Welcome to 2026, Mr. Van Winkle. I understand you’ve been asleep since 2006. Don’t know how that happened, but they tell me you want to know what’s happened in aviation since then. In the first place, let me say right up front that we haven’t solved all the problems — not by a long shot.
Back in 2006, seems like everyone thought the solution to everything was just around the corner. New airplanes, new airports, and new guvmint programs were going to fix everything and everyone would live happily ever after. It didn’t happen. Yeah, we learned how to handle a lot more traffic a lot more smoothly, but the traffic grew even faster than our ability to handle it. Every time we got one problem worked out, three more popped up.
Let me see, the Airbus A-380 was just entering the scene when you dropped out, wasn’t it? You remember that was going to solve problems by carrying more people at one time, thus freeing up more gates at airports. It did, too, but it also dumped more people into the airport at one time. That required more taxis, more buses, trains, and everything else. You wouldn’t believe the problems it caused just for TSA. You’ll notice we still have airliners of all sizes, and we’re beginning to believe that will never change.
On the general aviation side of the industry, you’ll probably be excited to know that the very light jets (VLJs) have indeed proved to be very popular. You’ll see a lot of them flying in a wide variety of roles. They did not, however, get Joe Sixpack and family flying charter on vacation as many people expected. I don’t know why the people of your time couldn’t see that. I mean, you know, you had cheap piston airplanes flying charter for decades, but ordinary people didn’t use them. What made everybody think Joe and his family could afford (assuming they wanted to) a VLJ for a vacation when they couldn’t afford a Navajo or Baron? Still, the VLJ did put a lot of new customers into jet aircraft.
Y’all missed a bit on air freight, too. It just kept on growing faster than passenger service, and still does. Of course the biggest change in air freight happened back in your time. That was all that just-in-time (JIT) distribution. We still don’t know when, or even if, that movement will quit growing.
By the way, you might notice that hardly any of the freight carriers are here at the major passenger airports. The freight haulers figured it out a long time ago. They don’t need all the facilities that passengers need, so they moved out to underutilized airports in the boondocks. Saves them a lot of money and hassle.
Hey, have you noticed we have very little security hassle? That’s one of our major victories. You don’t have to put down your luggage or take off your shoes and jacket. The new screening machines can spot everything while you walk through.
Well, look around. You’ll feel pretty much at home. It’s still just as crowded, but, hey, we’re handling a lot more people so it’s really a miracle that the crowding is no worse than it was.
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