The downsides of aviation are well-known: locally, noise and land-take; globally, climate change. But there are significant benefits to the growth of aviation worldwide. The aviation industry has an important role to play in improving connectivity between nations. This improved connectivity facilitates trade which in turn helps create prosperity. And historically, it has been trade which has played a key role in opening up closed societies, breaking down taboos and increasingly individual freedom. Flying also enables people to visit other countries and share in their cultures.
And it is a more environmentally-friendly way of transporting people and goods than shipping which, like aviation, is a major cause of CO2 but which, unlike aviation, causes real noise problems the entire length of its journey. It is estimated underwater noise has doubled each decade during the past 50 years, with shipping being the main culprit.
It is thought that less than 10% of the world’s population has ever flown. As worldwide incomes rise, that represents a huge latent demand for air travel. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects air travel across the world to grow by an average of 4.1% per annum over the next 20 years. The challenge for governments and the aviation industry is to find ways enabling at least some of this growth to take place whilst minimizing the downsides.