torsdag 20 mars 2014

Flying has never been safer

I write in the magazine Spiked about deregulation and automatization in the air. Flying has never been safer, what are the effects on the economy of air travel?

The pressure of competition on airlines is very hard indeed, some airlines and airports would not exist if not for the subsidies. Within the EU there are 460 commercial airports, of which perhaps 15 per cent are profitable. The profitable ones are usually those who have been fully or partially privatized. Of these airports 71 manage over five million passengers annually. Of the commercial airports, 185 of them handle less than 200,000 passengers a year.

A freer market would probably see more automatization of the aircrafts. It is often difficult to grasp how far the technology has been developed, actually it is more stuck in the 1960's than necessary because of regulations.

What does the pilot's work look like today, say with a flight on an Airbus? The crew begins by reviewing the weather at destination, alternate airports, the airports enroute and checks the roadmap made up by the operation department of the airline. Final decision on the amount of fuel and briefing to the cabin crew are made. Calculations are made on autopilot programming and takeoff speed. This is made one hour before take-off.

At take-off the pilot uses levers and instruments for half a minute up to five minutes, depending on traffic and weather. This is a take-off according to SID. On cruise level height the crew keeps track of fuel and checks the route with GPS. When the aircraft enters a new sector it hails ATCO (the air traffic controller).

Landing is in accordance to another procedure – STAR, with a check up with the autopilot and the weather for half an hour. After arrival at the gate, pilots work with the plane's logbook, tech log, and the personal logbook. For a ten hour flight, the crew works in flight for about an hour. No wonder airlines see the opportunity to cut costs while increasing security by automation.

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