How Much Pollution is Created by Airplanes When Idling on the Ground?

Trevor English

airplane-idling[Image Source: Pixabay]

Of the many inconvenient things about airline travel, sitting in the uncomfortable seats while the plane waits to take off or park can be one of the worst. Some passengers have had to wait for the better part of a day in an airplane, but how much fuel is a plane actually burning when this happens?

Passenger airplanes of such a massive scale take up quite a bit of fuel to get people from point A to point B. However, when a plane is idling on the ground, its engines typically aren't running to the power they would be during flight. It is in this way that airplanes are different than cars. Car engines continue to consume relatively large quantities of fuel while idling, compared to airplanes.

Fuel is by far the biggest operating cost for airlines, so they will do anything to conserve it. Planes are designed to be as fuel efficient as possible and are designed to operate on low power while idling on the ground. Better yet, if an airplane is sitting at a gate or terminal, the airport provides electricity and pneumatic hookups to support the plane. So, if an airplane is idling at a gate, its pollution production is essentially nothing.

Now, what happens if the plane is idling away from a terminal, on the tarmac. This pollution number becomes a little trickier to analyze, as every plane is different. The amount of optimization and probability data necessary to provide a concrete number could only be accomplished by quantum computers. Let's then look into terms of generalities to see if pollution becomes an issue through commercial airline idling.