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THE FUTURE OF AVIATION


What does the future hold? Well, my crystal ball is old, but I'll have a good go at it without thinking outside the square too much. The aftermath of covid will be difficult for airlines to navigate. I don't even wish the current situation on people like Alan Joyce. (Actually, that's not true) But imagine trying to cope with continual changes in government restrictions and keep crew trained ready to expand again. It must be extremely difficult. It was hard enough for airlines to make a profit when things were going well, but these days huge losses must be expected, which is why I'm flabbergasted at how high the share prices of the airlines are.

The last 30 years of lowering interest rates and the massive increase in global debt have left the financial system at risk of a colossal collapse. This mountain of debt has allowed people to live their lives far into the future with travel and asset purchases. Unfortunately, the piling on of cheap debt to keep the house of cards from collapsing has made it worse. A rebalance might take ten years or longer to shake out the imbalances.

At the same time, technological advances won't stop. Will this mean pilots will become superfluous? Are modern safety systems making us glorified bus drivers? I doubt it in the next 30 years. All the talk is of single-pilot operations and then eventually no pilots. Single pilots might become appropriate at some point, but do you really want to be a passenger on an aircraft with no pilots when the shit hits the fan as it did on QF32 out of Singapore in 2010. They were lucky to have four experienced pilots in the cockpit that day, and it was still a massive effort to save the aircraft. And it was only the skill and experience of Captain Kevin Sullivan that saved QF 72 north of Perth in October 2008.

The use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) will definitely enhance safety. Air traffic control systems will take over a flight from airborne to landing, with pilots and controllers just monitoring. Better ATC systems will allow more efficient routing, thus cutting costs. In addition, engineers will be able to fix most problems remotely. Without a doubt, innovations in aviation will come that we can't even imagine these days.

There is talk of bringing back supersonic aircraft, and as long as noise problems can be overcome, then why not? But this will still be an expensive way to travel. They say large four-engine aircraft are dead, but there will eventually be two engine aircraft much bigger than the A380 of today. There has to be, or there won't be enough room in the skies for all the aircraft. In an ideal world, the world's population would stop growing, which would relieve some of the growth pressures.

Data mining by airlines will increasingly become important. This is the process of finding anomalies, patterns and correlations within large data sets to predict outcomes. Using a broad range of techniques, you can use this information to increase revenues, cut costs, improve customer relations, reduce risks and more.

Efficiency will be paramount. With global warming, sustainable fuels will need to become commonplace. There are already small electric aircraft in use, but these are currently limited in size and range. It is thought that hybrid aircraft may be the answer using hydrogen to run an engine to create electric power for electric motors for the flight.

Aircraft shape is likely to change as well, with shapes like 'flying wings' creating less noise and greater efficiency.

Last but not least, more efficient ground-based transportation needs to be considered as well. Japan's Maglev train has just hit 600kph. That means it would be capable of going from Sydney to Melbourne in 90 minutes or Auckland to Wellington in an hour. Given that this means cutting out two x 30-minute taxi rides from airports to cities, that's way faster than flying and would be my choice. Domestic aviation will be dead between those points once that happens, and populations get large enough to support a half-hourly service. It bears thinking about. #maglev #aviation #futureaviation #pilot #aircraft #alanjoyce #ai

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