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.
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:
Europe – based.
U.S. – based.
based in Canada.
Brazil – based.
based in Russia.
Airbus, Boeing, and Tupolev focus on manufacturing larger aircraft, while Bombardier and Embraer concentrate on the
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.