Brussels: The European Union is planning a €1.6 billion (US$2.1 billion) public-private partnership, under the name Clean Sky, to help its aviation industry develop a generation of greener and quieter aircraft. EU's initiative comes on the back of concerns that it is falling behind on airplane development.
European officials say the project will not only bring vast economic benefits, but also offset the impact of the huge growth in air travel by cutting jet carbon emissions by 20-40 per cent in the coming decades. It will also impact noise pollution favourably.
A document, likely to be approved Wednesday by the European Commission, states that the European Union needs to provide public financing for the project, if it is not to fall behind other markets.
"Not launching Clean Sky soon will put the European industry in a position of competitive disadvantage, with negative repercussions not only for the industry itself but also for the EU as a whole," it says.
The paper emphasizes that the United States has a similar effort, the National Aeronautics Research and Development Policy."At the same time," the paper said, "other competitors have emerged in recent years, such as Brazil, Russia, China and India."
Under the European Union plan, the industry would contribute 800 million euros for Clean Sky from 2008 to 2014. Most of the leading European aviation companies have agreed to contribute to the project, including Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Saab, Thales, Dassault and Eurocopter, along with universities and research institutes.
Public financing by the EU may serve to revive tensions with Washington, however. The US, on US aerospace giant Boeing's behalf, has fought a long-running battle at the World Trade Organization over charges of illegal public support to the European aircraft maker Airbus.
The public contribution will, however, require approval from European Union member states. Critically, the project has received support from countries like Britain, which have usually been skeptical about big European Union projects, like the troubled satellite navigation programme, Galileo.
As it stands, the funding will go to six main projects, including development of a greener engine, creation of a "smart" fixed wing that will change position during flight to make it more energy efficient, and use of lighter materials as substitutes for metal.
The European Union says that the areas that it has focused on most are those that concern the development of environmental technologies. It expects that this funding will result in the development of a new generation aircraft with a more environmentally friendly approach.
According to projections by the European Commission, new technologies could cut airline carbon emissions by 20-40 per cent, leading to a reduction of two to three billion tons, in the period 2015 to 2050. Nitrogen oxide emissions could be cut by 40-60 per cent, and "perceived aircraft noise" could well be halved.