New 'green' plane is threat to ozone layer

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Earth's ozone layer, which is only just beginning to recover from the ravages of recent decades, faces a devastating new danger from a new generation of "environmentally friendly" aircraft, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

The threat comes from Boeing's new "sonic cruiser" passenger planes, which fly at a higher altitude than conventional jets: about 45,000 feet. This will take them into the stratosphere, where the ozone layer, which shields and protects all life on earth, would be under direct attack from the planes' emissions.

Boeing has given the highest priority to developing the cruiser, which it is promoting as a "green" plane. It says American airlines have already offered to buy up all the planes it can turn out in its first three years of production: they will be able to fly non-stop from London to Sydney, clipping five hours off the journey.

Environmentalists are angry and alarmed at the development. Dr Roger Higman of Friends of the Earth said yesterday: "Just as we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel, we are faced with a massive new threat."

Boeing says it is working with scientists to study the cruiser's environmental effects, but it would give no indication that it would scrap the plane if it were found to endanger the ozone layer.