Aircraft, Engine Manufacturers Form Environmental Group

 - August 1, 2011, 7:20 AM
As of July 12 Boeing began using a non-chromated primer and top coat to paint finished 737s. Chromates can cause cancer if inhaled, and stripping paint containing the substance to reclaim alloys can pose health hazards. (Photo: Boeing)

Major aircraft and engine manufacturers have formed an organization called the International Aerospace Environment Group, chaired by Boeing, with the goal of establishing environmental guidelines for the aerospace supply chain.

Eleven companies have been meeting for just over a year, and they officially launched the organization in late June under the umbrella of standards association SAE International. The group’s first effort will involve developing a way to inventory the chemicals used in manufacturing aerospace components, making that information available to airlines and other concerned parties, said Mary Armstrong, Boeing vice president of environment, health and safety. Armstrong spoke July 19 at the annual meeting of the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA) and Aviation Suppliers Association in Washington.

“Their first priority is to create a consistent process for suppliers to list the chemicals used in manufacturing aerospace components. This is a huge task,” Armstrong said of the industry group. “At Boeing alone, we have over 100,000 material safety data sheets. Inside those substances can be several different chemicals. Identifying and putting what we call a ‘chemical bill of material’ around our supply chain products is a big challenge. Once it’s in place, we will know the chemical composition of every part coming into our factories, our airline and government customers will know that, and when it comes time for recycling and salvage, [recyclers] will know the chemical composition of every part you deal with.”

The industry group consists of Boeing, EADS, Airbus, Embraer, Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce, GE Aviation, Safran, Dassault Aviation and Northrop Grumman. Christer Hellstrand, Boeing director of capabilities and compliance for environment, health and safety, serves as chairman.

Formation of the group stood among several environmental initiatives described by Armstrong, who leads a five-year program at Boeing to achieve 25-percent performance improvements in energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, hazardous waste generation, water consumption and solid waste recycling by 2012. As of July 12, she said, Boeing’s first 737 production line in Renton, Wash., switched to the use of a non-chromated primer and top coat to paint finished aircraft. Chromates, known to cause cancer if inhaled, aid in corrosion protection and paint adhesion. “This design change means you will deal with fewer environmental issues when you’re stripping off paint from retired airplanes to reclaim alloys,” Armstrong told AFRA members.