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Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission online open house – Airport of the future

The following sections concern emerging technology. Emerging technology shows great promise in helping meet demand requirements and addressing environmental impacts, but much of the technology remains in development. The Commission continues to study how the technology could help in solving the commercial passenger service, air cargo, and general aviation capacity issues, but much of the technology needs to mature before it will have a large impact on air transportation.

Current aircraft technology, especially for long-distance flights, will remain dependent on fossil fuels and their associated environmental impacts for the foreseeable future – but the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and emerging aircraft technology shows potential in the future to dramatically reduce harmful environmental impacts, reduce costs and increase access and convenience, especially for shorter flights. SAF is currently in use in the state but in relatively small amounts

What would an “airport of the future” look like?

It is possible that small zero emissions 9-11 seat aircraft with less noise will be available for commercial use within the next decade.  It may also be possible to develop an “airport of the future” incorporating green energy production that could help enable both sustainable ground and air transportation. Because of alternative fuel and advances in aircraft technology, the airport of the future would have fewer noise impacts and zero or near zero aircraft emissions. Although maintenance and operations costs are expected to be lower than for a traditional airport, the upfront costs of developing a green “airport of the future” are expected to be considerable. It should be noted that zero emissions aircraft are unlikely to help meet demand in meaningful ways for some years to come.

What do you think?

Please indicate your level of support for the State to incorporate green technology and pursue the concept of a new green "airport of the future?"

Electric aircraft

One idea for meeting part of future demand for commercial flights would be to increase the ability of smaller airports to offer shorter flights using electric aircraft that would make considerably less noise and no emissions. Washington state is leading the way in electric aircraft development – the first fully-electric aircraft for commercial flight completed its first test flight in 2019 using an engine created by Everett-based magniX, and several other Washington-based companies are advancing the field of electric aviation.

Electric aircraft
Credit: magniX

Based on current testing, zero-emissions passenger aircraft could be in service by the mid-2020s or early 2030s. The associated costs for operating and maintaining this type of aircraft would be lower than conventional aircraft, so it could be more widely distributed across multiple airports. However, electric aircraft can only travel a limited distance, which means servicing mostly regional destinations. For longer distance flights, electric aircraft would carry passengers to a hub airport, where they would transfer to their ultimate destination. As noted above, zero emissions aircraft are unlikely to help meet demand in meaningful ways for some years to come.

What do you think?

What is your level of support for the idea of serving regional routes and providing connections to hub airports by adding greatly reduced or zero-emissions air service that is geographically distributed across the state?

Here are some potential outcomes of having more regional service airports distributed throughout Washington State. Please indicate your level of support for the following outcomes:

  • More airport access in parts of the state that do not currently have it
  • The local community would need to bear some of the costs of airport development
  • Reduced air quality impacts from aviation compared to today
  • New airport service could encourage more local economic growth
  • New airport service might encourage greater population growth
  • Connections at hub airports for destinations outside of our region
+ 2 = 5