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We've had lightweight composite materials, we've had mergers and we've even had lighter drinks trolleys and thinner carpets. Now Easyjet, one of Europe's largest airlines, thinks it has found a way to save even more money using a technology you cannot even see: a new paint job.
From Monday, it will be the first commercial airline to trial what it calls a "revolutionary nano-technology coating". The amount of polymer needed adds just 4oz (113g) to the overall weight of each jet. Before the slippery surface is applied, they give the plane a "polarising wash". The manufacturers say it could lower Easyjet's fuel consumption by up to 2%. It may not sound like much, but in aviation terms, it amounts to a planeload.
Last year, 40% of the company's costs were on fuel, a bill of more than £730m. If the polymer had been applied across the company's fleet, and if it had reduced costs by the suggested 2%, Easyjet could have knocked £14m off that.
At 00.01 hours on Monday February 14th, 2011, international airline, easyJet released a video case study to the news channels in all of its European destinations, detailing the employment of a unique and specialist 'nano-technology' high performance cleaning and protective surface coating on its fleet, which not only brings bottom line benefits, but also reduces the carbon footprint of each of its planes.
Paul Booker, Managing Director at ooops!, which in 2007 was offered the opportunity to commercially market and distribute and apply the unique, high performance coating known as ‘tripleO’ in the UK, said: ”easyJet has announced the use of tripleO on its planes for a range of benefits, not least fuel savings and carbon footprint reduction. tripleO established thirty-years ago, has a twenty-year heritage as a surface protectant for the US military, but it has only recently been made commercially available. It was re-engineered in 2000 to incorporate innovative nano-technology into the solution to enhance its performance and ‘cross link and bond’ to any surface.”
Initially, Paul and his expert team were interested in the properties of tripleO for the ooops! business, which specialises in the repair, painting, maintenance and 'detailing' of all types of transportation. After applying tripleO to a Cessna at his local flying club in Bournemouth and trialling it on a Hawker 400XP business jet, Paul was then very impressed with how easyJet supported him with an initial trial of three aircraft leading to a further trial of another twenty.
He explains: “The results from our ongoing trials for aero engines and aircraft are impressive. Aircraft fuel consumption is reduced by significant values, debris build up is at an absolute minimum and tripleO provides protective coatings properties that inhibit corrosion ingression on surfaces. But most significantly, laboratory testing demonstrates a reduction in drag of up to 39%, which correlates with a direct fuel saving and overall reduction in carbon footprint. It is this which has made tripleO very attractive to commercial airlines such as easyJet, who are seeking ways of saving on fuel costs and reducing emissions in such a heavily regulated industry.”
ooops! has obtained the relevant Air Worthiness Accreditation such as AMS 1650B certification for tripleO, as well as accreditation from some of the biggest names in aviation such as Airbus, Boeing, Douglas and Raytheon. So how does it work? The 'nano-technology' in tripleO is a polymer that enables this high performance solution to cross link and bond with the surface materials - such as paint work, bare metal, leading edges and even rivets - to which it is being applied.
tripleO contains hard, durable acrylic elements and creates a perfectly smooth finish, filling the 'pores' of a surface with a unique resin. This forms a barrier to prevent penetration by contaminants of the 'hills and valleys' of a surface our eyes cannot see.
It is a three-part process: the surfaces are cleaned, then an Oxalic Acid wash is applied to purge the pores of the surface and electronically charge it with a positive polarity. The surface is then ready to receive the unique “anionic”, or negatively charged nano particles of the tripleO emulsion. These particles are pulled into the pores magnetically and held there, while all of the protective chemicals have cross-linked, bonded and cured, locking tripleO into the paint and preventing drifting, fading or degradation of the paint until renewal. Solar heat will actually give even further protection, unlike most competitive products that eventually melt.
Paul concludes: “The tripleO solution is proven in some of the most challenging applications, for some of the world's most demanding military organisations over three decades. Where better to have tested a product such as this for commercial use? For a relatively small investment per aircraft, the financial, marketing and environmental benefits of applying tripleO are many-fold.
“And the good news is that tripleO isn’t just for aviation. It reduces 'drag' in the air, on the road or through the water, helping to reduce fuel consumption; it removes and eliminates 'debris build up' on external surfaces - including contaminants from ice and dirt to sea water, reducing energy consumption; it shrinks the carbon footprint to meet statutory environmental obligations, whilst protecting external and internal surfaces; it increases the working life and return on investment, while reducing cost of ownership; and it even protects your brand by providing a better presentation of exteriors and interiors, to enhance livery, brand reputation and service levels.
“In short, tripleO can be applied to a fleet of aircraft, trucks, boats and helicopters or wind farms in exposed locations, and wherever reducing costs and increasing operational efficiency is mission critical.”
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