Sean Hackbarth Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


February 19, 2018


At this moment on a flight tracker website like Flightradar24 you’ll see thousands of aircraft zooming above the earth.

Some are filled with packages—like roses shipped from Kenya in time for Valentine’s Day—while others are loaded with passengers in transit for pleasure or business.

In the 115 years since the Wright Brothers’ first successful flight, aviation has transformed travel, shipping, and the global economy.

But what’s the direction of aviation’s future in the near term?

Industry leaders at the U.S. Chamber’s 2018 Aviation Summit: Further in Flight will dig into some of the biggest issues be for the industry.

More air travelers and cargo

More travelers and cargo will be in the air. The International Air Transport Association projects the number of passengers flying will rise to 4.3 billion in 2018. IATA also projects the amount of air cargo to grow to 62.5 million tons.

More planes are being built

Airline are ordering more planes, and manufacturers are working hard to build them.

“Airbus delivered a record 718 planes in 2017,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “To meet future demand, Airbus said it is raising output to around 800 airliners this year. Boeing last month said it planned to lift production to between 810 and 815 planes this year, up from 763 last year.”

Manufacturers up and down the supply chain will need more skilled workers to fill those orders.

More workers are needed

Not only will more factory workers be needed, but airlines will need more pilots and crew.

According to the 2017 Boeing Pilot and Technician Outlook, North America will need 117,000 new pilots, 118,000 new aircraft technicians, and 154,000 new cabin crew employees over the next 20 years.

The need hundreds of thousands of more workers—from factories to the cockpit—will make effective workforce development a critical issue for the industry.

More technology

Like the rest of our economy, aviation is knee-deep in innovation and change.

For instance, drones are top of mind, as Bloomberg reported from the Singapore Airshow, Asia’s largest:

Amid crowds of media, military and marketing execs, there’s a drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle, almost everywhere you turn. From Northrop Grumman’s monster spy plane Global Hawk, which flew in from the U.S. Air Force base on Guam, to a small, battery-powered quadcopter from local start-up AeroLion Technologies Pte. that can fly through underground tunnels without GPS, there’s a drone for everything.

There are stands touting drones to deliver packages, film 4K panoramic video, dust crops, get you to work, spy on your neighbor, bomb terrorists, fight fires and dozens of other tasks. Airbus exhibited its Skyways octocopter, saying it would begin testing an automated package delivery system In Singapore in the first half of this year.

“Autonomy will completely reshape the world economy,” Guillaume Thibault, partner at management consultant Oliver Wyman, told a packed conference room at the show, entitled “The Autonomous Revolution - The Race Is On.”

There’s the steady achievements of private sector space travel, most recently seen in SpaceX successfully sending a car and mannequin into space on top of its Falcon Heavy rocket.

A less flashy but very important tech issue is aviation cybersecurity. Aircraft have their own internal complex computer networks. Along with that there are airport networks and reservation systems. Greater connectivity opens new doors for intruders. Successful attacks could leave frustrated passengers stranded.

This brief list just scratches the surface.

Lucky for us some of the biggest names in the aviation industry will tackle these issues.

Learn more by visiting the 2018 Aviation Summit web page.

About the authors

Sean Hackbarth

Sean Hackbarth

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.

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