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Finnair reveals "the future of aviation"

8 Dec 2008

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 Airbus 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 percent and will improve by a further 25 percent 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 www.departure2093.com, or visiting the www.businesstraveller.com online forum. Or for a glimpse into Finnair’s past, visit www.finnair.com/retro.  

Jenny Southan

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