March 6, 2017

Aviationís Challenge with Technology

There is no point in discussing the importance of technology and its place in our lives as it has already established its control over all of us. In daily life, it is impossible to find any place where technology does not get involved.

Aviation is the leading industry where most advanced technology is used. Many widely-used applications today, such as GPS, ABS braking system, cruise control, tubeless tires, non-inflammable and composite material, have their origins in the aviation industry. Although technology is closely connected with aviation, even airplanes can’t escape the fate of being obsolete in the face of new technologies.

Aircraft manufacturers try to apply the latest technologies to their new models. However, the time that is necessary to put a new plane in service is between 6 and 8 years at best. Therefore, we can use the five years old technologies in the latest models of planes. Manufacturers, who are aware of this problem, try to design their planes in such a way to make them ready to adopt the latest technologies.   

In other words, they want to make planes ready for future technologies which they don’t know yet but they make a good guess about.  Unless they don’t follow this way, as they would not be able to provide solutions to develop their planes after a certain age, they could face the risk of losing their customers and more importantly their competitiveness.

Naturally, a test procedure is applied for a design process which is viewed from such a wide perspective. This is because, in aviation, everything needs to be taken into account and tested in every aspect.  Making all these tests when plane is in design stage and satisfying aviation authorities is most practical way. There is no practical way of making adjustments for tests that are made at later stages. This fact forces customer of planes to make definitive decisions: either buy now or don not bother to assemble it later.

While this is the case on manufacturers’ side, operators try to decide which technologies they want to be furnished in their planes.  Obviously, every decision has a cost and this cost is reflected to the passenger. It is necessary to make sure that passenger is satisfied at the end.  It is essential to make calculations right, to know whether the level of this satisfaction will be worth making the investment in the system.  Market researches, evaluations and decisions, all take some time. If the manufacturer is to deliver the aircraft in time, processes need to be concluded swiftly.  That's just how it goes for new planes.

On the other hand, when we talk about outdated planes, we mean those planes which are not suitable for the common and new technologies of the day. Since new technologies are not taken into account during the design, fundamental changes need to be made over the planes. These changes also need to be approved by the authorities. Once authorities are involved, durations of the projects are considerably extended. Authorities’ willingness to raise the level of the examinations and tests in line with the speed of technology is influential. Any company willing to have a new system in its planes has to wait additionally for the approval from the authority.

The necessary processes are not limited with those mentioned above. After approval, time is also required to install the system into the plane.  Since installation of the most systems requires the aircraft to remain on the ground for long periods of time, airlines prefer heavy maintenance periods for such modifications. This extends the total time of assembly for the entire fleet.

For all these reasons we have just enumerated, it is necessary to look for the following three criteria.

      - All requirements related to the authority should be settled beforehand, without reflecting them to the customer.

      - The installation to the plane should be swift and if possible, stand-alone

      - The investment should be able to pay itself back immediately in terms of passenger satisfaction and financially within 2-3 years.

Today, a successful (profitable) technological investment process is only possible if these three criteria are met.