During the Thanksgiving break, I took time to rest, relax and enjoy the Fall weather. That lasted until Friday when my mind began to hunger for more than I’d been feeding it. The physical demands I placed on myself were, how shall I put this, well compensated for by Thanksgiving dinner at the home of my friends. The emotional demands of a pretty fast paced October also took a bit of a toll on my body. Therefore, I exercise and am fortunate to have meaningful work. Reading a well written book feeds my mind. Christer Haglund, Senior Vice President at Finnair, and sponsor of the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight sent a number of copies of the a book Departure 2093 Five Visions of Future Flying. Finnair was founded in 1923. The book celebrates their 85th anniversary.
Through my work I have read many stories on the history of aviation. I discovered this book is not only contains history of aviation industry, it also is a visionary’s perspective on the future of flying. Forecasting eighty five years into the future is certainly difficult, the books is easy to read and very enjoyable. What will the world be like in 2093?
I have heard plenty of forecasting about the future of air and space travel. Most of the discussion is contained within the five to ten year time frame. It is good for us to have these conversations in Southern New Mexico, as we are leading the world in the development of commercial space transportation investment. I don’t make that statement lightly either. The fact that the State of New Mexico is investing in Spaceport America is a significant risk for New Mexicans. For those of us looking to the future of our community, it will serve us well to continue our own dialog as well as listen to others as they struggle with the future of their air and space travel. We are not alone in wondering what the future of this next mode of transportation will be.
“We shape our future with the decisions and choices we make today” stated Sirkka Heinonen, a professor of in the School of Economics and Business Administration in Finland’s Futures Research Centre. She also indicates her research on societies tells her humans have and will remain fundamentally the same. They like to move, they like to travel. People will have more leisure time to travel for pleasure and the experience will become more important. True, travel for work, to see family and friends will continue, but the focus on the travel experience will continue to drive the growth of the airline industry.
As multiple modes of transportation improve across the globe as, rail, bus, and even bike riding increase our mobility, she predicts people will improve their economic circumstances because of increased access to the work place. Green technology will improve fuels, materials and they enable more people to travel at lower costs. Airspace will be monitored by smart vehicles, able to sense and avoid each other both on the ground and in the air. Sanna Syri, Technology Manager of Energy Systems at VTT Technical Research Center of Finland believes the air transportation industry might include zero-emissions technology and solar powered small aircraft. It is clear in the next twenty years, surviving commercial airlines will have to invest in energy-efficient technologies as a key survival strategy. Air transportation accounts for approximately two percent of carbon dioxide emissions but that will increase. Air traffic doubles every fifteen years, as stated by Andrew Hale with Delft University of Technology. Approximately eight percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product relies on flying.
It takes approximately ten years to design and manufacture a new aircraft. The Airbus A380 will have a production period of 30 to 40 years. The last aircraft in this production period will probably fly for 30 to 40 years. Commercial aircraft cycles are 70 to 80 years. So, it is not too farfetched to consider, decisions we make today will impact air transportation for possibly the next 80 years. This was a surprise to me. But that’s what I was looking for. Food for thought.
Should anyone like a copy of this book, I have 25 copies I will give away on a first come first serve basis. It is beautifully illustrated and an pleasure to read. My office is at the Sugerman Space Grant building at 3050 Knox Street, on the campus of New Mexico State University. Please come by.