Most fairy tales end with… “and they lived happily ever after”


…can the same be said of aviation history?

Yes, from the question we would not say “and they lived happily ever after”. We would say we are living happily. That is because until the world comes to an end, the aviation industry will never end. This is because the industry itself is a necessary evil. Though we have been through setbacks, at one point in time the travel itself was not so attractive. People were scared of hijacking, crashes and so many unpleasant situations such as bad weather. Nonetheless, we have gone past all such.

It has been established that aviation does not have any suitable alternative as far as safe, reliable and fast air transportation is concerned. I am yet to learn who can go to Accra or Nkrumah Circle lorry station and board a vehicle to New York and arrive in 10 hours – the time an aircraft would have covered that distance. Even the boats and ships could not cover such a distance faster than an aircraft. There are no roads and bridges that can cut across the Atlantic Ocean into the United States of America.

Recently, we saw the craving of some people who wanted to travel to the UK; and they indeed succeeded. They made such a feat at a time not comparable to what a jet airliner would have done. Anywhere by land is okay but that vast ocean to the West Africa side into the Eastern side of the American side does not even have a bridge, talk less of having even 1/10th of a journey. So, obviously aviation itself does not have a suitable alternative.

There are so many cars that can be driven from Ghana to Nigeria but the question is when you will arrive? Not to talk of the border crossing and the hecklings associated with the risks on the road. More so, in spite of all the setbacks, the fear and panic people continue to face means there is no suitable alternative.

The third is that owing to the preceding two factors, the industry itself had to find ways to quickly overcome its short-comings and traumas it experienced and to find better ways to convey people from point A to B. The issue is that we are continuing to live happily because from the mid-1970s all the way to today, the industry has always gotten better in terms of training, safety, awareness, security, good business, convenience and quality services.

Data is captured as quickly as possible, analysed and decisions taken for the betterment of all stakeholders involved. From the 1970s, so many things have happened. On the whole, the industry is highly patronised and improves yearly.

In the previous features, we understood that the aviation industry was intertwined with other sectors of the economy such as sports, tourism, and journalism. For example, the media is dedicated to aviation matters. Medical issues too come to the fore where drones are dispatched for medicine delivery to certain inaccessible areas. Medical evacuation is to the injured at mining sites and conveyed by air for emergency attention at a hospital.

Some countries convey money internally and to other countries through air freighting. So, it is a link with other sectors of the economy. It is an industry one cannot ignore. Aviation is also into farming by effecting mass spraying of farm crops. It also does rescue services to people who have crashed at sea where a ship or boat has sunk.

With all the twists and turns the industry has experienced over the years, what was the motivation to expand aerospace to what we see today?

As we draw the curtains on the 120 milestone of the aviation history, I would like to break it into four pillars;

The first has to do with aerospace. It is the design and building of air machines.

The second is air navigation services. That sets up the airport and other allied infrastructure such as runways, its lightings and markings, navigational signals, air to ground communication facilities, meteorological services, air traffic services, emergency services, all to ensure safe departure and arrival of the aircraft.

The third is airlines, which is the commercial sector flying people from point A to B for a fee.

The fourth is general aviation, which is a series of services that supports the entire aviation industry. For example, aviation training organisations, aeronautical universities, travel agencies, catering houses, hotels, maintenance and overhauling, organisations to mention a few.

This feature dwells on aerospace. It all started as a wild dream on the 17th December, 1903 on a Thursday morning where two brothers (Wilbur and Orville) in an open field with stubborn faith triggered the whole industry. They were testing what they had designed and built called The Flyer One aircraft. It was able to get airborne and landed on its own power, unlike preceding air devices that needed to stay afloat with some sort of air assistance.

Their first experiment lasted 12 seconds. The second one lasted longer with an improvement on the third and the fourth lasted 59 seconds – being the longest. From that time onwards things migrated with a stubborn faith of two brothers and one aircraft to aero dare-devils because people wanted to out-compete them and they being aero dare-devils themselves, challenged their 59 second record they set on 17th December, 1903. This is why it is said that the industry started with chaos all the way working its way to the mid-point of the curve and started going to the right side of the curve.

The aero dare-devils along the line attracted the attention of the military that decided to contribute its quota for future exploits of Aerospace. The military initially decided to add air force power for the sole purpose of Reconnaissance (RECCE). It was not until a further risky experiment by an Aero daredevil by name Gulio Gavotti in 1911, who was the first to successfully drop a bomb on a target. This made the military reconsider adding bombing of enemy aircraft and targets on ground to their list of needs for invention of military aircraft.

It is worth noting that by the First World War in 1914, (just 11 years after the Wright brothers’ feat), 12,000 aircraft were being manufactured.

At the end of the World War I in the year 1919, aircrafts that survived were converted from war planes into freighter aircraft carrying mails around to the USA, then later to commercial aviation.

In those days, manufacturers were thinking of building aircraft for a space of people who demanded it.

There was no decision to create aircraft based on any market segments. It was more of building it based on one’s own design such as for 100 or 200 seats. There was no decision to build it small or big for specific destinations.

Other Aerospace companies such as Boeing, Douglas, from the USA, Lockheed from UK, SAAB from Sweden (now owned by Fairchild, USA), Airbus from France and other cooperation from European states, began to fill in the space in Aerospace history. More others such as Dornier from Germany, Bombardier from Canada and EMBRAER from Brazil, also registered their presence along the timeline.

Today, The Chinese are building the Comac series of Aircraft, which is in service today. That was how aerospace evolved in aviation history.

With time and enough data gathered from market surveys, operational feedback, Manufacturers decided to classify their designs into wide body aircraft which take over 400 passengers with double Aisle, narrow body aircraft that take between 100 and 200 passengers. It does not have a double aisle.

Also, regional jets or regional aircraft of less than 100 passengers are meant for short distances. They gathered data from stakeholders because they think of the comfortability of passengers and even the environment, they operate in. Also, so many aircraft systems were designed with so much backups in that a failure of a certain system activates the backups to ensure smooth and uninterrupted flight operations

Also, more sophisticated and detailed manuals were developed for pilots, engineers and flight attendants to efficiently operate the flights.

Much has been done to improve upon the design and building of aircraft.

So many features are built into the operations. For example, early aircraft had no way of warning pilots of an impending or imminent collusion. Pilots relied solely on Air traffic services for that information until the manufacturers, through recommendations and reports of Air near misses and collisions, invented the traffic Alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS) that coherently warns of such and also prescribes ways both aircraft can/should avoid each other.

This is just one of the many examples of manufacturers improving their designs of aircraft through data collection and analyses and organising stakeholders’ annual conferences to receive and act on feedback.

Is there any future for aerospace after the 120 milestone?

Yes, more is still to come for the future of the aerospace industry. There is still a great demand for air travel

whether we like it or not. People are coming up with substitutes. We have heard of China building an underground rail service under vast oceans from China to the USA. That has not altered the demand for Air travel.

Aviation industry is still a necessary evil. People still find it very convenient to travel by air. For example, all our domestic routes in Ghana virtually have a peak season all year round. This is because of the excessive man hours spent on travelling to those destinations by its alternative, the road, not to talk of its associated risk with breakdown of vehicles, reckless driving and all.

Everywhere, especially aviation, is beginning to be what we need it to be. In Nigeria so many people have their private jet. Recently Ghana delegated some police personnel to South Africa for training on how to fly a helicopter for reconnaissance, peacekeeping for security beefed-up. So, there is a bright future for the industry. Even those in the oil space still have to fly to an airport before boarding helicopter to/fro the rigs

I foresee a great future for the industry. We may not be able to build an aircraft that can contain thousands of passengers. However, that can be possible in future.

As of now, the aerospace industry recognises 4 leading aircraft manufacturers as Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier and Embraer. The criteria were set on size of company and employees, number of Aircraft produced and sold and other opinion-oriented market surveys.

Stay tuned as we draw the curtains on Air Navigation services in our next feature.


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