The Information Highway in the Sky

Comments Off on The Information Highway in the Sky
The Information Highway in the Sky

The quality of commercial airline service is dropping, even as the price increases. One solution is for over-worked business professionals to take advantage of videoconferencing and Web-based technologies to eliminate the need for some face-to-face meetings.

Nevertheless, an increased emphasis on globalization and cross-disciplinary teams will inevitably keep the demands for business travel strong. At the same time, we expect to see an enormous expansion in vacation travel, particularly from Asia, while affluent Americans and Europeans will enjoy increased leisure time.

In an effort to escape from the crush, more and more businesspeople will opt for private planes, including the newly emerging air taxi services like DayJet. As a result, the FAA is projecting the volume of U.S. air traffic to double or triple by 2020. The Trends editors forecast that this 200 to 300 percent increase is actually too conservative.

Unless something is done, we face a crisis. As we recently witnessed in Denver and New York, a weather bottleneck quickly ripples though the system with catastrophic implications. The nation’s major airports are already overwhelmed by existing volume. And thousands of six- to 10-seat very light jets are being delivered while we’re awaiting delivery of dozens of gargantuan Airbus A380s. Air traffic controllers are overworked. Airlines and government bureaucrats complain about the high cost of maintaining a patchwork of systems.

Fortunately, technology offers an answer, and government and markets are moving to make that answer a reality. Today’s air traffic system consists of a hodgepodge of systems that grew up since World War II. Each fills an important function.

The most basic is the navigational and communication radio system that provides verbal air traffic control to pilots and provides beacons for navigation. Any pilot who flies in controlled airspace is familiar with these. However, airports with significant commercial traffic have an enhanced radio navigation capability called the Instrument Landing System (ILS).

ILS enables planes to land in snow, heavy rain, or dense fog because the system is finely calibrated horizontally and vertically. ILS is a great system, but it’s expensive to install and maintain, so it’s not going to be delivered to the nation’s 15,000 small airports. In fact, the FAA wants to progressively decommission many of the existing sites.

The replacement for ILS will consist of enhanced GPS systems.

The GPS system in your car works well for navigating on streets, but it’s not nearly good enough for navigating a plane at night in bad weather...

To continue reading, become a paid subscriber for full access.
Already a Trends Magazine subscriber? Login for full access now.

Subscribe for as low as $195/year

  • Get 12 months of Trends that will impact your business and your life
  • Gain access to the entire Trends Research Library
  • Optional Trends monthly CDs in addition to your On-Line access
  • Receive our exclusive "Trends Investor Forecast 2015" as a free online gift
  • If you do not like what you see, you can cancel anytime and receive a 100% full refund