The U.S. aviation system to the year 2000
Author(s)Ausrotas, Raymond A.
United States aviation system to the year 2000
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Flight Transportation Laboratory
Langley Research Center.
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Introduction: 1.1 The Future of the Aviation System. It is nothing if not presumptuous to look ahead twenty years in any phase of human activity. This seems particularly true in civil aviation where the certificated airlines are in the throes of transition from economic regulation to a free market system. Furthermore, while in the past forecasters could count on the number of players in the game remaining constant (subject to elimination by merger), currently new airlines are born every day, at least on paper. The friendly old aviation gang has broken up, with the rules of the game constantly changing. Thus at first glance an attempt now to predict what will happen in the future appears whimsical, if not downright foolish. However, this inquiry concerns not just the airlines, but aviation. Here that much-misused and maligned word, system, is justified. Airlines depend on many other parts: manufacturers build their aircraft, airports provide space to land them, and the air traffic control system keeps them apart. Then-there is general aviation, by some measures the largest part of the system. The flying farmer in Kansas views the big jets which occasionally appear high overhead as simply faster and more expensive Greyhounds; looking at clear and empty skies over his homestead, talk about the aviation system straining at capacity appears ludicrous. One possible approach to the future is to dissect the system and look at the components. The objection to this tack is the interrelationship of the parts if one part moves, then it affects most, if not all, of the other parts.-- The problem is equivalent to solving a set of simultaneous equations (with possibly time-varying coefficients). For example, if some airports reach saturation, the effects on the system will appear in both the short term and the long term. In the short term, traffic may shift to other (nearby) airports; general aviation aircraft may be banned; larger aircraft may replace smaller aircraft, keeping operations almost constant while providing extra lift; or operations may simply remain at the saturation level. In the long term, more or longer runways may be added to the airports; larger and more sophisticated aircraft may be designed by the manufacturers; technological improvements in the ATC system may provide more airport and airway capacity. Furthermore, the outside world is interacting with the system and affecting its behavior. A slump in the economy leads to a downturn in travel, as fewer businessmen fly as well as fewer vacationers even the deepest discounts cannot attract the public when consumer confidence is down.-- And in the long run, changes in lifestyles, population make-up, telecommunications, etc., alter travel patterns as well. Since the aviation system has reacted to internal and external forces over time, a plausible approach to the future is to look back and search for potential cause-effect relationships. Then, if long term trends exist inside and outside the system. and links between them are identified, pictures of the future can be drawn. These certainly will not be predictions, but rather possible evolutions of the system. Many alternative futures are possible, depending on the action taken by different persons both inside and outside the aviation system. With some luck the futures that will be presented here will seem credible, even if not highly probable, given the nature of the task. At the least, they are intended to stimulate thought about the likelihood of the outcomes they portray. Consequently, to planners concerned with aviation, they may provide guidelines for possible initiatives in research and technology.* The author would like to acknowledge the guidance and assistance of the contract monitors, Messrs Robert Letchworth and Matt Winston of NASA Langley Research Center. 1.2 The Aviation System: Definitions and Measures The aviation system is sufficiently complex so that no single statistic can provide a comprehensive overview. However, there are measures of activity which indicate how fast the system is changing and some key variables which explain how the system functions. There are also constraints (or potential constraints) on the system (or various subsystems), and linkages between constraints and key variables. These constraints may or may not be quantifiable, such as regulatory changes, aircraft noise limitations, and airport curfews. It is possible to classify the subsystems of aviation in many ways the exact designation is not important if no major components are lost.-- Most simply, the system can be split into the users of the system and the providers of the service. The users are general aviation and public-for-hire carriers (scheduled and unscheduled, a distinction which is gradually being blurred). The suppliers of the service are airports, airways, the ATC system, and the aerospace industry which builds the vehicles which flow over the system. More detail is provided in Figure 1.1. Different classifications are possible. One used often (Schriever and Seifert, 1967) splits the system into air vehicle; air traffic control; and airports and terminals. Another widely used breakdown (FAA, 1967) is into air carriers, GA, fuel consumption, aircraft technology, air cargo, aviation safety and complementary and competing modes. Yet another way (CARD, 1971) is to look at the system from a mission point of view (commercial passenger service, air cargo, GA) and a system element point of view (air vehicles, ATC, airports, complementary surface transporta- tion). It is apparent that classifications and their concomitant emphases depend to a large degree on who is looking at the system and for what reason. Figure 1.1 shows the complete system. Some parts of it will receive little analysis in this study: military components (since the emphasis is on civil aviation) and non-transportation-related GA activity. Table 1.1 shows the key measures of activity which will be used throughout the study. Public Service General Aviation Passei Cargo The Aviation System A. User Subsystems Schedld ~Trunks, Regionals, etc (jet equipment) LCommuters (propeller equipment) Supplemental (large aircraft) Charters EAir Taxi (small aircraft) Corporate Transportation Private Recreational Industrial (Agricultural, etc) Military B. Supply Subsystems Large hubs Other hubs Airport Commuter GA Military/joint use Surveillance and Data Acquisition Airways and ATC System Navigation Communication Landing Aids Airframe Aerospace Manufacturers Engine Avionics Fuel Key Measures of Activity of the Aviation System A. User Subsystems Measures 1. Public Service la. Passenger Scheduled Trunk, etc Revenue passenger miles, aircraft revenue hours, average stage length Airborne speed, available seats/aircraft, number of aircraft Yield (t/RPM), net profit, DOC, IOC Commuter Charters Supplemental Air Taxi RPM, average stage length RPM Number of operations lb. Cargo 2. General Aviation 2a. Transportation Corporate Private Number of operations (IFR/VFR), number of aircraft, hours flown Number of operations (IFR/VFR), number of aircraft, hours flown Number of operations, number of aircraft Number of operations, number of aircraft Number of operations 2b. Recreational 2c. Industrial 3. Military B. Supply Subsystems 1. Airports la. Large Hubs lb. Other Hubs Ic. Id. Commuter GA le. Military/Joint Use 2. Airways and ATC System Measures Total number, enplaned passengers, number of operations Enplaned passengers, number of operations (scheduled/GA) Enplaned passengers, number of operations (schedul ed/GA) Number of operations Number of operations, number of airports Number of operations Number of IFR operations, (airports, ARTCC), total number of operations, number of towered airports, flight service operations, delay measures Aerospace Manufacturers Fuel Fuel consumption (jet and avgas gallons/year) 1.3 1960 Revisited In 1960 there was an exciting presidential campaign in the United States as Richard Nixon and Jack Kennedy debated on television and radio. Kennedy won the debates (although this was disputed by some listeners) and the election (although some questions were raised about the decisive ballots in Chicago). The value of manned space exploration was being heatedly discussed, even as NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration , which itself had only been established in 1958, replacing NACA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) tentatively selected 1970 as the year for a manned lunar landing. In the air transport system, it had been over a year since the first turbo jet had been introduced in domestic service (B707-12C, December 10, 1958), followed quickly by two other turbine-powered aircraft, the turboprop Electra (January 23, 1959) and the DC-8 (September 18, 1959). The transition to the jet age was well under way.(cont.) By the end of 1960 the domestic airlines had in their inventory 470 turbine-powered aircraft (246 turboprops and 224 turbojets) out of a total of 1980 aircraft. The total investment by the domestic passenger carriers reached $1.66 billion. For the first time DC-3's carried less than half of local service airline traffic. The airlines had not yet passed the combined bus-railroad intercity common carrier passenger mile total (38.8 billion RPM, 49.3% of the total RPMs). In fact, in domestic travel passenger miles flown in coach were still fewer than in first-class (47.2% compared to 52.8%), but,increasingly, faster trips as well as 25% discounts were making coach ever more attractive. However, the new era was not without its problems. In 1960, there were 0.93 fatalities per 100 million rpm in domestic passenger service, notably the second in-flight Electra crash (which led to severe speed restrictions on the aircraft, but no grounding) and the mid-air collision between a TWA Super Constellation and a UAL DC-8 over Brooklyn, New York. 1960 was the worst year for accidents since 1951. As a result, questions were raised about the efficiency of the FAA (Federal Aviation Agency), which had been established in 1958, almost coincidentally with the introduction of the jets. The higher speeds of the turbine-powered aircraft required faster reaction times from the ATC system if safety was not to be compromised. Additionally, flight delays, diversions, and weather cancellations were estimated to have cost the airlines $25-50 million for the year. In the economic regulation area, 1960 saw the conclusion of the four-year-old General Passenger Fare Investigation (GPFI), in which the CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board) decided that a 10.5% return on investment would be proper for the trunks. However, a 5% fare increase granted in June 1960 did not help the industry achieve this profit; rather, for the year profit shrank to $4 million (a 3.4% return), although gross revenues rose to $2 billion. Air cargo reached 920 million ton-miles, up from 350 million in 1950. While the air transport industry and general aviation were undergoing tremendous growth by practically any operational measure, complaints and apparent problems were abundant. In fact, President Kennedy established a task force ("Project Horizon") to "redefine and affirm" national aviation goals for the 1960's. Alan Boyd, then the new Chairman of the CAB, was well aware of one of the objectives of the Board -to nurture the industry -when he reflected on the findings of the GPFI (which had noted that,while revenue growth proceeded unimpeded, profits trended downward since mid-1955 and that the "transition to jet equipment which the industry is now undergoing has presented financial and other problems of a magnitude never before faced." [ATA 1961]) "Today's low (airline) earnings focus attention on another of our immediate problems. Mach 3 (supersonic) is staring us in the face ... Carrier earnings are the only hope for a substantial private enterprise contribution to supersonic development and the nation must develop one.-- Carrier earnings in the years immediately ahead are the only hope that a private enterprise air transport system can absorb the next equipment transition." SST's, the need for improved earnings, and modernization of the ATC System aside, observers of the airline industry noted these additional problems facing air transportation in 1960: 1. Overcapacity and the concomitant need for traffic to fill the seats; 2. Rising cost levels, in particular high wage costs which took up 42% of total expenses, compared to 23% for materials and services, 12% for fuel and oil, and 11% for amortization and depreciation; 3. Nascent noise problems; 4. Rising subsidy needs by local service carriers (from $15 million in 1950 to $37 million). Given all these difficulties, how did the industry survive?
July 1996NASA Contractor Report 166010"--CoverIncludes bibliographical references (p. 116-118)
Cambridge : Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Flight Transportation Laboratory, 
FTL report (Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Flight Transportation Laboratory) ; R82-6
Aeronautics, History, United States