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Airbus 380

             Aviation refers to any activity, industry, and regulation associated with aircraft, from airlines, aircraft manufacturers, aviation administration bodies, ground support services, etc. There are a large number of companies and government bodies involved in the industry, making it a very complex one.

Brief history

            Since the creation of the world’s first airline in 1909, DELAG of Germany, most airlines were government – owned mainly since airlines have always been a capital – intensive, especially in those days. Gradually, many governments, particularly those of industrialized countries, established their own airline(s) as the industry began to grow. World War II brought devastation for many European and Asian airlines. To alleviate this matter, governments met to set standards for a “new” aviation industry, and decided to implement the “open – skies” policies. Such policies require countries involved in bilateral or multilateral air transport agreements to lift air transport restrictions.

            Aircraft technology that was used during the war, such as the jet – engine technology that was later used to power aircraft like the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC – 8. Hence, there was huge optimism from the aircraft manufacturers to expand their civil aircraft production line, which eventually led to the existence of the Boeing 747 jumbo jet and the mid – sized Airbus jetliner.


The industry today

            Technological innovation has contributed immensely towards the industry’s growth, and hence, the number of market segments in civil aviation. The largest one is obviously the scheduled airline market. Another one the general aviation segment, which covers a huge range of aviation activities, such as chartered flights, flight training, hang gliding, air photography, flights for emergency purposes, etc.

            In the past, there were many airlines and aircraft manufacturers. However, due to various global economic problems, such as the oil crisis of the 1970’s and various economic problems afterwards, the number of those companies decreased, either through mergers and acquisitions or bankruptcy. As a result, there are only 5 major civil aircraft manufacturers left:

1). Airbus: Europe – based.

2). Boeing: U.S. – based.

3). Bombardier: based in Canada.

4). Embraer: Brazil – based.

5). Tupolev: based in Russia.

            Airbus, Boeing, and Tupolev focus on manufacturing larger aircraft, while Bombardier and Embraer concentrate on the commuter ones.


Faster production time

            Nowadays, aircraft can be manufactured at a faster rate than ever before. For instance, Boeing has recently implemented the Lean production technique adopted from Japanese car manufacturers. Inventory is kept to a minimum, such as about 3,000 aircraft seats, and new delivery of those seats and other components arrive from their suppliers for the next aircraft coming down the production line after the previous components are installed on the preceding aircraft on the line.

            Since the company is using a production line that moves at a rate of 5 cm per minute, every tool kit must be precisely in the right place. The line stops when a problem is detected, enabling it to be identified and fixed immediately. This new system requires the supervisory and production people in the same building, organized into a work team where every team member is responsible for making suggestions to improve product quality, cost savings, and the production process.

Less boredom and easier to fly

            The technology available as aircraft equipment has made the manufacturers equip their products with more sophisticated equipment.  A growing number of airlines provide in – flight entertainment systems on long – haul fights for their passengers.

             For the pilots, innovations such as the Global Positioning System and LED displays to enhance navigation technology, being widely – used since the 1990’s. Most aircraft are also equipped with fly – by – wire avionics technology to ease pilots’ workload and on – board cameras installed in longer aircraft to aid taxiing and parking. Avionics technology today enables pilots to fly more safely under various weather conditions. Flight navigation of every aircraft must be under the guidance of the air traffic controller (ATC) to avoid collision. Controllers coordinate the position reports provided by pilots, and in high – traffic areas, use RADAR to detect aircraft position. Due to the workload of the ATC personnel, pilots are not required to talk to them on Visual Flight Rules (VFR) flights, unless they are using a major airport or flying over a busy terminal. Hence, the ATC does not control every flight.


Deregulation and its Impact

            The growth of the aviation industry has also been contributed by increasing demand for air travel. Until the 1970’s, airlines in certain countries, including the United States, had to compete with automobiles and railways. In some countries, railway companies no longer had adequate financial support to replace ageing rolling stock and maintenance purposes. Only a few countries operate rolling stock that can compete with jetliners in getting passengers from door to door.

            To increase the competitiveness of U.S. airlines and aircraft manufacturers, the Federal Aviation Administration of the U.S. increased deregulation in the domestic airline industry in 1978. Gradually, many countries and regions followed suit, and as a result, many low – cost carriers (LCC) joined the airline competition.

            Although only some of those airlines are still operating today, there is an increasing number of LCC. The airlines, several no longer in business, previously tried to gain more market share by offering frills such as having a spare aircraft standing by for taking a few or a single customer to his or her destination if the flight was full. There are also many traditional carriers offer improved frills as well as LCC airlines. But, the airlines that will triumph in the competition at the end of the day are those that can maintain low overhead costs, such as by keeping their organizational structure simple and operating fuel – efficient aircraft.

In Need of Alternative Energy

            Currently, almost all aircraft that operate are powered by kerosene, a petroleum – based fuel derived from non – renewable sources. It is still the most practical and economical type of fuel for commercial jet – engine aviation. However, the world’s oil reserves are most likely to run out in about 50 years time and burnt kerosene has caused between 6 – 10 % of greenhouse gas emissions.

            Therefore, alternative sources of aviation energy must be developed now although they will be very much needed in 20 – 30 years time. Now, kerosene can be processed from light crude oil as a result of thermal de - polymerization of renewable feedstock. Another source, bio – diesel, can bring problems for flights in high altitudes since it tends to freeze easily than kerosene, thus its use is only suitable for smaller piston – engine aircraft.

            For jetliners, one possible alternative fuel is hydrogen, which can be made by water electrolysis (passing electric current through it) to divide it into hydrogen and water. The hydrogen fuel is then burnt as it is mixed with atmospheric oxygen to produce non - toxic water vapor. Although the concept is expensive to develop, high optimism among companies and other parties involved has ensured that the development still continues. The current aircraft engine designs require several modifications since hydrogen contains 3 times as much energy per kilogram as kerosene and it is much less dense than kerosene, meaning that extra fuel tanks are needed. Hydrogen is also safer than kerosene, since in an event of a crash, fire resulting from freed hydrogen flares upwards whereas kerosene fire spreads horizontally.

Copyright 2007 - Aldi Yuristian