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Studio guest: Prof. Volker Gollnick

Prof. Volker Gollnick, Director of the German Aerospace Center's Institute of Air Transportation Systems

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DW:
Joining us in the studio is Professor Volker Gollnick and he's an expert on air transportation systems, which means he's able to develop airplanes and also operate them.
Now, as we've just seen in the report, with the pooling it might be possible to reduce the number of airplanes in the sky. Might that not lead to the point that we just fly more? We fill the gap?


Volker Gollnick:
Indeed, people tend to fill every gap they have as long as they have opportunities to fly more. But due to the ecological pressure and the concern about emissions at high altitude, I'm convinced that aviation as a whole will be reduced in the far future.

But that means you really believe that it's possible for man to become better, to improve, to think more in ecological terms.

I'm convinced, yes they will. If I remember in Germany the ecological development in the eighties was really a change in mindset, which takes some time, for sure, and we also experience similar developments worldwide - also in China.

What does that mean for the planes now? Will they get bigger - what's the point?

Indeed, I'm convinced people want mobility - you can ensure mobility by bigger planes which can carry more people. So for the people nothing will change except the frequency of flights.

And bigger planes are always more environmentally friendly, right?

Definitely, because of less aircraft in the air and you have more people being carried by one flight. So the overall efficiency in terms of cost and emissions is much better.

On the other hand, for us passengers it might become more complicated because then you always fly to the big hubs, you have to have big airports and so on, and then you move on, right?

Indeed, this is from my point of view the big challenge for future aeronautical research - to make these transportation processes door to door much more fluid or seamless so the people have the real experience of flying, that they feel flying is attractive. It's really not an adventure, and not a big disturbance and makes me angry about delays and things like that, but the challenge is: experience of flight, flying less, but at higher quality.

Organized mobility is just a lot better. Do you have any other ideas on how to change planes and how to improve them in order to become more environmentally friendly?

Bigger planes is one point. Another idea is indeed to perform formation flight like we know it from the birds, because then we can use drag improvement and the technical challenge is indeed that big airplanes have to fly very close together in less distances - we talk about 200 meters of distances - and this is a big challenge for automation and sensor technologies, but also for piloting.

I believe so - I mean having a plane of like 200 meters and then you have a distance of 200 meters? That sounds pretty risky to me. Would you want to fly in one of those planes?

No, I cannot believe that aircraft will have a length of 200 meters. Let's talk about up to 100 meters. And if you have twice or three times this kind of aircraft length, it will work.

I hope you're right. Thanks a lot for the talk, Volker Gollnick.

(Interview: Ingolf Baur)

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