New technology drives improved efficiency for modern airplanes

Fuels |  2 min. read

If a Boeing Dreamliner (the 787) filled up the same way our cars do, it’d be sitting at the pump a LONG time.  Even the smallest Dreamliner holds more than 33,000 gallons of jet fuel.

So as you might expect, airlines spend a lot of money on fuel. And yet, the cost of an airplane ticket has gone up a lot less than many other things in the last couple of decades.

In fact, ticket prices have gone up less than the rate of inflation, from 2000-2016 – less than the cost of going to college (at a public college!), less than the price of prescription drugs, less than the cost of a night at the movies or a day at Disney World, less than a ticket for an NFL game or a baseball game (National or American League).

Why’s that?  Airlines have been buying airplanes (like the Dreamliner) that use less fuel.  In turn, that’s thanks in part, to the use of new, lightweight materials, like carbon-fiber and other composites made from petrochemicals (petrochemicals being some of what’s left over from a barrel of oil, after the fuels, like jet fuel, have been refined from it).

Newer engines use fuel more efficiently and newer plane designs are more aerodynamic.  And of course, refiners are always working to increase the amount of energy that every gallon of fuel can deliver.

Oh, and speaking of jet fuel – the oomph behind the most modern jets, like the Dreamliner, comes from the same fuel that lit American homes before the Civil War – kerosene.  (Though jet fuel does have a few extras in it.  So if you’ve got a kerosene lamp, and you come across a barrel of jet fuel – don’t.  But if you DO have a kerosene lamp, we’d like to hear about it.)