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Posts Tagged ‘airlines’

Vortex Tools explains why, with fuel costs and slim profit margins, the airline industry is one of the likeliest to not go green.

By Flickr user Axwel [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsI’ve mouthed off a lot about airlines lately (see here and here). Maybe it’s just that I’m experiencing their joys and troubles more often from traveling. For instance, the fact that a plane can leave the gate, then stall on the runway while luggage gets loaded on late, while still allowing the airline to check the box for an “on time” departure is indicative of the level of meaningless standards.

But here’s my bent today: I realized a while ago that the airline industry has no motivation to go green.

Many environmentalists don’t like oil and gas, but there are motivations to keep the industry cleaner. In the event of an oil spill, there are fines, cleanup costs, public relations pains, etc. In the event of too many CO2 emissions from the wellhead, the producer gets fined until they’re in compliance with air laws. Additionally, regulations keep changing—usually in a way that’s stricter on oil and gas pollution. Flaring gas is continuing to get scaled back and I doubt fracking will make it, in its current form, through another 10 years.

Vortex vapor recovery tool

Vortex vapor recovery tool

In working in the oil and gas sector—using Vortex Tools to vastly reduce CO2 emissions and to recover 10 times more valuable natural gas liquids to make a profit while burning a cleaner flare—I can tell you that all of these aspects equate to motivation to make a dirty industry cleaner.

But airlines don’t really have this kind of motivation.

Like any other industry, they can spin their efforts as green, but it’s about intent and application. Everything the airlines do is to get planes in the air with less cost. The biggest obstacle to this is the price of fuel. While they can’t control the cost of the commodity, they can control the weight they’re putting on the plane. You may be familiar with examples of airlines using lighter seats, thinner and lighter magazines, and not serving food on shorter flights.

(The exception to all these rules is if you pay a premium—for larger seats, for extra luggage, for food on the short ride.)

Then there are some uglier examples of controlling weight. While we’re seeing people get dinged for their bag being overweight, we’re also seeing examples of people getting dinged for they themselves being overweight. I get it logistically—I’m a small man and the airline experience gets me way too familiar with the odors and feel of the people around me—but you can see how this can get cruel quick. I’ve got some larger friends who understand that they need to buy a first class ticket if they want to fly comfortably, but what happens when you put these kinds of requirements on say, an obese kid?

In addition, the cynical part of me is waiting to hear some secret audio from a worldwide airline executive complaining about how fat Americans are ruining profit margins. In the mean time, Samoa Air has already introduced a “pay what you weigh” model.

During the Cleantech Open, I met a company, Molon Labe, who made a sliding airline seat. The value of this is that you could load / unload the plane faster (slide over the middle seat on your side and go), get a faster turnaround (using energy in the air instead of wasting it on the ground), and, according to them, saving airlines $75,000 a day in fuel costs (not sure how many planes would need to install their seats to get that number, but it’s still significant).

As the Cleantech Open had a large sustainability component, Molon Labe’s argument was that this kind of efficiency could allow a plane to have more flights in a day, allowing airlines to remove planes from their fleet entirely. In theory, less planes = less energy use = less environmental impact, but from what I’ve seen of this industry, less energy use + greater flight turnaround = more flights in a day. More flights in a day = more environmental impact, and, if it makes sense and the profit margin is good enough, more planes in the fleet.

It’s a reality that rarely gets pushed back on companies touting green, but more efficiency does not always equal greater sustainability.

In the end, regardless of what I think of certain airline practices, I know it’s a tough industry. The profit margins are surprisingly slim and most airline companies go bankrupt at some point. As comedian Louis CK noted, it is amazing that we can sit in chairs and fly through the sky to the other side of the world (see 2:00 on — yes, the clip is in English):

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo shares some pilot confessions on how long your flight really takes, the truth on turning off your electronics during takeoff and landing, and where pilots can use their in-flight (licensed) guns.  

A while back I commented on one of the ways airlines lie to us.

“We’ll make it up in the air” is a bogus phrase because of how little time they can make up vs. how much fuel they’ll waste, yet you often still land on time. How so? Because airlines lie about how long flights actually take. This happens partly because a) moving multiple people naturally involves contingency; and b) if said people knew about said contingency, there’d be a pile of gripes

I’ve got a friend who’s a pilot. This friend texts from the plane. While in flight.

At first I thought, “Shouldn’t you be watching the road, or uh, the sky in front of you?” According to him, with so much of plane travel being automated, he could stare at the console the whole time and likely still take off and land safely.

That bit about turning off your electronics during takeoff and landing? My pilot friend thinks it’ll go away soon, as all they really get is a bit of hum over the equipment. He’s legally allowed to keep a gun in the cockpit, too, but only there and only on his plane. A pilot recently lost his license because he came out if the cockpit, gun brandished, and tried to commit a citizen’s arrest. The belligerent passenger called him on it, and as the pilot’s authority stopped at the locked door at the front of the plane, he’d overstepped the limit of where and how he could use that weapon.

Maybe you’re like me where you wonder what would happen if a pilot was placed in the unfortunate position where he had to fire on someone trying to get into the cockpit. I know they’d be half-deaf firing that thing in such a small space, but what if they miss and the bullet strikes the plane? I’ve seen action movies where someone gets sucked out of that teeny depressurized hole.

Apparently it doesn’t work that way either. You can cover the hole up and will be fine until landing. A towel will probably do (hope they don’t hit the window or a passenger).

Now action movies aren’t accurate? Maybe cool guys do look at explosions.

Well, here’s what I planned to write about in this blog: Recently I was on a business trip—an early flight from the Midwest. De-icing (where they spray chemicals all over the plane to remove/prevent freezing) was a gimme.

That day I got a pilot who was publicly honest over the intercom: “We’re going to turn off the air because the de-icing fluid smells bad,” he said. “You can try fiddling with your air port above you if you really want to, but it still won’t work.”

He then went on to say, “We will land on time.” I waited for the lie about making time up in the air, but instead this pilot said, “We’ve got three hours and 20 minutes allocated for flight time, but it only takes two hours, five minutes, so we’ll be fine.” It’s the first public acknowledgement I’ve ever heard of that.

Unfortunately, he did not explain the airlines’ obsession with peanuts. Some secrets just go too deep.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo explains a common lie from airlines.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/16/Boeing_747_Lufthansa.jpgI was waiting for a flight recently when the staff stated, “We’re running a little behind, but we’ll make it up in the air.”

At this, the aviation engineer standing next to me scoffed. He explained that planes can go 1% faster, but as this burns 5% more fuel, no pilot — or at least the ones who don’t want to get fired — would do this, as top fuel guzzlers are tracked and disciplined, so all they’re making up is mile-high lies.

And yet you often land on time… so what is it? Well, the actual flight time is exaggerated, so even if you leave late, the airlines want to close with a good impression. As long as that rubber chicken meal doesn’t bounce back to haunt you, they might well succeed.

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Colin McKay Miller is the Vice President of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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