Plane Simple Truth: Clearing the air on aviation's environmental impact

Posted on by Ben Rothke

My full book review of Plane Simple Truth is on Slashdot 

So what does this book have to do with security?; a lot.  Far too much of informati9on security is about the FUD factor.  Real risk is often obscured behind irrelevant threats, and the real threats are not deal with. Plane Simple Truth: Clearing the air on aviation's environmental impact is a book that lives up to its title. 

In the TV show House, M.D., a premise that protagonist Dr. Greg House holds dear is that people are liars and stupid. Real life is often not far from House's observation. At the general public level, people are often misled by their lack of common sense, their deficiency in understanding statistics and basic science, and therefore fall victim to the lies of the myriad charlatans that claim to have something that fixes everything. 

While it is too broad to call the authors of Fuel efficiency of commercial aircraft: An overview of historical and future trends liars; their mediocre research created the scenario that far too many took their research as reality. Known as the Peeters report, after lead author P.M. Peeters, the authors ofPlane Simple Truth refute the wide-spread belief that the fuel efficiency gains in the commercial aviation sector are erroneous, which is the principle theme of the Peeters report. 

The aviation industry is often an environmental pariah, with environmentalists crying foul at the industry. But it is only a pariah due to flawed data that negatively influences the public debate, and this book attempts to set the record straight. Plane Simple Truth is an articulate and extremely well-written and researched rebuttal to the Peeters report, and other flawed studies. 

The Peeters report flies in the face of reality, in which gains in jet engine efficiency over the last 40 years have been astounding. Contrast those gains with the popular Cadillac Escalade and similar SUV's whose mileage per gallon is often measured in single digits, and whose efficiencies have gone in the opposite direction.

The authors wrote Plane Simple Truth as they felt that never in recent history has an industry been so maligned and the public so misled by so much falsehood and distortion. With the Peeters report and climate activists pointing the accusing finger at the aviation industry, Plane Simple Truth is their defense. 

The reality is that while the Detroit automakers were making huge gas guzzling SUV's well into 2008, companies such as Lockheed had fuel efficiency on their mind back to the 1970's. In fact, fuel efficiency has been a key factor in the aviation industry since the early days. This is based on simple economics and physics in that every pound of fuel, is a pound of payload that the airline cannot carry, which costs the airline money as fuel economy is a major driver in the industry. The bottom line is that fuel economy is absolutely critical in commercial aviation. Witness the number of aviation bankruptcies in 2008 when fuel prices soured. 

Like a first-rate defense attorney, the book defends the industry against its charges. In every chapter, the authors show the errors, both intentional and those errors of omission, where incorrect reporting and research have negatively affected public opinion. 

While not a book about the history of jet engines; the book details the fascinating and phenomenal improvement into the efficiency of the technology. But the underlying theme of the book is that of the environmental issues.

The book details the fundamental errors in the Peters and other environmental reports that have been often taken as the unquestionable truth. Rather than analyzing the facts like the book authors have done, the media often creates sensationalist headlines with an emphasis on short sound bites, often at the cost of scientific fact. Not only do the authors refute the Peeters report, they show in detail how important aviation is to the global economy. In fact, the aviation industry is critical to every growing economy. 

The books 18 chapters cover the entire spectrum of jet emissions and their incredible development in detail. Current topics such as bio fuels and their promise, new engine technology, aerodynamic gains, green airlines and more are discussed. The book makes ample use of charts and photographs to illustrate its points. 

Plane Simple Truth is a fascinating book that exposes the myriad errors of the flawed environmental studies. It is also a fascinating look at the development and history of jet engines, and the amazing progress that has come about in the last few decades. Huge strides have been made that increase power by significant amounts, while simultaneously cutting emissions. In fact, there are less environmental issues to worry about in the future due to aviation, given the significant strides that are being made. 

The book makes many of its valuable points via the approach of letting charts and diagrams do the talking of often dry statistical facts. Be it fuel efficiency, less emissions, or toxic gases, the book shows that misplaced myths and the smoke and mirror games that are often used by those with an agenda, have negatively affected the public's view of aviation.

We have seen that a single bad piece of research is enough to derail an entire industry and mislead the press and politicians. Plane Simple Truth is an important book that has relevance to everyone, as there is no one that is not positively affected by the aviation industry. 

While the industry still has a long way to go in other areas such as passenger satisfactions, lost luggage, air traffic control delays and much more, the engine makers have continually pushed the envelope in terms of fuel efficiency and environmental concerns, and they have done this for well over half a century. This was long before the environment was a cool topic. It was also done when jet fuel was still quite cheap. 

While the book's authors are intimately involved in the airline industry and clearly pro-airline, and the book's publisher is Aerospace Technical Publications; the authors let the facts speak for themselves. While greenhouse gases and their potential negative effects are part of the public and scientific debate, the ability of modern jet-engines to minimize those effects is clear. Plane Simple Truth is a valuable book in the important debate over greenhouse gases and aviation's contribution to it.

Ben Rothke

Senior Information Security Manager, Tapad

Blogs posted to the website are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the blog author individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of RSA Conference™, or any other co-sponsors. RSA Conference does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented in this blog.

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