Air Travel Treehugger Style?

DayJet could change how you think of air travel - but that's the idea. Not only is DayJet a new paradigm in aviation, but it just might have the potential to be a greener way to move about the blue skies. The first oddity of the service is the schedule, or lack of one. Instead of the normal routine of a set number flights per day, DayJet is at the customers beck and call. Called 'per-seat, on-demand' service, when you want to fly, just give them a ring. DayJet then sets up a flight plan customized to your wishes. The next bit that boggles the mind is that they operate out of the local community and regional airports. Instead of driving to the hub, or even taking a connecting flight, DayJet keeps itself operating out of local places near the customer. But, my favorite part is the airplane itself. DayJet's fleet is composed of the worlds first Very Light Jet (VLJ), the eclipse 500. From the Eclipse Aviation website:

The Eclipse 500 is designed to make those outside the aircraft comfortable, too. Powered by twin turbofan engines from Pratt & Whitney Canada, the PW610F engine makes the Eclipse 500 the quietest jet in the world–a full 40 decibels lower than the FAA's Stage 4 noise requirements. And it's not only the noise emissions that are low; tests show that the PW610F engines register a smoke number (SN) of less than five–that's 10 times less than the regulatory limit.

So where are the green chops? Let's take a look at the way this changes the system of air travel.

1. Hub transportation is very efficient, but not resilient.
The US system has traditionally been based on a the spoke and hub system. This means that although a hub system may be an efficient way to move about the country, it only works when everything goes according to plan. Severe weather, mechanical failure, or even something as simple as spring break can wreak havoc on the hub system of transportation. The DayJet service uses a room full of mathematicians, and computer algorithms to arrive at an optimal distribution of these types of imperfections. This creates a system that can respond rapidly to changing demands. The idea of a resilient optimized system is found throughout the sustainability literature, from Biomimicry to Constructal Theory - successful systems evolve to optimize rather than maximize.

2. Full flights are profitable flights- unless they are not full.
Famously it is only the last few passengers on a jet that earn the airline money. This can cause a wide variety of problems, from delays to overbooking. With only 3-6 people per plane DayJet has reduced this problem to its most elemental. Ideally, DayJet has mentioned they would like to get down to one person. This presents new possibilities and new problems. From increasing the geographical start-stop points, to increasing the organizational load for air traffic controllers the system uses information instead of brute force. Again the idea of using information instead of physical resources can be considered a method of sustainable design.

3. Big airplanes are a more efficient use of resources- but are not responsive to change.
The Eclipse 500 is not the perfect airplane, but it is something of a new line of thought. Mimicking the car industry, you can go to the eclipse website and design your own airplane. For a mere $1.6 million I designed a Treehugger colored eclipse with a mini-bar. The point being that the airplane is designed around the customer. This opens the door for rapid evolution in customer based airplane design, much like we have seen in the auto industry. In the future you may be able to change not just the color, but the engine fuel options, the fabric types, even the location of manufacture. The ability to rapidly adapt airplane design to changing needs or technology mimics the process of evolution itself.

Is DayJet the sustainable air carrier of tomorrow? I'm not sure. They certainly have a novel approach using the power of computer science and systems mathematics to organize their flight plans. They also are opening the door to innovative new services and designs. I would like to see a cradle-to-cradle airplane come out of Eclipse as an optional design. There is a lot of work that needs to be done before an airline could be said to enrich its environment (one sustainability measuring stick). But, if DayJet could embrace the Treehugger ethic of modern but green... we may be in for a quite a ride. ::DayJet ::Eclipse Aviation

Tags: Air Travel

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