Aviation - Environmental Impact

Environmental Impact

Like all activities involving combustion, operating powered aircraft (from airliners to hot air balloons) release soot and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) are also produced. In addition, there are environmental impacts specific to aviation:

  • Aircraft operating at high altitudes near the tropopause (mainly large jet airliners) emit aerosols and leave contrails, both of which can increase cirrus cloud formation — cloud cover may have increased by up to 0.2% since the birth of aviation.
  • Aircraft operating at high altitudes near the tropopause can also release chemicals that interact with greenhouse gases at those altitudes, particularly nitrogen compounds, which interact with ozone, increasing ozone concentrations.
  • Most light piston aircraft burn avgas, which contains tetra-ethyl lead (TEL). Some lower-compression piston engines can operate on unleaded mogas, and turbine engines and diesel engines — neither of which requires lead — are appearing on some newer light aircraft.

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