It didn’t take long after the Wright Brothers’ first flight for us to militarize air power. And true, World War I and World War II did a lot to improve air technology via judicious application of near-unlimited budgets. But civil aviation is what’s important to use in real life. And that’s why December 7th is the International Civil Aviation Day. Here’s what you should know about it.
- What is civil aviation anyways
Civil aviation is the umbrella term that covers all non-military aviation things happening in the world. It is largely subdivided into two general categories. Scheduled air transport is the one you know the best: it includes all the civilian passenger and cargo flights happening according to a schedule (and when they deviate from it, you should claim flight compensation). General aviation accounts for the rest, from gliders and powered parachutes to crop dusters and angel flights (but not flights of angels – those are part of the highly specialized theological-military aviation).
International Civil Aviation Organization is what keeps all the aviation stuff from becoming a deadly flying circus. It’s a specialized branch of the UN that codifies and applies standards to man’s desire to leave the ground beneath him. ICAO takes care of stuff like border crossing via air, accident investigation and other less-than-glamorous features that ensure our safe arrival.
- Scheduled aviation, eh?
The vast majority of us (some might even claim that it’s 99%) don’t have the money to charter flights. That’s why we have to debase ourselves to get on the cheap flights that we can actually afford. And that is a big business as well as a huge activity: at any time, there are about 500K people flying somewhere. American Airlines Group, considered to be the largest airline in the world, carries out 6,700 daily flights to 350 locations in 56 countries around the world and employs over 100,000 employees.
Air cargo is a lot less glamorous (yes, even when compared to budget airlines), to the point where it might be hurting the business. However, it’s considered that, on the same plane, 15-20 tonnes of cargo are worth 30-40 economy class passenger seats. Air cargo is largely helped by the growth of internet shopping, to the point where you might be able to track your parcel’s flight live.
- General Aviation, not Generic
General aviation is probably as broad a category as it can get, covering the biggest variety of operators, airframes, pilots, routes and… basically everything else. In fact, general aviation covers more airports, flies more planes and has more pilots than a civil one, if only because it encompasses many small operations and small planes (including aircraft homebuilders, which is like scale modelling that ends up in a plane you can fly).
In the US, general aviation flies nearly 200 million people a year. That’s more than any single airline, but a lot less than the ~700 million that scheduled aviation does transport a year. Many countries (and European Union in general) have bodies that regulate all the disparate types that fall under the general aviation umbrella and ensures that they fly in a tidy, regulated manner.
- The plight of the sky man
Robots might be stealing some jobs, but they’re not stealing all of the jobs. That’s why our planes are still staffed with living, breathing people (even if some ornery passengers do seem really solipsistic). And those people have needs that are not always met by their gargantuan employees.
Flight attendants have, in general, a rocky history of being mistreated. While the first few attendants were male, airlines quickly took to hiring women – and imposing age, beauty and marital status requirements on them. For decades, airline ads ran on the objectification of female flight attendants. Only in the last 30 years did they manage to claw back rights and dignity.
Pilots, on the other hand, are experiencing different issues. These days, training is really expensive and take a long time. That’s why airlines constantly complain of pilot shortage – while pilots complain of strenuous work schedules (not great for family life, among other things) and pay that are not nearly enough.
- Planes, planes, planes
Of course, it would be really hard to do all of this aviation stuff without having planes (lighter-than-air flight – dirigibles and balloons – don’t really cut it anymore). That’s why the planes that we have today have a short but exciting history of development.
For example, Sikorsky’s Ilya Muromets was built as an airliner but got immediately pressed into bomber duty in World War I. Douglas DC-3, the plane that boosted passenger airlines in the US to unseen heights, became a very popular military plane. The first jet engine passenger aircraft, De Havilland Comet, suffered some mid-air collapses due to issues that the air industry had not considered before. And today, the biggest issue facing passenger airlines is the fact that the manufacturer backlog for regional airliners – your Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s – is stretching for decades.
However, for the run-of-the-mill air passenger (you, me, etc.), flight disruptions are a more likely problem. If your flight is delayed (that is, arrives more than 3 hours late), cancelled or overbooked, you can be eligible for flight compensation. File your claim with Skycop and you can expect a compensation of up to €600!