Tons more freight and noise!

The Boeing 747 of Jade Cargo, taking freicht to China, is now completely full, very heavy and climbs slowly. The noise of its takeoff is also climbing!


It appears that the twice-weekly freight flight of the Boeing 747-400ER of Jade Cargo has recently been breaking not only the records for the amount of freight carried, but also the absolute record for the heaviest aircraft ever to take off at Geneva airport. The maximum amount of freight appears to be 102 tons, as confirmed by the Geneva Airport Web site

This plane, of a new generation and therefore producing less noise and less pollution, offers a capacity of 102 tons.

However, I am led to believe that its actual limit, for a flight of such a distance, is only just over 90 tons: any more and it would exceed the Maximum Take-off Weight (MTOW) limit for the aircraft. Thus, it is currently operating at this MTOW limit, which perhaps explains the very high noise levels recorded by the ARAG noise monitoring stations (96 to 97 dBA over Vernier, about 10 to 100 times louder than other aircraft takeoff noise).

According to an article in The Times yesterday, 22 February, there is a growing demand for the transport of goods from Asia to Europe. Something like 90% of global trade is carried by ships. However, with oil prices rising (rapidly, right now!) and environmental concerns increasingly important, the Danish shipping line Maersk has contracted South Korea's Daewoo to build ten new Triple-E (Economy of scale, Efficiency, Environmentally improved) ships, each capable of carrying 18,000 20ft shipping containers. I have not been able to calculate how many full Jade Cargo planeloads would equate to one shipload, but I suspect that it is equivalent to several years of twice-weekly flights.

One interesting comment on these new ships, which probably will apply to almost all cargo shipping, is that the financial crisis has obliged companies to cut costs by reducing their cruising speed by around 10%, thus adding 2-3 days to a 3-4 week voyage between Europe and China. There does not look to be much likelihood of this decision changing.

I do not actually know what cargo is being carried by Jade, nor whether a delivery in a few days, rather than weeks, is an absolute necessity. What did strike me was that more than a century ago the emphasis was on the transport of goods back to Europe. One particular case was that of China tea, which was transported in sailing ships known as (tea) clippers. These were designed to sail as fast as possible, not only from China to Europe, but also transatlantic and from New York to San Francisco round Cape Horn.

Students of history may remember that one major cause of the American war of independence was the passing of the "Tea Act" by the British Parliament, which effectively taxed the American colonies (as they were then known). The response to this included the famous Boston Tea Party and the slogan "no taxation without representation", and we all know where it culminated. I believe that in Boston harbo(u)r one can still throw a bag of tea (with a rope attached!) overboard a moored sailing ship:-)

So we have progressed from very ecologically-friendly sailing ships, to steamships, to air cargo in large jet aircraft. Am I wrong in thinking that we will have to go into reverse on this "progress" as oil prices rise and environmental concerns are recognised by politicians and heads of large industrial companies?

I hope not!

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