Challenges for Air Transport at the Horizon 2030
N Pilon, EUROCONTROL, FR
While air traffic growth is sometimes challenged, a survey of leading experts? views reveals a stable growth trend in the long-term although the political and economic climate may affect its rate, calling for better understanding those factors.
Since the advent of commercial air transport, overall air traffic has shown continuous growth. Even the worldwide impact of such conflicts as the Gulf War of 1991 and the events of 11 September 2001 have depressed air traffic growth for several months only. As a result, future air traffic growth tends to be accepted as a certainty, especially inside the industry. Future air traffic growth is difficult to predict, but a number of signs are already apparent - airport congestion and capacity limitations, volatility of oil prices, concerns for the global climate, environmental legislation, etc - which raise questions about the idea of continuous growth. Is air transport reaching maturity in Europe? When and how will air transport experience traffic stabilization? Which are the main drivers behind the evolution of air traffic? What are the risks and how can sustainability of air transport be reinforced? From that which is perceptible today, which influences will prove critical in the future?
These questions were raised in EUROCONTROL, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, which regularly produces short-, medium- and long-term forecast of traffic volumes for Europe. A survey was conducted, which aimed at collecting views across the industry about the long-term challenges in air transport. Over 40 high-level leading experts from the EC, the European Environment Agency, IATA, ACI Europe, ASD, Air Traffic Alliance, Airbus, CANSO, IFATCA, experts from airlines, ANSPs and Research Establishments, and EUROCONTROL were interviewed in 2007-2008 about challenges by 2030. The survey report presented in the paper is qualitative and provides a ?snapshot? of leading opinions about air transport long-term evolution drivers.
The views and challenges expressed by the experts fall into three broad categories related to air transport: demand, supply, and infrastructure. They indicate that, in an era when air transport growth is sometimes being challenged, there is evidence in opinion for a stable trend in the long-term, even though the political and economic climate may affect its rate.
Modernizing air transport infrastructure through SESAR is needed and requires: workable solutions for European regulation; dealing with liability and sovereignty in an industry sector concerned with safety and security of citizens; and solving the implicit financing challenge of a large transport infrastructure serving multiple stakeholders. The air transport system must pursue ATM network defragmentation; and, because of the increasing scarcity of its resources (e.g., slots, frequencies), should move towards a network congestion management approach. The new ATM concepts will change the role of human operators in the system, requiring more research, effort and innovative solutions during the transition phase to address safety and standardization issues.
After a presentation of the main challenges identified through the survey analysis, the paper specifically focuses on drivers of evolution in air transport demand and supply, as expressed during the survey. These include views on the impact of fuel prices and environmental awareness evolution, as well as projections on future airlines, airports, aircraft and manufacturing industry on a 2030 horizon.
Understanding these factors is vital for planning the future of air transport. There is a need for more research into the scale and nature of air transport evolution to refine projections of demand and to plan for, and better adapt, the ATM system of the future. At the time of the conference, it is expected that further results related to the impact of oil availability on air traffic will be available.
Association for European Transport