Aviation and the Global Atmosphere

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1.2. Aviation

Air transportation plays a substantial role in world economic activity, and society relies heavily on the benefits associated with aviation. The aviation industry includes suppliers and operators of aircraft, component manufacturers, fuel suppliers, airports, and air navigation service providers. Its customers represent every sector of the world's economy and every segment of the world's population.

The commercial sector of the industry is highly competitive, consisting in 1994 of about 15,000 aircraft operating over routes of approximately 15 million km in total length and serving nearly 10,000 airports. In 1994, more than 1.25 billion passengers used the world's airlines for business and vacation travel, and well in excess of a third of the value of the world's manufactured exports were transported by air. The aviation industry accounted for 24 million jobs for the world's workforce and provided US$1,140 billion in annual gross output. By the year 2010, aviation's global impact could exceed US$1,800 billion and more than 33 million jobs (IATA, 1994, 1996).

The 1944 Chicago Convention, to which 185 countries are now party, established the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as the United Nations' specialized agency with authority to develop standards and recommended practices regarding all aspects of international aviation-including certification standards for emissions and noise. These standards are published as Annexes to the Convention and are adopted by the ICAO Council, which is composed of 33 member nations elected by the entire ICAO membership. Individual countries either adopt ICAO standards or file differences with ICAO.

Since 1977, ICAO has promulgated international emissions and noise standards (ICAO, 1993a,b) for aircraft and aircraft engines that apply to all member states. ICAO, through its Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), has reviewed and revised these standards when warranted and has developed operational policies and procedures to mitigate further the environmental impacts of civil aviation. ICAO has also developed broader policy guidance on fuel taxation and charging principles that have relevance in the emissions context. In addition to the harmonization achieved through ICAO, international flights are subject to bilateral air service agreements between individual countries.

Figure 1-2: Impacts of aviation on the

The commercial airline industry, though predominantly privately owned and managed, must rely on airport infrastructure and air navigation services that the industry neither owns nor controls. The overall growth of air traffic and the capacity limitations of airports and air navigation services have introduced congestion as a challenge for aviation. This congestion causes delays, introduces unreliability or inefficiencies for all system users, and produces considerable extra energy consumption and emissions. During 1996, for example, 15.4% of flights in Europe incurred an average delay of 16.7 minutes. In the United States of America, the average delay for domestic departures was 7.2 minutes.

Growth in demand for aviation averaged about 5% per year for the period 1980-95. The industry expects demand to continue to rise, though not monotonically. Aviation growth may be estimated reasonably well in the near term, but forecasts are subject to greater uncertainty beyond a 5-10 year period because of changes in factors such as the real cost of air travel, economic activity, new market opportunities, world disposable income trends, world political stability, tourism, and air transport liberalization.

An aircraft is a major investment, with a useful economic life of 25 years or more. Operation of an aircraft includes airframe and engine performance. The performance of an aircraft must address the overriding issue of safety, as well as mission or performance efficiencies, economics, and environmental objectives. ICAO is the responsible organization to ensure that such objectives are met on an internationally harmonized level as far as possible.

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