At the 2011 Paris Air Show, a Coming-Out Party for Green Aviation Technology - UPDATED
But times in the industry are tough. Oil prices, particularly, have aviation executives on edge. With unsettling headlines breaking daily from the Middle East, North Africa and Japan, nobody can yet predict how far petroleum prices will go.
So it’s only fitting that at theupcoming Paris Air Show, there will be a lot of talk about what the industry is doing to cope with the sky-rising cost of fuel.
Fuel is the aviation industry’s second largest expense, after labor. Globally, the world’s airlines consume some 205 million tons of aviation fuel each year, accounting for 20 percent of companies’ operating costs, according to theWorldwatch Institute.
But while soaring oil prices have been bad for business, they are also creating opportunities for relative newcomers to the air show calendar: Suppliers of alternative fuels and other technologies that hope to green-up the aviation sector, and in the process, create thousands of jobs, said organizers of the 49th International Paris Air Show that will take place June 20-26 in Le Bourget. Unlike previous air shows, this one will shine a brighter spotlight on green technology.
Enthusiasm aboutbiofuels and other environmentally-conscious products is a welcome antidote to the nervousness about the business environment for aerospace and aviation. At a March 22 news conference in Washington, D.C., Paris Air Show executives said that 15 to 30 percent of major aerospace firms have seen their PR and marketing budgets cut, which has a direct impact on their participation at air shows. This year, they expect 2,000 exhibitors to attend — about the same number that participated in the 2009 show.
There will be a special eco-friendly section focusing on clean-energy innovations, said Nicolas Tran, the show’s marketing director.
Peter McKenna, vice president of Kallman Worldwide, a company that organizes and promotes U.S. industry participation at major air shows, said this will be largest presence of aviation-related green technology ever seen in a single exhibition.
“The Paris Air Show is where every major new initiative in the aerospace world has been announced and publicized since 1909,” McKenna said. “It makes sense that this year, the same type of spirit will be manifested in a special display … that will showcase what is happening with the new field of alternative aviation fuels.”
Sponsors are a mix of industry associations, as well as airport operators and airlines. Manufacturers of biofuels will be expected to deliver good news about their progress in making alternative products that will help civilian and military aviation become less dependent on oil, McKenna said.
“It’s important to know that this ‘dream’ that everyone has been talking about for a number of years has become a reality,” he said. “We’re going to show that, and prove it, with a group of 14 participating companies from every part of the supply chain for alternative fuels. One of the exhibitors, Solazyme Inc., will be offering samples of jet fuel created out of algae which has beentested successfully by the U.S. Navy in fighter aircraft.
“The industry is real,” McKenna said. “If you’re following geopolitics these days, this is the most timely topic that we can bring to Paris.”
In times of economic recession in most of the world, alternative fuels will also provide a much-needed source of jobs, he said. “Industry hopes that there’s be a fuel-making facility associated with every airport in the world, using some kind of local crop to make the fuel.”
Among the corporations and advocacy groups that will take part in the “Alternative Aviation Fuel Display” are the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative, the Air Transport Association of America, Altair Fuels, Amyris, Gevo, Lanzatech, Metron Aviation, Neste Oil, Sapphire Energy, Solazyme, Solena, UOP Honeywell and Verno Systems.
CLARIFICATION: A spokeswoman for Solazyme Inc. said the company will not actually be giving away samples of fuel, but rather showcasing them at the Paris Air show.