Introduction to Airplane Travel[edit]

Technological characteristics[edit]

An airplane is a fixed wing aircraft that is propelled forward by the thrust from a jet engine or rocket engine. The structural parts of an aeroplane is called the airframe. The main structural parts includes:

  • Large Horizontal wings: This often employs an air foil cross section shape which deflects the airflow downwards. As the aircraft moves forward, the downward airflow generates a lift force. This is the main principal of an aircraft which allows it to take flight.
  • Fuselage: This is the long thin body of the aircraft which is designed to be aerodynamic to maximise speed. The fuselage size determines the passenger capacity and payload of the aircraft.
  • Vertical and horizontal stabilizers: the vertical fin mounted at the rear controls the left and right movement of the aircraft. The horizontal fin, mounted at the tail,  stabilizes the pitch (up or down) movement.
  • Landing gear: A set of wheels is crucial to ensure that the plane lands safely. Logically, they are needed to take off as well.  

Main advantages[edit]

  • Speed: Airplanes are currently the fastest mode of transport for transoceanic trips. Shorter trips interstate trips are often quicker in comparison to ships and cars. The combination of the large horizontal fixed wing along with jet engines allows high speed air travel. Commercial jet airplanes can reach an incredible 740-930 km/h. For example, a medium length trip from New York to Detroit will take about 4.5 hours (including wait times in the terminal and the trip to the airport) while a car trip will take 9.5 hours.
  • Safety: Plan crashes are significantly rare. Statistically, the chance of death from a 1000 mile airplane trip is drastically less than that of a 100 mile car trip. It can be concluded that air travel is very safe, in comparison to car and bus trips.
  • Comfort: Airplanes are increasingly getting more luxurious due to the increase of air travel demand. The air craft is designed such that passengers feel comfortable for the duration of their trip. More comfort and services are available to commuters who are willing to pay for business class or higher.
  • Cost: When looking at interstate travel, flight tickets are not significantly more expensive relative to the fuel costs for cars and train tickets. The speed, comfort and safety of air travel simply outweigh the cost involved.

Main Markets[edit]

The main markets for the airplane includes: Transportation of goods, Passenger travel, recreation, military and research. Commercial airplanes accommodates for 4 billion passengers every year and transports more than 200 billion tonne-kilometres of freights annually.

History of Passenger Travel[edit]

Alternative Transport Modes and their Limitations.[edit]

The alternative mode of transport for long distance were ships. Some obvious limitations of ships is the speed. Modern day ships can reach approximately 56 km/h as supposed to airplanes reaching 740 to 900 km/h. From a ship owner perspective it is generally seen as expensive since fuel costs increase exponentially with speed and thus not economically efficient. It may be the best option when carrying significantly heavy bulk cargo due to its high capacity and weight carrying capabilities, but passengers may seek other options due to the cost.

Furthermore, bad weather at sea induces significant movement to the ship structure causing discomfort to commuters. The harsh movement of the sea during bad weather challenges the structural integrity of ships. It can be seen as a higher risk from a ship owner perspective compared to airplanes. It can also be difficult to monitor exact location in transit.

Due to Globalisation, the world is “getting smaller” and people are demanding faster modes of transport to conduct business in other countries. Taking a ship to another country can take days. With increased technology and a sequence of new aircraft invention, air travel became a more viable mode of transport as it is safer and faster.

Invention of Airplanes[edit]

The Collection of Expertise[edit]

The history of aviation and airplane development is a result of heroes and heroines who took the risk of manning underpowered aircrafts to accomplish amazing feats. An odd collection of expertise were involved in the development of airplanes including engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, solders and even just adventurers who seek the thrill of flight. They were driven by personal agendas to push cultural boundaries.

Modern day aircraft production employs thousands of expertise to integrate their skills to produce a phenomenal machine that can do more than just fly. These expertise can include, electrical engineers for wiring, software engineers for programming the aircraft to do specific tasks, mechanical and aeronautical engineers to optimise the performance of the aircraft, marketing specialists to conduct research on what consumer need in their product and etc

The Initial Airplane Design[edit]

1903 saw the Wright brothers experimenting with a series of gliders. Eventually they engineered and constructed the Kitty Hawk which was the first controlled aircraft with sustained flight.

In 1914, the gyrostabilizer was introduced in aircraft which enables controlled flight keeping it level without the aid of a human pilot. During World War 1, aircrafts were engineered to reach higher speeds, with greater manoeuvrability, dramatic improvements in aerodynamic structure, control and propulsion systems. This is to gain advantage during air combat during the war.

The first economical commercial aircraft was released in 1933 called Boeing 272 which had a twin engine with variable pitch propellers with ample cruising speed and excellent take off. A radar was successfully incorporated into air travel for effective navigation and tracking. This increased the safety of planes and slowly started getting attention from general public.

Prior to 1958, commercial airplanes were driven by propellers. Propeller-driven aircrafts were unpressurised with a capped cruising altitude of only 12 thousand feet. This meant that they were unable to fly over bad weather which caused frequent turbulence, delays and air sickness amongst passengers was common. The biggest shift from initial technology to Predominant technology in Aviation history is the shift from propeller driven aircraft to jet powered aircraft. It simply offered faster speeds, fuel efficiency and higher carry load.

First jet aircraft to enter mass production was called Lear Jet 23. This eventually lead to the introduction of the most successful turbo-fan powered commercial aircraft ever produced. It optimised speed, comfort and safety for the commuters. They were advanced enough to reach above 33 thousand feet and avoid bad weather to allow for a more comfortable travelling experience for the commuter.

Early Market Development[edit]

In 1918, the Post Office began administering airmail routes operated by U.S. Army pilots and aircraft. A rudimentary transcontinental infrastructure of navigational lights and airfields developed to support the nascent airmail service. In 1925, Congress passed the Contract Air Mail Act, popularly known as the Kelly Act after its principal congressional sponsor, authorizing the Post Office to award routes and payments to private air carriers

In the early stages of aircraft development there was limited aircraft performance due to insufficient technology. This doomed most attempts of passenger service. In 1918, the airline services were predominantly catering for airmail industry as the Post Office began administrating airmail routes.

The introduction of twin engine airplanes or most notably the Douglas DC-2 offered reliable passenger service due to its high payload, sufficient size and power with an acceptable level of comfort. This is where passenger services began.

Birthing Phase of Airplanes[edit]

Policies in the Birthing Phase[edit]

In the early days of aviation travel, there were many political barriers for airport-to-airport services within the US. This prohibited commuters to reach their desired destinations

“Freedoms of the Air”  are international commercial agreements that give permission for airlines to enter and land in another country’s airspace. The “Freedoms of the Air” were formulated in 1944 in an international gather held in Chicago to form unity in air commerce. The policies allowed airplane travel to significantly rise in popularity as a transportation mode for long distance travel. There are nine “Freedoms of the Air”:

  • First Freedom: The right for an airline from country A to fly over country B.
  • Second freedom: The right for an airline to stop and land at another country to refuel.
  • Third freedom: The right for an airline to deliver passenger revenue from country A to country B.
  • Fourth freedom: the right for an airline to carry revenue passengers from another country back to the home country.
  • Fifth freedom: The right of the airline to take passengers from home country A, deposit them in country B, and then take them to country C.
  • Sixth freedom: The right of the airline to take passengers across two foreign countries provided it touches down in home country.
  • Seventh freedom: The right for an airline to take passengers from one foreign country to another foreign country without touching down at home country
  • Eighth freedom: The right of an airline to carry passengers from one point in the home country to another point. This is also known as Cabotage.
  • Ninth freedom: The right of an airline from a foreign country to take passengers from one point in the foreign country to another point in that same country.

Growth Phase of Airplanes[edit]

The role of private and public sectors in growth[edit]

The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) was an agency of the Federal Government that regulated aviation services. This included passenger airline services and provided investigation services if a crash were to occur.  

The airline Deregulation Act 1978 caused a major change in the airline industry. It deregulated the airline industry in the United states by  gradually removing the federal government control. It removed many governmental airline fares, changed routes and made it easier for market entry of new airlines.

American-publicly-owned carriers were allowed to offer their own fares and given more authority in developing routes. The competition increased and hence the airline fares decreased over time. This introduced a free market in the commercial airline industry which lead to an increase number of passengers, increase number of flights and decreased fares. This constituted to the growth fares of airplane travel.

Mature Phase of Airplanes[edit]

Opportunities for the re-invention of Airplanes for the Future[edit]

A mature phase constitutes a fairly stable period in terms of profitability for airlines. However increasing controversies arose over service quality and passenger treatment in terms of flight delays. In 2010 and 2011U.S Department of Transportation warranted several policies that provide adequate modifications for passengers in unfortunate events such as delays. This caused many airlines to focus on customer service and rose particular interest in the quality of the aircraft in terms of comfort and passenger capacity.

Airplanes can better serve the needs of today and tomorrow if airplanes have a larger passenger capacity. This can mitigate issues of last minute bookings not being successful due to full capacity. Air craft can be bigger to increase comfort and it can potentially be faster with increased technology to cut travel times.

Quantitative Analysis[edit]

In order to determine the birthing, growth and maturity phase of airplanes, the number of passengers on yearly basis was collected. This conveys on the popularity of airplanes. The data was collected from The World Bank Data on the number of passengers using airplanes from 1973 to 2017.  This range of data captures most of the lifecycle of the airplane and will give sufficient information.

The model used to produce the graph is given by the following: S(t) = K/[1+exp(-b(t-t0)]

  • S(t) is the number of passengers using airplanes
  • t the number of years
  • t0 is the inflection time
  • K is saturation status level,
  • b is a coefficient.


The following data was produced after using the model and it was graphed (given below)

Passengers S(t) = K/[1+exp(-b(t-t0)]
Year carried (thousands) Predicted Passengers (thousands)
1973 401571800 429146503
1974 421145200 451031466
1975 432276500 474019347
1976 471773396 498164357
1977 513269292 523523227
1978 576090004 550155314
1979 648400600 578122702
1980 641872888 607490311
1981 640619400 638326006
1982 654482108 670700708
1983 685101596 704688509
1984 732410288 740366785
1985 783198104 777816314
1986 842594296 817121390
1987 904838104 858369945
1988 953896012 901653661
1989 983208800 947068093
1990 1024976616 994712778
1991 1133228204 1044691356
1992 1145436692 1097111676
1993 1142265216 1152085908
1994 1233233404 1209730644
1995 1302891640 1270166996
1996 1390963704 1333520692
1997 1455104192 1399922156
1998 1466961780 1469506585
1999 1562256300 1542414013
2000 1674064712 1618789364
2001 1655230214 1698782490
2002 1627404873 1782548194
2003 1665309283 1870246235
2004 1888695284 1962041312
2005 1969590799 2058103031
2006 2072413898 2158605837
2007 2209136496 2263728930
2008 2208218737 2373656145
2009 2249728546 2488575800
2010 2628261258 2608680510
2011 2786953830 2734166959
2012 2894054972 2865235635
2013 3048275073 3002090520
2014 3227291386 3144938723
2015 3463849192 3293990076
2016 3696181786 3449456662
Variable Value
K 40696181786
b 0.05028239
tnought 2063.319694
Best Fit at K=300000

Birthing phase[edit]

It’s hard to pinpoint when the birth phase occurred as the data collected does not date back far enough. In saying so, it is possible that the birthing phase started after 1918 when Post Office authorised air routes to private companies which lead to passenger services.

Growth Phase[edit]

There seems to be a gradual increase in the growth of passengers throughout the life-cycle of airplanes. However it seems to be increasing faster after 2009. This can be explained through more affordable fares, more comfortable airplanes and improved services.

Mature Phase[edit]

It is difficult to pinpoint the maturity phase of Airplanes. It suggests that airplanes have not yet peaked and still yet to reach its maximum potential. It is still in the growth phase accordingly to the graph as the number of passengers continue to grow every year.

Interpretation of the model[edit]

By simple observation, it is clear that the S curve correlates quiet closely to the model. There are regions where it may be off, particularly from 2003 to 2009.

In general it can be concluded that the model correlates well with real life statistics and therefore it is an accurate model that can be used effectively to predict different life-cycle stages of transport. Furthermore, the RSQ is very close to 1 and thus implying the model is a good fit to real life data (Generally the data is considered a good fit if RSQ is close to 1)

It is important to note that although the model correlates closely to the data, it is not perfect. It assumes a gradual increase with no inconsistencies. This is not the case in real life as many incidents can cause the passengers to drop drastically such as market crashes. This cannot be picked up by the model.


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