Size and Sonic Travel

Larger Planes or More Flights.

As we watched the number of travellers increase over the last generation, to the point where the airports were struggling to get all the flights in, we heard that larger aircraft were being built to deal with the situation. It turns out that this was not the best solution.

Airports only have a limited number of take-offs and landings possible per day. Over the years it has become increasingly difficult to fit in enough flights to accommodate all the travellers. Planes like the A380 superjumbo, seating over 500 passengers, were designed and built to carry more people, a measure though to relieve the problems with airports not having sufficient time for all the flights. More people on one flight was thought to replace two smaller flights, hence reducing the problem.

The problem was that flights became more fragmentized. There are more and more people travelling, but not all to the same place. The new flightpaths were travelling to new destinations, and only carrying a moderate number of passengers. Bigger planes were of no use if they were only half full. They were actually a hindrance as the cost of operation was too high when there were fewer paying passengers on board.

Instead, moderate sized 300 seat planes seem a better option than 500+ giants. The moderate plane has only two engines, making it easier to maintain. And 300 seats seems about right for most destinations. The increasing number of travellers means more destinations, and this will have to be accommodated in some fashion.

A few popular destinations like New Delhi and London do well with larger planes. Hopefully this will be enough to keep the A380 airbus in production.

Sonic Travel

Faster than sound travel became available to the public in the mid-1970s, but ended with the Concord in 2003. It never grew beyond a moderately sized market, with Concord being virtually the only commercial plane operating a regular route. The cost of such flights was more expensive than first class travel, and the sonic boom produce by such flights meant that only travel over uninhabited oceans was feasible. But supersonic flight may be reintroduced.

The XB-1 Boom Supersonic faster-than-sound aircraft has attracted some interest from many airlines. Apparently 70 of the craft have been pre-ordered. If these running costs can be kept down these supersonic flights may soon become a regular, if somewhat exclusive, part of regular travel.

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