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Impact Of Aviation On The World.

Wed Mar 09, 2005 5:30 am

I have to do a report about the impact air travel and aviation in general has had on our lives, and the world. I thought what better place to ask but an aviation forum  Smile. Also, if you know of any books or articles that would help that would be good too.

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RE: Impact Of Aviation On The World.

Wed Mar 09, 2005 6:05 am


This may not be helpful, but the issue is really what impact the world has had on aviation.

Economists are more likely to argue that aviation as we know it is a response to demand for something better in a range of circumstances for the transport of ideas (people) and goods (freight.)

Air transport is just another channel beside telecommunications and ship or rail, autos and right down to walking to the next village in undeveloped economies.

There are even health and evolution of the species issues involved in this.

Air travel spreads disease (but then so does air) and it facilitates the rapid transfer of medical skills to combat disease.

One of the pre requisites for the origination of new species is the enforced isolation of breeding populations, as in the world of the Galapagos Islands which inspired Darwin. However modern transport in all its forms has for all intents and purposes ended the isolation of breeding populations, with consequences another generation may better understand, especially if the next species beyond homo sapiens emerges, as it will in time.

Air transport has satisfied a demand for communication and democratisation of society that can only be guaranteed by the interaction of people. Otherwise the propagation of ideas, like democracy, through the printed word and electronic data is vulnerable to varying degrees to censorship or even persecution. Facilitiating the massive movement of persons across borders is a profoundly essential requirement for more open societies, and that yearning has also created the circumstances in which aviation ideas can be turned into real jets, airports and carriers by entrepreneurs, with varying success of course.

But that demand had to exist before the jets could rise from the drawing boards, slide rules and design computers. Otherwise they were merely notions.

So you may find it necessary within your report to recognise the obverse view, that the world made aviation, not the other way around.

Good luck

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RE: Impact Of Aviation On The World.

Wed Mar 09, 2005 6:37 am

Great question. I was having lunch with a friend around the turn of the century. He had just read an article on the most important inventions of the 20th century. It was a survey of thousands of engineers and scientists. He asked me if I could guess what the #1 response was. (I have a degree in mechanical engineering, so he thought he'd ask me.) I thought for a minute and said, "The heat pump." I was right! The heat pump is clearly the most impactful invention of the 20th century. It has allowed us to keep food longer, control our environment, and made our lives more comfortable than any other device. In 50 years, it will be easily seen that the most impactful 20th century invention was/is the electronic computer, but for now, it's the heat pump.

But it's not the most visible example of technology from that century. In my opinion, that's the airplane. (It could be the car, too. There were some precursors to the heat pump and the car in the 19th century, but both it and the automobile really came into their own in the 20th.)

I won't touch on the economic impact of the airplane, as one responder has already done. As a piece of technology, it has made the fantastic commonplace within the imagination of mankind.

Let's take a historical perspective. Let's go back just 105 years, to 1900. Suppose you sat down with a middle class citizen then, and described the following to him:

"There will be a machine, made of metal. It will be 200 feet long, and have wings 200 feet wide, but the wings won't flap. It will weight 750,000 pounds and hold 250,000 pounds of fuel. You will put 450 people in it, and it will take to the air. It will get 40,000 feet into the air, stay there for 16 hours, and come back to earth safely 8,000 miles away, after flying at nearly 500 miles per hour. Then, in two hours, it will be filled back up with gas and people, and return. It will do this five times a week, 45 weeks per year, for 30 years. It will spend 100,000 hours in the air, and always deliver its cargo safely."

Now, what do you think he'd say to that? Either he'd consider you one of the greatest visionaries of his time, or he'd think you plainly insane. Why? Because proof of what is possible fires the imagine to conceive what has been impossible. We take the miracle of flight as a foregone conclusion. This is only because we see it done, every day, without incident. But the extent of his technological exposure has been the steam engine, the steam boat, the electric light, and the telephone. There is no concept of transmitting information through radio waves. The notion of seeing a moving picture in a device, regardless of location, is pure fantasy. But here you are, insisting that you can take something much bigger than a locomotive, something that weighs as much, stuff it full of people, and FLY IT. It bursts his imagination because he has never really had his imagination fired by progress.

What do we consider outlandish today? The idea that you can see inside the human body without opening it? Nope. We can do that. The idea that we can move great distances through space? No, we can do that too. How about transmitting state across space with no carrier? That's a bit more farfetched, but it's being done, to a small extent, in theoretical physics.

How about building a machine that looks, sounds, and acts like a human? Outlandish? Not any more. Anybody who doesn't think that a computer can do these things is guilty of the same lack of imagination as our ficititious 1900 middle class citizen. My position as an IT professional is that there is no good thing yet as great hardware, or even good software. We are merely in our infancy.

So, the airplane has done two things for us: (1) It has provided a historical perspective into technological development. Such huge advances used to take centuries. We have seen a technology go from mere imagination to reliable commodity in one century. This allows us to glimpse a complete cycle that we can see with our own eyes. (2) It fires the imagination. Combined with (1), you begin to understand, "If I can think it, it may be possible. And it may be possible in my lifetime. And *I* could make it happen."
Christianity. Islam. Hinduism. Anthropogenic Global Warming. All are matters of faith!

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