Key points

We've covered quite a lot of ground! Let's recap the key ideas. Half of the work done by a plane goes into staying up; the other half goes into keeping going. The fuel efficiency at the optimal speed, expressed as an energy-per-distance-travelled, was found in the force (C.22), and it was simply proportional to the weight of the plane; the constant of proportionality is the drag-to-lift ratio, which is determined by the shape of the plane.

So whereas lowering speed-limits for cars would reduce the energy consumed per distance travelled, there is no point in considering speed-limits for planes. Planes that are up in the air have optimal speeds, different for each plane, depending on its weight, and they already go at their optimal speeds. If you ordered a plane to go slower, its energy consumption would increase. The only way to make a plane consume fuel more efficiently is to put it on the ground and stop it. Planes have been fantastically optimized, and there is no prospect of significant improvements in plane efficiency. (See pages 37 and 132 for further discussion of the notion that new super-jumbos are "far more efficient" than old jumbos; and p35 for discussion of the notion that turboprops are "far more efficient" than jets.)

Figure C.ll. Boeing 737-7QQ: 3QkWh per lQQ passenger-km. Photograph © Tom Collins.

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