With the ecoDemonstrator 757, Boeing worked with NASA to test methods and materials designed to make aircraft more energy-efficient and quieter to fly – and TUI was on board as a partner. To study toxic substances in the atmosphere, the Helmholtz Association installed a measurement laboratory on the vessel Mein Schiff 3. TUI sets great store by partnerships like these to enhance the sustainability of its airline and maritime fleets.
Everyone knows the problem: at the end of a long drive, the car needs washing because there are hundreds of red and yellow splodges all over the front spoiler and windscreen – the remains of insects that collided at top speed with metal, plastic and glass. The same happens to planes, except that the effects are serious: the tiny creatures plaster the leading edges of the wings and cause drag. Precisely calculated air flows are disrupted and fuel consumption will increase.
What can be done? The aircraft manufacturer Boeing decided to tackle the problem with the help of its ecoDemonstrator, a specially equipped Boeing 757. The plane serves to test a wide range of measures aimed at making the future of flying more energy-efficient and eco-friendly. “We and NASA worked together to apply different coatings to the right wing to see if insects would not stick to the surface,” explains Doug Christensen. The engineer heads the ecoDemonstrator programme for the American company. He took part in the tests conducted in Louisiana at the regional airport in Shreveport, a humid location in a swampy landscape: the ideal habitat for insects.
After 83 test flights, Boeing and the technical team from NASA counted around 40,000 bees, gnats, flies and other insects that had hit the wings of the demo plane. “Some of NASA’s coatings cut soiling by 40 per cent,” reports Christensen. “This was a positive initial result. We will continue to explore this approach to reduce bug contamination as a way to improve efficiency on commercial airplanes.”
»There has been constant progress in the design of more sustainable aircraft. We can expect the future to bring even more improvements, both environmental and economic.«MIKE BRAUNER, Senior Manager for Sustainable Development, TUI Group
That will also benefit the six TUI airlines with their fleet of 140 aircraft, many of which were built by Boeing – and another 50 have already been ordered from the American manufacturer. But the travel group is not merely involved as a customer; TUI was also a partner to Boeing, sponsoring the flight tests. The airplane was painted in TUI’s livery and an international team of TUI pilots and engineers developed about 70 ideas for the ecoDemonstrator. “That included a lot of innovative and creative suggestions,” says Mike Brauner.
As Senior Manager for Sustainable Development at TUI, he sees TUI support for the ecoDemonstrator as a key component in a long history of corporate commitment to sustainable travel. 20 years back, the Group was already pursuing this issue, one of the first major tour operators to do so. “At the time, we started to analyse our destinations in holiday countries,” Mike Brauner recounts. “We began with a classical approach by measuring resource consumption in our hotels, but then we took a closer look at air and water quality and at how waste disposal worked in the destinations.”
TUI’s response back then was more or less instinctive, Brauner recalls, but it pre-empted many of the measures that are now implemented systematically – things that have become increasingly crucial to commercial success: “We need to consider the three pillars of sustainability engagement – economic, social and environmental – and combine them in meaningful and transparent ways.” That is why 30 million customers a year book their travel with TUI, and it enables all sides to benefit – the people in the destination countries, the environment and the company.
are primarily being tested
by Boeing and NASA in this
ACTIVE FLOW CONTROL
On the 757’s tail, Boeing and NASA tested aspects of active flow control, a technology that could shrink the tail by as much as 17 per cent to cut an airplane’s fuel use and emissions.
PROTECTION FROM DRAG
Insect remains on the wings increase fuel consumption. NASA-developed coatings reduced this soiling by up to 40 per cent.
Cut emissions – Save costs
One important aspect is the energy used on the journey to that – often distant – dream destination. Flights account for approximately 80 per cent of the CO2 emissions from TUI Group operations – and that is above all down to the jet fuel. It is a big chunk, but typical of the sector. “That is where we focused our responsibility for the environment, and of course by consuming less fuel, we directly reduce CO2 emissions and save costs,” observes Brauner. The TUI fleet is relatively young compared with the rest of the industry, and it is regularly renewed. Boeing 787 Dreamliners account for a growing percentage. “The engineers have been using innovative materials, so weight has been extremely reduced. That makes this plane up to 20 per cent more fuel efficient than similar models.” Moreover, customer feedback has been excellent. According to Brauner, passengers enjoy flying in these comfortable aircraft, so they are very happy to rebook. “The decision to go with the Dreamliner is both commercial and good for the environment.”
Another priority for TUI is maintenance of the existing fleet. It begins with regular engine washing, otherwise particles cause clogging. This is a simple measure that cuts fuel consumption. And there are 30 more examples: “We optimise our flight speeds to save fuel, just as you do when you drive your car. We use lighter, more contemporary seat models, and we can save weight through catering too,” reports Brauner. Take all these things together and they add up to huge fuel savings and hence reductions in CO2: “In the last six years we have cut our carbon emissions by more than ten per cent.” The average consumption of jet fuel per 100 passenger-kilometres has also fallen, and that is not only due to technical measures. “We make very good use of capacity, and that contributes as well to efficient performance in this field.”
The commitment continues
A Voyage for Science
Mr Ebinghaus, you have installed four hi-tech measurement devices on Mein Schiff 3. What are you trying to find out?
EBINGHAUS: One priority is mercury, which poses a major risk to the environment and human health. Several hundred tonnes of this highly toxic heavy metal are pumped into the atmosphere every year by burning coal, waste and fuel. When it rains, mercury deposits build up in the water and soil. Via the food chain it is enriched in all living creatures – and as a neurotoxin it can severely damage our health.
How do you measure mercury pollution in the environment?
EBINGHAUS: We have a mercury gauge on board that more or less automatically collects regional data throughout the cruise about concentrations of this heavy metal. But that doesn’t tell us yet where it is coming from. To answer that we need to analyse other components in the air. The data from the sulphur dioxide gauge and the carbon monoxide gauge helps us to draw a few more conclusions. From Geesthacht we have satellite access to this data at all times, so we don’t have to wait until we can board the ship again.
What will your data analysis tell you?
EBINGHAUS: If we find a high concentration of sulphur dioxide on the open seas, it usually comes from the kind of fuel consumed by ships. So on Mein Schiff 3 we can actually trace the gas plumes of vessels travelling ahead of us. Carbon monoxide is more likely to derive from industrial processes or forest fires, which are recognised sources of mercury. The data, by the way, is also fed into an EU project which should eventually lead to a global mercury observation system. We are showing for the first time that cruise ships can play a helpful complementary role in this system.
What about the fourth device you installed?
EBINGHAUS: The FerryBox, as we call it, is in the engine room. Sea water is pumped into it constantly and flows past a number of different sensors. They record data such as salinity, pH value, oxygen and chlorophyll content. All this information is fed into the COSYNA database – that’s the Coastal Observing System for Northern and Arctic Seas – and is available to researchers all over the world.
What for you is the greatest benefit of working with TUI Cruises?
EBINGHAUS: The company has a keen interest in environment issues. The ship herself is fitted with various technologies, for example to cut sulphur oxide emissions by about 99 per cent and particle emissions by nearly 60 per cent. She also has her own Environment Officer on board. The partnership not only enables us to sam-ple waters from different maritime regions regularly and repeatedly; we can even measure around the clock and in all weathers. That gives us broad geographical and time coverage. It’s hard to achieve with a research vessel. Another important point are the costs, which are always a big factor in research. If we dispatch our own research ship, the operating costs alone amount to 10,000 euros a day. For these four low-maintenance devices, we incur one-off costs including installation of about 150,000 euros. That would keep us going for just about two weeks if we set off on our own.
The HZG is one of 18 facilities that make up the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, the biggest scientific organisation in Germany, employing about 37,000 people. At Geesthacht in Schleswig-Holstein, over 900 scientists are engaged in materials research and studying coastland habitats. Their agenda includes assessing the regional impact of global climate change and designing tools to manage this vulnerable landscape.