NASA has a “critical responsibility” to the flying public to develop environmentally responsible solutions to the nation’s most pressing aviation problems, Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. said Wednesday.

Addressing the Green Aviation Summit under way through Thursday at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Bolden said air travel is one of the safest modes of transportation and vital to the U.S. economy, but increasing air traffic is taking a toll on the environment and the nation’s aviation infrastructure.

“We need to make some changes — both in the design of aircraft and in the way they transit through our skies to not only maintain, but improve safety and efficiency,” Bolden said. “That’s a huge challenge, but we at NASA enthusiastically accept it.”

The Green Aviation Summit is highlighting the depth and breadth of NASA’s work to develop aviation technologies that are designed to make air transportation cleaner and quieter for the environment, with fewer delays for travelers.

“Our critical responsibility is [to] those who feel anxious because of the long distance they have to travel to reach an airport; the crowding they experience upon arrival at the terminal; the departure, enroute, or arrival weather; or concerns that the technology on the planes may not be up to dealing with problems that may be encountered in the sky,” Bolden told the summit.

The two-day meeting has brought together about 200 experts from NASA, other federal government organizations, industry and academia. Keynote presentations by leading policymakers as well as detailed technical presentations and panel discussions are focusing on state-of-the-art and emerging technologies that can reduce aircraft noise, emissions and fuel consumption and ensure the safe and manageable growth of the aviation system.

Jaiwon Shin, NASA’s associate administrator for aeronautics research, said NASA technology will become increasingly important because of the lack of available space for new airports. “We really are helping the country to advance to the next generation of air transportation and aviation by working together,” he said. “This summit signifies our strong commitment.”

Summit participants are sharing the results of their work on airplanes that will be designed and built with unconventional configurations, super-efficient engines and lightweight, damage-tolerant materials to increase lift, reduce drag, and deflect noise; innovations that will capitalize on the potential of alternative fuels and advanced power technologies; and efforts to equip aircraft cockpits with computer software and satellite-based navigation and communication systems to assist decision-making by pilots.

Ames Research Center Director Simon “Pete” Worden opened the summit by crediting NASA research for today’s understanding of climate change and the effects of global warming on the environment. “As the world travels even more,” said Worden, “we’re going to have a very serious global warming issue, as well as lots of other environmental impacts of aviation.”

Bolden, Shin and Worden all noted that conservation – through improved performance, efficiency and safety — is an aim that has guided NASA’s research goals for decades. “Green is not just a buzzword to us,” Bolden said.

Examples of green technology NASA has developed in the past include winglets and chevrons. Winglets are the vertical attachments that can be seen on the wing tips of many commercial airliners in service today, and are designed to reduce fuel consumption. Chevrons are the scalloped edges on the engine nozzles of some models of commercial and cargo aircraft just now entering the market, and are designed to reduce noise.

NASA has a suite of incremental goals for demonstrating the feasibility of aircraft technology and air traffic management techniques that can minimize the environmental effects of air transportation by:

— Enabling aircraft to burn 33 percent less fuel than today’s most efficient models by 2015, 50 percent less by 2020, and better than 50 percent less by 2025. — Cutting engine emissions of nitric oxide and nitrogen oxide, which contribute to ozone creation, 20 percent by 2015, 50 percent by 2020, and better than 50 percent by 2025 — when compared with today’s best engines. Reducing the amount of fuel burned reduces emissions of carbon dioxide, which contribute to global warming. — Reducing the nuisance noise footprint around airports to one-third its current size by 2015 and one-sixth by 2020, and containing it within the airport property boundary by 2025. NASA aims to facilitate the transition of new capabilities to manufacturers, then to airlines and ultimately to the Federal Aviation Administration, for the ultimate benefit of the flying public.

The NASA administrator said it is crucial for the agency and its stakeholders to collaborate closely to that its aeronautics research continues to be both relevant to the aviation community and beneficial to the flying public.

“Just as I like to tell the scientists and engineers who send our human and robotic missions out into the cosmos, you are contributing to national goals and helping people in the work you do every day,” Bolden said. “We are going to make measured progress leading to ever expanding accomplishments to meet the myriad increasing challenges. This is our challenge – to shape the future in aeronautics.”

Portions of the Green Aviation Summit are being broadcast live on NASA Television’s Education Channel.

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