Radical design might help curb greenhouse-gas emissions from aircraft

Under pressure to reduce fuel use and greenhouse-gas emissions, the airline industry may turn to a futuristic airplane design sketched by Sir Frederick Handley Page in the 1960s. The delightfully dubbed “batwing” would be built of plastic rather than today’s heavy aluminum, and would be covered in tiny, laser-drilled holes to reduce fuel-consuming drag. Industry group Greener by Design is using the batwing design in its plans for jets that would consume two-thirds less fuel than current aircraft, which combined with other changes in flying practices could bring total aircraft emissions below current levels by 2025, says industry, even if the number of flights keeps growing. Airlines are hoping that the unveiling of their plans will convince the U.K. government there’s no need for taxes on aviation fuel. But some eco-advocates are skeptical. “They are trying to imagine their way out of the problem with artists’ impressions that are worthy of Walt Disney,” says Jeff Gazzard of the Greenskies Alliance. “The only realistic solution is to fly less.”