Farnborough Air Show

UK group researches sustainable aviation

 - July 14, 2008, 7:48 AM

Farnborough’s exhibitors and visitors would no doubt like to see a sustainable future for aviation, and a new group of UK academics is here to help assure that aspiration becomes reality.

Omega (Hall 2 Stand C33) is already pursuing more than 40 lines of research in support of sustainability, chief executive Roger Gardner said here Saturday. Its range of academic expertise, drawn from nine universities with a track record in sustainability research, makes it a one-stop shop for advice on all issues relating to aviation and the environment, he said.

Two studies in particular highlight the range of Omega’s activities. One addresses the reluctance of air travelers to invest in carbon offset schemes. “So far people have been very loath to embrace the idea of their personal responsibility for the carbon emitted by their journey,” Gardner said. “So we are trying to identify the hot buttons that will get them to do something about it.”

The work involves interviewing travelers at Manchester airport about their awareness of offsets, their attitude to such schemes and their willingness to pay. “There is a lot of distrust on the part of passengers, and a lot of small companies are offering schemes whose value is calculated in various ways, giving widely varying values,” he said. “So our work focuses on how people view the concept and the pros and cons of the schemes on offer.”

The other study addresses noise–a particularly topical theme here at Farnborough, where airport operator TAG Aviation is seeking to raise the number of permitted movements, and at nearby Heathrow, where controversy is simmering over a proposed third runway for the airport.

Specifically, it is looking at the values used to quantify noise and using focus group interviews with people living near airports to evaluate conventional and new noise indicators. “We tend to use noise contours to measure it,” Gardner explained. “People don’t understand what they mean and may still be disturbed by noise even if the contour says they shouldn’t. So we need to get over that disconnect.”

Omega has secured seed funding from the UK government’s Higher Education Funding Council for England “The idea is to get academics to take a bigger part in the environmental debate rather than working in ‘silos’ for companies or industry,” said Gardner.