The Future of Clean Aviation Could Be About To Take Off

Aug, 2023


How many times a year do you travel on an airplane?

Do you ever think about the effects of air pollution created by air travel?

Vocabulary list 

• Students read each word followed by the definition, focusing on the correct pronunciation.

• The teacher reads the sample sentence and the students repeat, focusing on the correct pronunciation.

• After reading the list, students try to make their own example sentences using the words that are new to them. 

• Students share their example sentences and the teacher gives feedback, correcting errors if necessary.

emissions (noun)


the harmful substances that are put into the environment, especially carbon dioxide

The government’s new laws are aimed at reducing carbon emissions.


priority (noun)


something important that needs to be done before everything else

My priorities right now are to find a good job and a place to live.


toxic (adjective)


poisonous and damaging to health; typically chemical

The river was ruined by the toxic waste that was dumped into the water.


propose (verb)


to suggest a plan or idea for other people to consider

propose that we spend Christmas in the Caribbean this year. What do you think?


ambitious (adjective)


an ambitious plan is often challenging and innovative and requires a lot of effort

Having a World Cup in Qatar in winter was an ambitious idea.


conventional (adjective)


ordinary, traditional or typical

I didn’t have much ambition so I had a conventional career.


revolutionary (adjective)


completely new, innovative and effective

The first smartphone was a revolutionary idea.

The Future of Clean Aviation Could Be About To Take Off

Commercial air travel has become commonplace in the last few decades. However, the basic design of a commercial aircraft hasn’t changed much since the 1950’s. But, while everyone loves to travel, the uncomfortable truth is that air travel produces a lot of carbon emissions. Since climate change has become such an important global issue, it has become a priority for some aeronautic companies to design aircraft that cause less air pollution and are less toxic to the environment.

Boeing and Airbus are two of the biggest commercial aircraft manufacturers in the world, and both companies have been researching design solutions to make their airplanes more environmentally friendly. However, it is California-based JetZero that has set itself the ambitious goal of producing a completely new kind of commercial aircraft by 2030. The company is proposing a design that it calls the “blended wing body”, which is similar in shape to the jets used by the military. This design allows the aircraft to fly more efficiently. The company also hope to build airplanes that are powered by hydrogen, which produces no carbon emissions. However, no such engine for an airplane has yet been developed.

Tom O’Leary, co-founder and CEO of JetZero says “We feel very strongly about a path to zero emissions in big jets, and the blended wing airframe can deliver 50% lower fuel burn and emissions.” NASA also say that the blended wing body shape increases fuel economy and creates more space for carrying passengers. “An aircraft of this type would have a wingspan slightly greater than a Boeing 747 and could operate from existing airport terminals” the agency says, adding that the plane would also be lighter, make less noise and “cost less to operate than an equally advanced conventional transport aircraft.”

According to O’Leary, the problem with this new design is that it is not as good as a commercial airplane at dealing with constant changes in air pressure in the cabin. However, O’Leary believes that this problem can be solved by using advanced, new building materials that are both light and strong.

The new shape of these airplanes would make the interior of the plane look totally different to what we see today. A typical, large, commercial airplane has three rows of three seats, but with this shorter, wider design you might have 15 to 20 rows across the cabin. O’Leary thinks the new designs will be “amazing” and says that his company also want to develop a cargo plane and a fuel tanker using the blended wing shape.

JetZero doesn’t have any orders for its plane yet, but O’Leary says airlines are interested, and they are excited about how the new aircraft design will make the planes more efficient. However, as revolutionary and ambitious as JetZero’s aims are, building an entirely new airplane is an enormous task. Also, it is not certain that reducing fuel by 50% is actually possible, with NASA and Airbus quoting only 20%.

Bailey Miles, an aviation analyst at consulting firm Aviation Values doesn’t believe it is possible for JetZero to achieve their goal by 2030 due to the amount of technical and regulatory challenges their project will face. However, Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst at consulting firm Aerodynamic Advisory, regards the company’s work as “quite promising” and believes that the project might “take off soon” (no pun intended) with the help of contractors, adding – “There’s certainly room for somebody who actually wants to add value in this industry”. 


1. How long have aircraft manufacturers been using the same basic design?

a. About 50 years
b. About 60 years
c. About 70 years


2. JetZero have built a jet plane that can be used as a commercial aircraft.



3. According to NASA, what are the six benefits of the blended wing aircraft design?


4. JetZero have also designed a cargo plane and a fuel tanker using the blended wing design.



5. According to O’Leary, why are airlines excited about JetZero’s new plane?


  • What do you think about the JetZero airplane design?

  • Do you think that the pollution caused by airplanes is a big problem?

  • What are your thoughts about climate change?

  • Do you, or would you consider, driving an electric car? Why/Why not?

  • Do you, or would you consider, cycling to work? Why/Why not?

  • Would you be prepared to reduce the amount of air travel you do to help reduce climate change? Why/Why not?

  • The Gulfstream private jet uses around 410 gallons of fuel per hour. The average car can drive around 40 miles on one gallon? When you consider this, what do you think about world leaders and the super-rich telling people what they should do to prevent further climate change?   

  • Do you think that governments, or the super-rich, should invest in the development of the JetZero airplane?

  • Do you think that governments are taking climate change seriously? Explain your answer.

  • Albert Einstein said – “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything”. What do you think about this quote?