The Airbus A330. Make friends with someone who owns one.

25 Feb

When our children were young, their mother and I never allowed them to sit on the knee of  Santa Claus. It seemed contradictory to warn them to beware of over-familiar strangers and then to suggest that they jump on the lap of some old man who has doubtful dress sense, a false beard and offers them presents in return for personal information.

So it was that we encouraged our kids to cling together in unity against the clearly unhinged logic of their parents. Between us both, their mother and I ran a dictatorial regime that, like President Assad’s, was so obviously designed to one day bring about rebellion.

In our case, we wanted them to rebel. We hated the thought of us clinging to power in old age and we also loathed the possibility that our children would grow up to be like ourselves. We couldn’t imagine a greater sadness than to one day discover that we had trained our children to conform, trust figures in authority and respect their wealthy rulers.

And so it happens that, as adults, we realise we must confront life’s contradictions instead of ignoring them. We have to doubt our own wisdom as often as that of others. For example, we have to listen closely to racists instead of ignoring them so that we can learn to question our own assumptions as well as neutralize their arguments. We have to think a lot more than we would wish to because very little of our lives makes perfect sense.

Let me now explain why jet travel is good for the planet.

Most of us are educated and aware that Planet Earth is a huge and fragile ecosystem. As we humans walk its surface and breathe it’s air, we change the way that ecosystem works. By the conduct of our daily lives, we strip it of renewable resources like plants and animals. We take its raw materials and convert them into chemical-based products which allow us to develop and grow our societies.  We use our world’s resources more preciously now than ever before.

There is now hardly a person on this planet who cannot be given a health-enhancing or life-saving drug from a plastic syringe. That syringe can then be recycled and that chemical manufacturer pays for carbon-converting trees to be planted to counter the pollution it creates in making the drug and it’s delivery system. We have moved so far towards protecting the ecological integrity of our planet by simply cleaning up our act. We have started to regain control of the deadly tail-spin of pollution and destruction brought about by our reckless ‘slash-and-burn’ development.

The extremes of Capitalism and Communism have been destructive of this planet. Both systems have turned fertile land into waste ground and contaminated once pure water. Both routinely blight and destroy the lives of some for the benefit of others. Both systems use the words ‘Freedom and Democracy’ as their flag, hanging it from Government buildings as proudly as they drape it over coffins.

But along the way, the social control brought by political stability has allowed innovation and mass production to flourish. One side-effect of an engaged and enthusiastic workforce is that great development projects may be conceived and delivered.

One of these projects has now finally come of age: low-cost transcontinental travel by jet aeroplane.

The 2nd may 2012 will mark the 60th anniversary of the birth of scheduled jet passenger travel. It has taken all those decades for the aerospace culture to truly spread across the world and to create  reliable, cost-effective  and fuel-efficient aircraft designs and a matching infrastructure.

Even ten years ago, most jets in operation were far thirstier and dirtier than today. One ought to bear in mind that although food retailers like M&S talk loudly of their green credentials and initiatives, the delicate and exotic fruit that lines their shelves would tell us a different story if it were able to speak. It has often been flown half way around the world to us by one of those hungry and polluting ‘old-school’ freight planes, long obsolete but too expensive to replace. Just because you grow passion-fruit or pomegranates doesn’t mean you lie awake at night worrying about fuel efficiency comparison data between aircraft operators.

And this is where it starts to get interesting.

Airbus announced a deal with business links to Singapore on 18th February 2012.  Airbus have worked out that 2,700 freighters are going to be needed by the World over the next twenty years. That is approximately one rolling out of the hangar every three days. Airbus has built its latest A3xx range so that it can be converted from passenger airliner to freighter – P2F – when those planes get towards the end of their useful passenger-carrying life. Out of those 2,700 freighters needed, Airbus plans to ‘create’ at least 900 of them from these P2F conversions in Malaysia.

Airbus already has 850 A3xx planes  in service around the world. You can see how they are thinking. The idea is really smart and definitely ‘green’. These birds are gonna be haulin’ more load over more miles than any White Freightliner or Mack truck ever did in the whole history of the American consumer boom.

Carrying between 20 and 40 tonnes each ride, for up to 10,000 kilometers, at 800 kilometers per hour, the figures start to look fascinating. As a simple example for comparison, we might consider that the Berlin Airlift of 1948 was successfully achieved mostly using planes that could only carry 4 tons at 300 kph.

Check out this link here and drag the little airplane around the screen. Go mad. It is great fun. A picture tells a thousand words.

This class of plane coupled with such sophisticated strategic planning has never before existed. But it is not just a revolution in freight – it affects us humans in so many other ways.

Last week, I flew on a standard pre-booked Easyjet flight from London to Cannes for £25. That is $39 for a 1,000 km journey. Two and a half pennies or 4 cents per kilometer. Compare that price to your local bus. Try cycling for less.

All through the history of our planet, our ability to travel has been strictly limited by time, technology and cost. Now, Free Market economic forces are creating the perfect conditions to move humanitarian aid and humans wherever it is necessary or wherever those humans need to be taken.

As the data from aeroplane manufacturers and the pricing of budget operators make clear, there now exists no logistical or fiscal excuse why either airborne aid or airborne evacuation cannot be made to happen when and where it is needed. When it comes to saving the earth, saving people from genocide also has its place. People are, after all, a most precious resource. Airlifts are being used right now to bring pomegranates to our supermarket shelves.

When it comes to saving humans,  should we demand that civil aviation operators utilize their resources for humanitarian ends or should we put our trust and belief in our politicians…and Santa?


© 2012 Loop Withers

One Response to “The Airbus A330. Make friends with someone who owns one.”

  1. roadwax May 30, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

    Reblogged this on roadwax.

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