Pontifications: “What can be. What should be.”

By Scott Hamilton

Jan. 17, 2023, © Leeham News: “What can be. What should be.”

This was the title of an address last week at the University of Washington’s aerospace department. The speaker: the former CEO of The Boeing Co., Phil Condit.

Condit was named president of Boeing in 1992 and CEO in 1996. He retired in 2004 after a lifetime career at Boeing, with leadership roles in the 747, 757, 757, 767, and 777 programs.

With ecoAviation the soup de jour these days, beneficiaries of billions of dollars of investment (much of it stupid money) and the subject of much greenwashing, Condit had frank and candid observations about these concepts.

Although Condit retired from Boeing in the wake of the USAF tanker procurement scandal dating to 2001, his engineering skills and fundamental visions were highly regarded. He put these skills to good use a week ago.

What can be

Ex-Boeing CEO Phil Condit. Credit: Leeham News.

“There’s a lot of work here that ‘can be,’ and ‘should be,’” he began. “There’s also a fair amount of stuff that ‘shouldn’t be.’ The first part about this is about energy.”

Condit noted that in the popular media today, “there is a ton of stuff about hydrogen.” Rolls-Royce recently ran an engine on hydrogen. Airbus is focused on developing a hydrogen-fueled airplane. Although he didn’t mention it, start-up Universal Hydrogen is nearing the first flight of a converted De Havilland Canada Dash 8-300 in Moses Lake (WA).

“At first glance, if you read anything in the popular press, in the first paragraph, it will say ‘this is the perfect fuel. The only products for combustion are water and heat.’ What could be better than that?” Condit asked, rhetorically.

Well, the premise isn’t correct. “Hydrogen is not a fuel. It is an energy carrier,” he said. “It looks just like batteries. It takes energy to produce it, and you can get energy back out of it. The problem is that everybody who is a proponent of hydrogen wants you to use green hydrogen.” Hydrogen comes in green, blue and gray colors. Gray hydrogen is produced from methane and has a byproduct of carbon dioxide. “If you’re interested in the environment, that’s not a great idea,” Condit said.

Blue hydrogen is produced from methane, but the CO2 is captured. “It’s better. Green hydrogen is produced by electrolysis. What everybody says is you want to use sustainable power and produce green hydrogen.”

Producing hydrogen vs efficiency

But, Condit said, if you use sustainable electricity and charge batteries for an electric car, the front-to-back efficiency is about 85%. Producing hydrogen, going into a tank for a fuel cell driving an electric vehicle, the efficiency is about 35%. “Making hydrogen is not a particularly efficient process.”

Furthermore, globally about 17% of the power is generated from sustainable resources. “Do I want to use it to produce hydrogen inefficiently or do I want to use it to produce sustainable electricity efficiently?

“My take is that the best answer from an environmental standpoint, from an efficiency standpoint, is that hydrogen is not the answer, even though it looks really neat on paper” Condit said.

Batteries and the environment

If it’s not hydrogen, then what about batteries? Condit is skeptical of this, too.

“Batteries are more efficient than hydrogen. However, they are heavy.” Today’s batteries are 45 times worse than jet fuel for weight-to-power. “If I put batteries into a 747 to replace the amount of fuel the 747 carriers, you could have about 20 minutes of sustained flight. If you look at most electric airplanes, the best you are seeing is about half an hour or 45 minutes.”

Condit also noted that as Jet A fuel is used, weight goes down. As energy in the batteries is used, the weight doesn’t go down.

This brings the effort to Sustainable Aviation Fuel as the best alternative to Jet A. But even this is problematic. The best SAF depends on how it’s made.

“It can be produced, and the emphasis is on can, in a way that is net carbon zero or even potentially slight net carbon negative. But it is not an easy process,” Condit said. “And it’s expensive.”

Making SAF out of algae and saltwater enables net-negative carbon production. Other materials, especially displacing food crops, displace some the benefits.

(Boeing has a new software program called Cascade in which settings may be made for good and bad elements of producing any of the options to arrive at a net benefit analysis.)

But SAF is the only option of the three that Condit sees having long-term potential.

Next time, I’ll report on Condit’s views about eVTOLs, UAMs, SSTs and Hypersonic concepts.

101 Comments on “Pontifications: “What can be. What should be.”

    • There are no contrails from hydrogen fuel-cell-powered aircraft: the water produced in re-combination is captured onboard as a liquid.

      Regarding batteries: Mr. Condit also needs to consider the huge environmental footprint associated with their production and EOL.

      Further: in essence, every “fuel” is nothing more than an energy carrier.

      • Yes, but that isn’t the point he was making, right? Oil, gas, nuclear, coal, wind, solar, tidal are all pre-existing “fully charged”. Batteries and hyrogen (as a power source) do not pre-exist. Their sole purpose is to accept energy produced externally and deliver it somewhere.

        • “Batteries and hydrogen (as a power source) do not pre-exist.”

          Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe — it’s a ready-to-use fuel in the majority of stars 😉

          I think what you’re trying to say is that free molecular hydrogen isn’t readily available from a convenient terrestrial source.

          On the other hand, what terrestrial fuel is “readily available”, without considerable effort to pre-condition it for use? Oil, gas and coal have to be extracted and processed; nuclear fuel has to be mined, purified and processed; even wood has to be collected and dried. And, if you want to make a proper comparison, you should also consider the effort required to clean up emissions after use of regular fuel. When you add *all* of that up, fossil fuels aren’t as convenient as one might initially think.

          • I’m fully aware of the physics of star formation and evolution ;-). But we don’t live in stars or have our heads in interstellar clouds.

            No, I’m saying what I said. The source of the energy, the energy input to the system which we use to power machines, is not the hydrogen, or the batteries. The hydrogen and the batteries are simply relatively convenient, relatively appropriate wrappers, delivery vehicles, energy carriers.

            Yes there are external costs/implications (narrow or broad) to any process. Repeat, any process. But the point with hydrogen is that with currently available technology it is a grossly inefficient delivery wrapper.

          • @Woody
            “But the point with hydrogen is that with currently available technology it is a grossly inefficient delivery wrapper.”

            Not when you factor in the costs of removing CO2 released from burning conventional fuels: industrial carbon capture also has to be powered by lots of green electricity — just like production of H2 and SAF. In essence, the only difference is that one consumes electricity front-end, whereas the other consumes it back-end.

            Nuclear falls into a different category, since it doesn’t produce emissions.

          • Ahh yes, Hydrogen is so wonderful until the Truth Ferry rears its ugly head.

        • Kerosene and SAF are the same fuels, poor efficacity in their production and they pollute since they release more than water and CO2,

          I am rather disapointed with the lack of vision of these approaches. He should know better.

          • Kerosene is one of the first fuels that comes out of a cracking process.
            You poke a hole in the ground and use a pipe to send the oil to a refinery.

            End to End its an efficient process.

            SAF is a problem as it takes a lot of stuff to make it (land) and get it going and then extract it.

            Battery is worse as major energy spent getting the materials as well as land/environmental impact

            So you have to pick your battles and have a honest set of facts (or program) that tells you what the true cost is.

            And add in clean jet fuel (not SAF) is an area you can reduce though you alwyas have the CO issue.

            Business have been allowed to offset their emissions so there is another area to work in. Aviation is not going to be green, keep it as low as possible and work in the areas that do have impact.

            The US started on car emissions in the 70s and anything running on land now meets very strict limits. You still have coal plans and ships at sea spewing massive amounts.

          • @TW
            “The US started on car emissions in the 70s and anything running on land now meets very strict limits”

            The “strict limits” only relate to soot, NOx and sulphur compounds — not to CO2.

          • Bryce:

            Its a shame you were not with us in the 70s when we were first learning about emissions. We would have been so far ahead of it all with your brilliance.

            If not for the US there would be no environmental movement today. I have seen pictures of the cities in Europe back in the 70s, as I asked my friends, why would anyone go there? (they had). Smog so thick it made LA look good.

            So yes, thank you for your 20/20 hindsight, its so helpful.

          • @TW

            1) Kerosene is definitely *not* one of the first that comes out from cracking. Haha

            2) -> “The situation shows the loopholes in regulating refineries. They’re a major contributor to global warming, but the US Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t directly police their greenhouse gas emissions. While the EPA does regulate other hazardous pollutants, the penalties are often too low to ensure compliance, and in many cases the agency isn’t as tough as it could be.”


    • “high altitude water vapor from contrails”

      Probably moot which source the water vapor stems from.

      water (vapor) in the atmosphere is directly linked to temperatures ( and associated partial vapor pressure ).
      And the most powerful energy transfer mechanism too.

      Thus water vapor is an “exponentiator” of warming.

      • Airbus/GE will do trials with burning H2 in a Passport engine mounted on an A380 flying at altitude with a following aircraft taking measurements. We then see the results of what happens when no soot particles are present in its Jetstream. Until then it is just calculations and assumptions.

        • Airbus is also developing aircraft that use hydrogen fuel cells rather than hydrogen combustion: the former given no soot, no NOx and no contrails.

          • Other aspect is that Carnot Cycle engines (here burning Hydogen ) have intrinsic limits in achievable efficiency
            while principal limits for fuel cells are set higher.
            ( current fuel cell limits are more linked to potentially avoidable losses that are susceptible to improvements.)

          • You can play with LH2 in jet engines by first using its cooling properties in compressors and oil system, then its high flame speed makes rotation detonation engine burner easier to design and finally you can suck heat energy out of the exhaust while converting steam into water. (powerplants burning hydrocarbon fuel do that today with the steam in the exhaust gases converting to water and the released steam energy feeding central heating systems)

          • And you make a horrible complex engine vying with the Turbo Compound Radials that proved they were impossible to get to work without regular failures.

          • @TW, yes the DC-7 Wright R3350 turbo compound had its problems, so did the Napier Nomad. Now the crown seems to have been passed over to PWA and MTU for their WET engine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQF-AshsxOE P&W should make sure thier old retireed cheif enginees stay healthy as they will be desparatly needed again…

  1. My professors said the last available gallon of fuel will probably end up in an aircraft, because that’s where it’s the hardest to replace. And that was 35 years ago..

    I think we need tons of hydro and nuclear energy to replace most land based transport & heating applications. Replacing coal, oil and gas. Whether we like it or not. And fly less.

    • “And fly less”

      More accurately: “transport less, and use less industry”
      Flying still only produces a relatively small fraction of transport-related greenhouse gases, and only a tiny fraction of the greenhouse gases associated with all human industrial activity.

    • I agree with Keesje, here.

      There is really no good option for replacing what current aviation fuels do for aircraft. Everything is too heavy.

      Land based power generation should be the focus. Switch over to hydro, wind, solar, nuclear as much as possible. Work on getting rid of the nuclear waste that those reactors make.

      Batteries in an aircraft is akin to trying to put a steam engine to power a plane, before the internal combustion engine came along.

      • Agreed that Aviation should be as clean as possible but if we want air travel which links and makes economies work.

        Pass on the true cost of travel and that takes care of itself.

        Back when it was regulated, Air Travel was vastly less and not a bad thing.

  2. OFC Hydrogen is a fuel when used dircetly in a gas-turbine as substitute for Jet A. Physically OIL is no more a “fuel”. When used in combination with an fuel cell it can act as an energy source, that much is true. However oil in a tank is also a energy source.

    Hydrogen must be produced based on abundant avaible <> energy of renewables, e.g. wind energy which can’t be feed into the net due to net overload. That happens allready frequently here in Germany. Lot’s of wind –> produce Hydrogen. No wind / less wind –> Produce no Hydrogen. That’s how it will work and that’s the only option in the long run.

    However it is true that at least Widebody Aircraft may still reley on conventional fuel and/or SAFs for decades to come.

  3. The electrical grid is not just MW as it needs to be instantly matched with consumption, hence many times you can produce more than the grid can swallow and that extra power can be used making SAF or hydrogen.
    The wind power equation is expressed as follows:
    P = 0.5*ρ*A*V³*E
    P = Power, ρ= Air Density, A = Rotor Swept Area, V = Wind Speed, E = Efficiency in percent
    Hence as the wind speed increases you can extract large amounts of power if the wind mill can mechanically and thermally take it.

    • claes:

      When demand drops on a grid, the equipment also ramps down.

      In its simplest terms, you have a diesel generator that is making 1 MW t meet a 1 MW demand (in reality you have excess but you know the grid and how much you need).

      The demand drops to 500KW and the Diesel Generator use of fuel drops by close to half. If you want to created hydrogen you have to increase the use of the fuel so you get your 500KW back.

      So unless your excess is from Nuclear, you pay a penalty (even a Nuke plant would need to be fuel more often if its 100% use)

      In reality you have a natural gas turbine making 25MW. You have standby quick response (diesel generators) you have some wind in the mix and in the daytime you have solar in the mix.

      You drop off the Diesel generators first as those are the highest cost on the grid (combination of fuel use, maint and overhaul at X hours) . then you drop off the quick response turbines and you always hang onto that 25MW turbine if you can because its the most efficient.

      There are very few sources that do not have a cost impact and all alternative sources still means you need a solid base power as well as quick reaction units to deal with varying conditions (your 25MW turbine can go down, while you are bringing on the standby unit, your quick reaction units play in as well as power from other parts of the grid which you pay a high price for)

      • That was more or less how things were in North America until ~10 years ago, modulo a few odd events such as the year that the Pacific Northwest had to drain water out of their reservoirs because California could not take any more of their hydro power even at negative prices. [1]

        However in the last 10 years a large quantity of wind and solar has been installed. Wind turbines are often feathered at night because they are producing more power than can be absorbed by the grid. This happens less often with solar in the day but it does occur from time to time in California and around Denver. The power dispatched down from wind/solar farms could be diverted to making hydrogen at very little incremental cost.

        [1] with a few modern exceptions the North American electrical grid is split into two isolated systems along the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains.

        • sph:

          Dams do not dump water, it goes over the spillway (they may release water before weather events when they see a surge coming but that is rare).

          You can’t count on the excess power, ergo, if you are going to do Hydrogen, it has to be guaranteed power.

      • See sPh below. You feed the grid what it wants to keep the voltage and frequency, the remaining power can be used to make hydrogen feeding a pipeline system or other electrical power use at the site like SAF production. These processes can hopefully use varying power levels as the excess power varies. Even hydropower stations cannot run full throttle using all available water all the time, here you have the advantage on large amounts of pretty clean water for hydrogen production and the pipeline out to the network is not excessive big. Designing windmills for very high wind speeds and high power output has net been meaningful yet as the grind often cannot swallow its power.

  4. “ …Hydrogen is not a fuel. It is an energy carrier,” he said. “It looks just like batteries. It takes energy…”

    If we are going to look at it that way hydrogen is not different from petroleum and refined petroleum products which is just an energy carrier for sunlight and photosynthesis, over a longer time scale. The only prime energy source in the solar system is nuclear fusion in the Sun, and ultimately the only prime energy source in the Universe was the Big Bang.

    • The difference is oil is a liquid that you poke a hole into the ground and bring out. Each barrel is 44 gallons of potential energy.

      You transport it in pipelines (mostly). The refinery cooks the oil and out comes butane, diesel, gasoline and tar (simplified).

      Hydrogen is not in a liquid form, you have to extract it from something using an energy source to do so. You then have to transport it and its a difficult item to handle taking very expensive pressure vessels, pumps etc.

      While you can put it into a ground vehicle, an aircraft is hugely sensitive to weight and you pay a huge penalty for a container that can hold Hydrogen and that weight stays with the aircraft.

      For aircraft it has no efficiency. It may or may not have environmental impacts above and beyond what has been noted and how a gas acts high in the atmosphere is different than low down.

      So not they are not the same.

      And I am not saying ignore it, but right now for aviation its another bandwagon.

  5. Hydrogen as a fuel source (or conversion mechanism) is being abandoned even in ground transportation. Railway systems in many places (the most recent being Germany and Australia) are dismissing the hydrogen powered train and instead using hybrid trains. This meaning electric plus either diesel or electric battery for the rails where electric power is not available.

    Similarly the only ground road use of hydrogen (and I cannot recollect where that was) was not pursued further. The most effective method of reducing road carbon generation is by dictat – such as that of Switzerland which forces long-distance truck trailers onto trains!

    • Hydrogen powered trains are a silly idea. Trains are famously very heavy, and carry very heavy loads relatively slowly (compared to aircraft), using infrastructure that is very much adverse to the development of hydrogen fueling stations. The use of an extremely energy dense, but finicky and infrastructure-heavy fuel does not make economic or technological sense in rail applications.

      Planes are famously not heavy at all and very adverse to weight, traveling quickly between fixed high-technology locations that can implement the required infrastructure perhaps better than any other mode of transportation. Accordingly, use of an extremely energy dense fuel in aviation applications does seem to make economic sense.

      • Planes are as light as they can be for a reason, each pound costs energy to move it from place to place.

        So, co-flatting heavy vs a highly refined and extremely engineer product with weight is not an issue is non starter.

        Engineers do everything they can to save weight in an aircraft because any weight is a huge burden that results in less capacity to carry passenger or freight.

        So what you are saying is weight has not impact and that is totally wrong. It has MORE impact on an aircraft than a locomotive.

        A locomotive could carry Hydrogen Cars (cylinders) and do well. they have some running on Natural Gas. The Hydrogen has far less impact as a train will run millions of pounds and the Hydrogen as a percentage is small.

        Trains run on fixed routes so fueling stations are at known distance.

        But freight is a marginal business and Hydrogen may well be costly enough that it does not work unless mandated.

        • Trains solved the alternative to fossil fuels a long time ago.
          Electric overhead

          • Munging Energy Storage and Energy Source.

            Fossils are a destructively used resource.
            ( doubling as energy transfer object when used as transportable fuel)

          • TW. batteries , fuel cells etc are just adding a middleman to the energy supply for the train.

            And as for planes , adding a portion of non fossil fuel diesel to the mix goes a long way to the required step change for those train lines where its not suitable for electrification

  6. The industry’s work on hydrogen and batteries comes with an enormous opportunity cost: all those smart people could be working on new ideas that might actually end up with a product.

    I remember when, in 1998, it was forecast that all cars would be driven by fuel cells. Similarly stupid, thoughtless promises. Bad tech is bad tech.

    • iWe:

      I would say its good to have data in the quiver, its the issue of saying its a panacea for all the issues and ignoring the negatives that is foolish pie in the sky aspect.

      Some trucks are in fact experiment with fuel cells. Impact on a truck is less than a car.

      What you want is a tool set and use what works best for which application.

      My favorite was a write-up about a Mercedes Hydrogen powered car. The tank took up the whole trunk and it had 70 mile range. If you are running a 50 mile loop and back to your fuel station, it sort of works.

      But if you want to drive from Seattle to Portland, you need to be able to fuel every 50 miles as you need some excess for traffic affects.

  7. I’m a big fan of fuel cell technology, but there are severe limitations in its applications and there are more than a few issues with the production and distribution challenges. These can be overcome for some applications, but aviation is probably not a 21st century thing. Sabine Hossenfelder has an excellent rundown on the issues on her channel on YouTube. It’s the best summary all in one place that I’ve seen.

    What Sabine does not get into are the refueling time advantages over a pure battery solution for land vehicles that need the range, and the advances that have been made in nuclear cycles that have now problematic waste products. The net/net is that continuing to develop applications of a clean hydrogen cycle from fuel production to distribution is both a good thing and a long term win. But, it’s going to be slow going.

    The bigger issues with global warming (perhaps more accurately called by some longer phrase such as global increasing energy content of the atmosphere and oceans) is that the window of opportunity to limit it too low or even moderate impacts to the current structure of civilization is well in our past. Maybe if we had gotten excited about the problem back in the 1960s when the condition was first recognized, then yeah, but that’s not worth debating at this point. The two big issues are both unknowns, and I don’t think we have a way of changing that (think Donald Rumsfeld and his known unknowns). There may also be some unknown unknowns.

    But the two big unknowns are the melt rate and the distribution of nonlinear events over time. All complex systems, when they destabilize and transition from one relative range of stability to another one, do so in a nonlinear fashion. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about things on the atomic scale such as the decay rate of an unstable isotope which follows a random process (the math of probability applies) or something in our everyday lives, like trees shedding their leaves each year. The total change is highly predictable. At a sufficiently coarse level, even rate and distribution will be a close fit to some curve. But, the major non-linear events such as on what day a wind storm or freeze is going to knock down a third or more in a few hours is totally unpredictable.

    The last time there was a total melt of all the glacial ice on the planet was about 1 million BP. We have no idea as to how that played out in terms of surge events like we have for the glacial retreat that happened 15-10 thousand years ago. We don’t know enough about the contours of the rocks under Greenland and Antarctica to know where to look for the evidence for sudden release events, let alone how to figure out how many there were 1 million years ago. Those sea level rise rate projects in the IPCC reports are only there because the politicians demanded that they be there. There are footnotes to all of them that state that all nonlinear events are ignored. That’s the same as saying that projections are totally made up, which they are, since they are 100% based on data that is limited to the knowns. It’s a great example of Kahneman’s explanation of how bias creeps into the work product of experts.

    • Clearly the data seems to show an inflection point in 2015/6 temperature-wise. Europe is seeing this inflection really since 2019. Something not quite linear. Summers are becoming hard to handle. Let’s see what happens this/next year.

      A friend of mine (Schlumberger, read oil&gas, born and raised in Houston is moving to retire in Oregon – safer he says there for the next 20 years. Witness the temperature in Houston this winter / very very warm). Could be a bit ugly in 5 years.

      Aviation will be affected by all this worldwide. Right or wrong.

  8. “..If not for the US there would be no environmental movement today. I have seen pictures of the cities in Europe back in the 70s, as I asked my friends, why would anyone go there? (they had). Smog so thick it made LA look good. .”

    I wonder if the commenter who made these claims can support them with evidence. I lived in Los Angeles through the 60s, and worked in the
    regulation of air pollution in SoCal the 70s, BTW.

    • Bill7:

      Sadly the friend who went to Europe have passed and those pictures are gone.

      And yes I was into LA in the early 70s (I flew into Riverside just before I went North to see those people who became life long friends, long story)

      As bad as LA was, the pictures from Europe were worse. I was shocked frankly. Beautiful building and architecture shrouded in smog.

      The US was lucky in that TR started the movement to US Parks set aside and that in turn lead to a view of pristine wilderness and the realization that it would no longer be if something was not done.

      Europe has since taken the lead in those areas in some ways though none of it is perfect.

      But we did indeed lead the way with the 70s emissions. The first attempts were not great, bad running cars and systems that were repair costly. Equally the fuel mileage took a hit. There was a question as to less mpg and more gas used and what the offset was.

      But it did work into the Catalytic converters and Fuel Injection that did lead to vast improvements.

      Diesel engines were the same. First it was on the road and then off the road. A modern diesel runs amazingly clean.

      Freon was another one that has been handled though we wind up with CO that is another issue that is just starting to get addressed.

      • Actually it was the Japanese who lead the way in the 70s, with Honda’s CVCC (Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion) engine- first used in their
        Cicic model. No catalytic converter, met all the tighter emissions standards, drove superbly, and
        got close to 50 mpg in real-world driving (my own experience).

        USian-manufacture attempts were absolute junk-
        as anyone who drove one of those dogs at that time knows. No, the US did not “lead the way” to
        better air quality- except perhaps in Press Releases.

        • Bill7:

          How many cars have been able to give up their Catalytic converters?

          • reading comprehension.

            B7 wrote that Hondas CVCC engine met those 1970ties early emission standards without a cat.

            While most other manufacturers enriched ( more fuel use ) the mixture to stoechiometric and burned the excess hydrocarbons in the cat.
            ( causing wildfires on occasion )

      • @ TW
        Can you provide us with a selection of web photos of this alleged horrendous smog in Europe in the 1970s? Google the subject and see what you can come up with — you know the new evidential standards after your recent fantasy regarding wing join 😉

        Interestingly, Google does return lots of photos and articles on smog in LA in the 1970s.
        And let’s not forget Kim Carnes’ 1980s song line: “She’s pure as New York snow”.

        Looks like someone may be confusing his geography…

      • “A modern diesel runs amazingly clean.”

        It begs to ask if that’s the case, why major proponent like VW/Audi had to install “defect device”?? 🤔
        @TW it happens that there’s a bridge for sale, are you interested?

        • “DieselGate”

          Boeing conundrum:
          Proper solution was seen as too expensive/unpresentable to Top management.
          i.e. Self sabotage from Top- and or Middle-management.

        • Do you know why VW installed “defeat devices”?
          They could not put together high power output and clean exhaust (in some, limited situations).
          They got tech evolution completely wrong with the pump-injector, and were late in the development of common rail engines.
          That was a shame for them, and they decided to cheat to look “tech savy”.
          Reality is, modern diesel engines with PM filters can remove PM particles from air (that is, exhaust contains less PM than incoming air).

      • The German green movement started with the acid rain effect around cities in the Ruhr in the 60-70ies. I lived in Pittsburgh mid eighties at Carnegie Mellon and the forests around there were dead. I remember going to West Virginia (Wheling) you could see all patches of dead trees driving in the middle of summer.

        Cleaning up the chimneys solved this. The trees today look great!

  9. Phils comment about sustainable resources is the key: “Furthermore, globally about 17% of the power is generated from sustainable resources”. The Norwegian institute of Technology study says that for electric vehicles to make environmental sense; the electric grid needs to be powered at least 50% by sustainable (ie. renewable) resources. The US grid is less that the global average so EV’s in the USA have a net negative impact on the environment.

  10. India Commercial Aircraft FAL?
    When I was in India (2019) as a guest speaking at aviation conference in Hyderabad, the lead speaker (country long time aviation guru) for the conference spoke about the country’s vision for commercial aircraft He had two goals, produce a commercial aircraft wing and build and fly away a commercial aircraft.
    That said, if you look at Airbus China strategy, they build the A320 wing in China and A320/321 FAL (successfully) in China
    So it can be done! As for Boeing, no 737 FAL or 737 wing production outside Seattle. You never know who will win the large single aisle order….my bet is Airbus if they commit to wing and FAL in India

    • China is a command economy, and the central aviation authority bulk orders for the various state owned carriers.
      India has moved away from command economy measures, (outside defence purposes) so Tata isnt really interested in Boeing building wings in India, apart from the already considerable involvement of Indian companies in aviation. Boeing and Airbus seem to have design facilities in India too.

      Dynamatic Technologies, Gowra Tech, Hindustan Aeronautics and Tata Advanced systems, Tata Boeing Aerospace, Tata Sikorsky etc.
      Tata Boeing already works on 737 assemblies

      • I am familiar with offset production packages in India (Boeing and Airbus) And for Boeing to offer another “token” engineering package will not get it done.
        So why wouldn’t Tata want to get wing expertise (panel and wing FAL) now so they can get prepared for larger work packages (risk sharing) when ever Boeing/Airbus launches a new commercial aircraft?

        The wing facility would mostly totally internal to Tata. As for HAL, I don’t see if happening, they been struggling with A320 passenger doors since the early 1990’s because they will not invest into automation for production ramp up and improved quality

        • There was a locksmith I went to many, many years ago. On the counter was a sign saying :
          labour cost $50 per hour, if you wait $75 ph, if you help $95 ph

          The cost of an order would increase if they took one of the wing final assembly lines from Renton to one of Tata’s Indian plants.
          A major structural assembly like wing spars, ribs or even skins would be a big step up for India. But who knows in the future as the aluminium wings is replaced by composite, maybe a place for India in this work

          • Mildly increased costs are a minor issue if they’re the means by which a huge order can be secured…

    • David:

      I would agree. India would be a far tougher slog than China.

      It will be interesting

    • @David Pritchard

      BA already has its hands full trying to get the FAL in Charleston up to quality standards. And its FAL in China is currently just sitting idle. So I doubt that there’ll be much appetite to open yet another FAL somewhere else.
      And, in any case: there’s no funding for a new FAL.

      • There is no Boeing linked FAL in China afaik.

        What Boeing started to set up is a finishing site ( for 737 green frames? paint, furnishings ..)

        Compare to the Airbus A330 finishing project in China.

  11. “the front-to-back efficiency is about 85%. Producing hydrogen, going into a tank for a fuel cell driving an electric vehicle, the efficiency is about 35%.”

    That’s an obvious big difference which speaks much against hydrogen. But then I wonder what the corresponding number for SAF would be. From all I understand is that this is also not a free process and the efficiency is probably not too high? So how big is the difference?

    • One also needs to look at the corresponding figure for a battery — properly amortizing the huge amount of energy required to make it and process it when it reaches EOL.
      I doubt that the efficiency figure in that case will be anything to get excited about.

      • Check out a few of the articles on “green” battery “recycling”, and what it actually consists of.

    • There is massive work going on to increase the efficiency over 35%.
      “In power-to-gas production schemes, the excess power or off peak power created by wind generators or solar arrays is used for load balancing of the energy grid by storing and later injecting the hydrogen into the natural gas grid.
      In contrast with low-temperature electrolysis, high-temperature electrolysis (HTE) of water converts more of the initial heat energy into chemical energy (hydrogen), potentially doubling efficiency to about 50%. Because some of the energy in HTE is supplied in the form of heat, less of the energy must be converted twice (from heat to electricity, and then to chemical form), and so the process is more efficient.
      Currently energy efficiency for electrolytic water splitting is 60% – 70%.[2]”

  12. You know, with todays tech, i think it`s like that:

    Way better to keep civil airplanes on fossile fuel. The effort of decarbonating these is just too much.
    It`s cheaper and easier to put the money into a reforestation or carbon capture project.
    No one knows what large amounts of H2 do in 10.000km height.
    Batterys are to heavy.
    SAF will result in large amounts of soil needed to grow it, or huge amounts of powerplants needed.

    For me, airline industry is one of these industries that just can`t go blue / green whatsoever and has to compensate somehow.

    To invest money there is jumping on technolgy that`s not promising, we need major advancements first.

  13. Coming from a Boeing sect member, no surprises. Boeing is the top ostrich-with-head-in-the-sand company of the airline industry. “Hydrogen is not a fuel, it is an energy carrier” MFG. And jet fuel is a fuel because… it is a fuel. Got it. Jet fuel is not an energy carrier. It is a f u e l.
    Accordingly, and expectedly, Boeing and ostriches strongly believe in SAF – Surreally Absurd Farce.
    The day of reckoning will come, for the fossilized air transport industry. Sooner than the unknowing ostriches imagine.

    • You are confused Paulo

      jet fuel is a primary source of fuel, a refined form of the crude oil and condensate that is extracted from ground.
      Hydrogen isnt , its a middle man where the primary source electric energy is turned into hydrogen for burning in the turbine.

      Everyone who studies these things knows this and terms used

      • Production of crude oil is an endoergic process: the fact that the process occurred millions of years ago doesn’t change that fact.
        The sun caused plants to photosynthesize and grow, those plants were eaten by animals, the animals later died and decomposed anoxically…and left behind an organic goo that we call oil.

        So, oil is just an energy carrier (solar energy, and a little bit of geothermal).
        The same applies to coal: it arose in a similar manner from plant remains rather than animal.

        • “So, oil is just an energy carrier (solar energy, and a little bit of geothermal).”

          But that part is never scoped in. ( and we burn in a week what nature to 100+millions years to collect.
          The problematic deed: reintroducing sequestered Carbon into the atmosphere )

  14. I am interesting in seeing Boeing and NASA continue to work on the TBW concept.

    I don’t know the Aurora double bubble is going anywhere but looking at different aerodynamic options is a must.

  15. Years back there was a technology that an airplane actually went up into space above the atmosphere, traveled at a very high speed and then re-entered near its destination. Maybe with all the private space programs, this mode of travel will develop to have a commercial application. Putting pollution outside of the atmosphere may be the ticket.

    • The higher it goes, the more energy it has to expend to get there — resulting in greater emissions on the way.

      • Any flight profile does that:
        cruise as high as useful.
        OptiMax problem: energy to go up vs less energy needed at cruise(-height).
        added issue: going suborbital requires high speeds that can not any longer be converted into a glide phase but require a lossy breaking phase.

        • Lossy breaking phase. Above my pay grade but I did look it up. You learn something new every day.

          But in reading here and elsewhere, the new airplane that moves people more efficiently, faster, safely and with no pollution is really quite the challenge for science. I think shorter distances can be handled by trains more, but other than that something real different maybe afoot, or overhead…

  16. Interesting article (thanks Scott),
    Very rewarding.

    It would seem that the former CEO of Boeing and engineer remained a consultant for Boeing because their SAF projects seem to be in agreement with P. Condit unless it was a coincidence, but I don’t believe in coincidence.

    For the others,

    Those who clumsily said that Boeing is not investing in the future and that the engineers at Boeing have no plans and risk losing competence, I have argued several times here that the Boeing EcoDemonstrator and the TBW would have a flying test bed.

    The news confirms it today..

  17. Bryce,

    About “federal subsidies”

    Certainly yes.,

    There are those who maybe wanted Boeing to remain on the side, crossing their arms and doing nothing (to use the “mythical” statement
    of a certain Qatar Airways CEO…

    Well, too bad for them Boeing is active

  18. Bryce,

    “…An example of federal subsidies for BA…”
    Certainly yes.,

    There are those who maybe wanted Boeing to remain on the side, sitting there crossing their arms to wait and doing nothing (to use the statement
    of a certain Qatar Airways CEO)…

    let Airbus, Embraer or COMAC come first. But that’s just wishful thinking…

    Too bad for them Boeing is here 😉

    • Pedro

      …”-> Secret files reveal Boeing doctor warned of toxic risks, birth defects”…

      These are unfortunately the vagaries of everyday life in the industry. Not unique to Boeing.

      “Secret File” makes me laugh. But not ultimately secret.
      But it’s good for thrill seekers


  19. I really would have thought that Phil Condit could present more believable arguments about H2. His arguments are stuck in the past, and are not relevant for 2035+ time frame. Of all people, he should know better. Condit’s argument that most H2 comes from fossils essentially assumes that electrolysers can’t be mass manufactured to lower the cost of green H2 to compete with fossil H2. Those who pay attention know that this is happening now, going straight from hand made to automotive style automation (bypassing aerospace style automation) and cutting cost by more than 75%. First assembly line is up and many more are following. Electric grids are quickly changing to renewables and are becoming storage limited instead of re limited, so saying that we have to choose between direct electrification and H2 is false, in the timeframe we’re talking about. And the talk about round trip ‘efficiency’ becomes pretty silly, as if SAF made from green H2 is so much more ‘efficient’ than using H2 directly? Many good arguments can be made for and against H2 and for and against SAF in aviation, but what Phil Condit presents here is just Musk-Bro style nonsense.

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