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Startup announces FAA approval for its innovative, fuel-efficient passenger jet design — here's how it could change the airline industry

According to the startup, the new shape would improve the plane's fuel efficiency dramatically.

According to the startup, the new shape would improve the plane's fuel efficiency dramatically.

Photo Credit: JetZero

Aviation startup JetZero has announced that its "blended wing design" has received Federal Aviation Administration approval, New Atlas reported.

The blended wing design is essentially a much more aerodynamic way of constructing an airplane, blending the wings and fuselage (or main body) of the plane into one smooth shape. According to JetZero, the new shape would improve the plane's fuel efficiency dramatically, requiring 50% less fuel than a standard jet.

This is a big deal, as planes account for a massive amount of air pollution and planet-overheating gas pollution. According to Our World in Data, domestic flights are by far the most polluting form of travel per passenger kilometer, followed by gas-powered cars and after that by international flights. 

In total, aviation accounts for around 2.5% of global carbon pollution — and the only reason that figure isn't higher is that plane travel is too expensive for the vast majority of people on the planet.

That means the people paying for it are contributing an outsized amount of pollution per person. (For example, one person for whom plane travel is not too expensive is Bill Gates, who averages more than one private flight per day.)

So, it is important to note that while bringing fuel usage down by 50% would be an enormous improvement, it would still not in any way make plane travel a good thing for the environment. Electric vehicles, trains, and buses would remain vastly superior methods of long-distance travel — and one of the best things that world governments can do for the planet is invest heavily in public transit infrastructure.

Countries such as China, South Korea, India, and several in Europe have already made substantial investments in high-speed rail systems, and the United States is slowly beginning to follow suit with the construction of the California high-speed rail system currently underway.

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