Ch-ch-ch-changes

Aviation is changing so fast that it’s hard to keep up with all of the predictions


The guvmint has—finally—put out a paper planning for drones (or UAVs—Unmanned Aerial Vehicles)—to be integrated into domestic airspace by 2015, as is required by a law passed in 2012. Will that actually happen? Hey, have you tried to sign up for Obamacare lately? This is another case of business being way ahead of guvmint.

In all the info on this, I have yet to read anything about what airports will have to do to get ready for thousands of UAVs. It just stands to reason that it will be quite an adjustment. You reckon we’ll be ready?

Change of subject: This morning I heard—on public radio—that Boeing’s largest union is arguing with the company about the union contract in Washington State. I can’t help but wonder if the union has forgotten that Boeing recently moved some production to the Carolinas at least partially because of union demands in Washington.

(Note: As per an email that just landed in my InBox from Airport Business, Boeing just received orders for $100 billion at the Dubai show. Wow!).

Another change: 3-D “printing” is poised to change things in ways that I never imagined. Aircraft pieces and parts will—already have been, in some cases—be made by 3-D printers almost anywhere. A 3-D printer costs far less and takes up much less space than the typical manufacturing factory. Presumably, many parts can be made by small companies located close to the customer. Boeing, for example, could get parts from a nearby company and thus save on transportation costs and—dare I say it?—labor unions.

According to Aviation Week & Space Technology (AW&ST), 3-D printing could take us back to the cottage industries that were so popular back before the Industrial Revolution. Folks, that’s one heckuva change!

3-D printing will be big in most industries, but, and this is just my opinion, might be particularly beneficial in the aviation industry because our numbers are so small. Even our largest aircraft manufacturers build only a few aircraft per year compared to the number of cars churned out by a large auto maker.

Finally, here’s a story from—of all places—the circus industry. A century ago—give or take a few years—the Ringling Brothers, undisputed kings of the circus world at the time, considered buying some 20 acres of land on the outskirts of every major city in the country. Why? Just so they would be assured of a place for the circus to set up and perform. They didn’t do it, but what an investment that would have been. Just think of where the outskirts of those cities would have been a century ago!

Arenas solved the Ringling Brothers’ problem. But wouldn’t it have been great if our industry had set aside a large area on the outskirts of every major city, just for airports of the future? I think about that every time the people of Atlanta try, and fail, to build a second airport there.

As the old songs goes, “Oh wouldn’t it be wonderful!”

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