This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

January 13, 2016

NASA Research Could Save Airlines Billions of Dollars

U.S. airlines could realize more than $250 billion dollars in savings in the near future thanks to efficiency-improving technologies developed and refined by NASA’s aeronautics researchers.

These new technologies, developed under the purview of NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) project, could cut airline fuel use in half, pollution by 75%, and noise to nearly one-eighth of today’s levels. Project researchers focused on eight major integrated technology demonstrations falling into three categories: airframe technology, propulsion technology, and vehicle systems integration.

Some of the integrated technology demonstrations completed by the ERA researchers include:

  • Tiny embedded nozzles blowing air over the surface of an airplane’s vertical tail fin showed that future aircraft could safely be designed with smaller tails, reducing weight and drag

  • A new process for building large sections of future aircraft out of lightweight composite materials, potentially cutting weight by up to 20% compared with a similar all-metal aircraft

  • Refined compressor stage of a turbine engine to improve its aerodynamic efficiency that could save 2.5% in fuel use.

Created in 2009 and completed in 2015, ERA’s mission was to explore and document the feasibility, benefits, and technical risk of inventive vehicle concepts and enabling technologies that would reduce aviation’s impact on the environment. See the NASA news release.