Finnair reveals “the future of aviation”

To celebrate 85 years of service, Finnair
has teamed up with industry experts to take a look at what air travel might be
like in 85 years time.

While the current global economic climate
has seen numerous airlines go bust, drop routes or form mergers, Finnair is
determined to be optimistic. Instead of looking back at history, the airline
has launched a new website, departure2093.com, displaying possible plane
designs of the future and offering a platform for debate about how aviation
will evolve.

Christer Haglund, Finnair’s senior
vice-president of public affairs and corporate communications, says: “You can
always have an impact on the future but not on the past. When we invest in an
aircraft it can take ten years before you actually get them, so it is of utmost
importance to have visions.”

So what does Finnair predict for the
future? In 2093 it is projected that quiet, emission-free flying will be the
norm, and new supersonic aircraft will make it possible to fly to Australia in under
than three hours, have a holiday on the moon, or even spend a few nights in a
space hotel.  

Aircraft in Finnair’s fleet of the future
may include the A600-850M, a wide-bodied, zero-emission supersonic plane
designed for long-haul routes, and fitted with 600 to 850 “intelligent” seats
which adjust to the passengers’ weight, height and age.

The A600-850 would be able to take off
vertically and would be powered by solar panels on its exterior, while the disc-shaped
A1700-2400 Cruiser, would boast hologram theatres, restaurants, bars, shops,
meeting rooms and gyms.

While this may sound a bit far fetched, Pascal
Huet, vice-president of market strategy, market research
and forecasts for Airbus, says: “Innovation comes first, as creativity is
the key to success. Reliability and safety were the key factors 85 years ago –
today, it is economics, the environment and efficiency which are at the fore.

“The volume of air traffic is doubling every
15 years. Today we have aircraft which were designed in the 1960s and are still
flying and they will probably be flying for another ten or 15 years. The A380
was designed in the early 2000s and the production period will probably be
about 30 to 40 years. And the last aircraft manufactured will be used for another
30 years. So we are talking about cycles of about 70 to 80 years.”

Finnair was established in 1923, and in the
last four decades it claims fuel efficiency has increased 70 per cent and will
improve by a further 25 per cent by 2020. But we are still some distance from
achieving green alternatives. Jukka Hienonen, CEO of Finnair, says: “Oil has
been too cheap so there has been no motivation to invest in new energy sources.
The increase in prices will be the greatest motivator for research into new
fuel and energy sources.”

But as Airbus’s Huet says, its designers
and engineers are working hard to make dreams a reality: “The A380 is our most recent
innovation – it is as fuel efficient as your average family car – but the aim
is to have zero carbon emissions by 2050. This may be a challenge but amazing
things can happen with breakthroughs in innovation and technology.”

In the mean time, you can take part in the
discussion by visiting departure2093.com, or visiting the businesstraveller.com
online forum. Or for a glimpse into Finnair’s past, visit finnair.com/retro.  

Report
by Jenny Southan


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