“Conceptually, it’s really quite simple,” Pearce said.  To make aviation sustainable, you must reduce aviation’s impact on climate change.  To reduce aviation’s impact on climate change, you must reduce greenhouse emissions.  To reduce greenhouse emissions – carbon dioxide being the biggest contributor – you must reduce the amount of fuel burned.  And to reduce fuel burn, you must make the aircraft design more efficient.  It must move through the air easier, possibly use electricity to augment or power the propulsion system, and it must be as lightweight as is safely practical.