Today, many airlines and manufacturers are pushing to make commercial air travel a more sustainable industry. However, this is an initiative that, in one form or another, dates back further than you might think. For example, 2007 saw British low-cost carrier easyJet reveal its proposed ‘ecoJet’ aircraft. But what is the story of this environmentally-friendly design?
Ambitious environmental targets
In June 2007, easyJet made waves in the field of sustainable commercial aviation when it unveiled its proposed ecoJet aircraft. According to The Guardian, the carrier was said to be in talks with the likes of Airbus, Boeing, and Rolls-Royce, as it looked to introduce an aircraft with 50% lower CO2 emissions than its existing fleet. But where does this figure come from?
The aircraft’s ‘open rotor engines alone were planned to reduce its CO2 output by a factor of 25%. The next 15% came from using a lightweight aluminum composite material on its fuel and wings. The final 10% of this impressive reduction was to come from its lower speed. Andy Harrison, easyJet’s CEO from 2005-10, was anxious to get the project going, and stated, as per The Guardian:
“It is always hard to pin down an aircraft manufacture date, but that’s the point [of the prototype]. What we are saying to them is ‘this is what we want you to build, get on with it.’ This is not Star Trek, this is not leading-edge technology. It is there, it is available. It needs putting together.”
Yet to reach production
At the time of its unveiling in 2007, easyJet had even implemented timescales for the launch of the ecoJet into its fleet. It had reportedly planned for the aircraft to enter service at the airline as early as 2015. The planned short turnaround was likely due to the fact that the aircraft would have been able to be developed from existing technology.
This would have saved manufacturers crucial time in developing and producing the ecoJet. As such, the eight-year turnaround may not have seemed particularly unrealistic. However, six years after its planned introduction, the aircraft is still yet to reach production. Instead, easyJet’s green efforts have taken a different direction, by adding the Airbus A320neo family to its fleet.
A familiar name
Although easyJet’s proposed ecoJet design never came to fruition, multiple other aviation companies have used its name. However, they appear to have avoided any claims of copyright infringement in each case by using different amounts and locations of capital letters. For example, the all lower-case ecojet brand refers to a five-aircraft Bolivian regional airline.
And how about in the case of capitalizing the word’s first letter? This gives its name to a Russian concept aircraft that pre-dates easyJet’s design, known as the Frigate Ecojet. However, by only capitalizing the ‘Jet’ morpheme, easyJet allowed its ecoJet design to maintain its corporate identity. As such, it probably didn’t feel too aggrieved at missing out on the capital E.
The Frigate Ecojet was first proposed in 1991, and was initially known as the Tupolev Tu-304. The aircraft is planned to sport an ultra-widebody three-aisle fuselage. Although its designers initially intended for it to be a twinjet design, it was upgraded to four engines and renamed ‘Freejet‘ in 2017.
Did you know about the easyJet ecoJet? What do you make of this concept? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!