Problems with the Aviation Transportation System

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The Problem

A report released by the National Research Council found that the nation’s aviation transportation system is “in peril,” as is the United States’ dominance in world aviation.

David Woods, a professor in the Institute for Ergonomics and co-director of the Cognitive Systems Engineering Lab at Ohio State University was a member of the report committee, stating :

“In the past, we have been the world leader in aviation and aviation technology. But that leadership is eroding rapidly,” “Without a coordinated national vision, the U.S. aviation system and industry are in peril of falling into the shadow of other parts of the world,”.

After analyzing a vast array of problems in the aviation industry, like safety and security, the capacity of the air transportation system and consumer satisfaction, the report committee concluded that it’s up to the government to institute a focused national struggle for aviation, developing strategies that will enable the airline industry to meet increased travel demand and quality standards in the future.

Even tough capacity is not a pressing issue at the moment, starting with 2001 record delays have been encountered due to high demand for travel. These delays have lowered customer satisfaction. Woods states that despite of the “painful” present economic situation in the industry, there is still enough time to “step back and coordinate changes across the different parts of the industry and government”.

The Solution

The report illustrated that strategic coordination among the airlines is needed in the future. This coordination will require new technology - specifically, computer networks that coordinate decisions made among the stakeholders. A very important role in this new strategy will be played by how people interact with these computers to make decisions in high-risk situations.

Computer systems will have to be designed so that airline employees can monitor what is happening in the entire United States air travel system and accurately project the consequences of certain actions. As daunting a task as that sounds, such a system is necessary for the airlines to make appropriate decisions that affect safety and performance," Woods said.

To make good decisions, he said, dispatchers must be able to see the big picture, such as what is happening at the other airlines. The system must then be able to adapt to maintain capacity.


Woods’ colleagues on the NRC committee included researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Texas A&M University System, as well as members of the military and aviation industry: Durango Aerospace, Inc., Lockheed Martin Air Traffic Management, Flight Safety Technologies Inc., GE Aircraft Engines, United States Air Force, Rolls Royce North America, Airports Council International - North America, The Boeing Co. Phantom Works, RJR Aviation LLC, Aviation Planning and Finance, and RAND Corp.

The group was charged with helping to plan the nation’s aviation strategy for the next 50 years.

The airline industry is a mammoth, but with recent security and quality issues, it’s an industry that constantly reshapes itself. That is why the US government is most likely to resolve this issues as fast as possible. It’s not only about the money, but also a matter of pride.