The View From the Cockpit: the current state of the aerospace industry

As we fly on into 2017, it’s time to check in with our editors on the current state of affairs for all us aviators.

 

So, what’s “up” in aviation in the next year?

 

Exciting innovations in science and engineering are sure to dominate, especially since Elon Musk has consolidated more of his companies, and will have more capital to put toward research. Space jets could potentially make their first test flights out of the stratosphere, given the pace of testing here on Earth over 2016.

We’re also curious to see how the world’s aeroplane manufacturers respond to all the flight issues, crashes, and concerns over the past year or two. With so many fleets aging or becoming dangerously obsolete, we are sure to see a conflict between the profit motive for the manufacturers and the safety requirements of the public sector. Will manufacturers introduce any new smart technologies to help prevent crashes and other mishaps? We’re hopeful that they might.

 

Trump: in one word, that’s what’s “up” for Boeing and other US companies. After 8 years of a relatively neutral Obama administration management, the FAA and other regulatory agencies are about to be taken over by quite a different organization. Trump hasn’t said much about the aerospace industry as a candidate, but he did express strong support for rebuilding our airports. We shall see what changes that brings. He has also waded into ongoing contract negotiations between Boeing and the Obama administration over the next editions of Air Force One, which could signal some tension between the incoming administration and the airplane makers, especially those who have been outsourcing parts. If President Trump loosens EPA restrictions on carbon and air pollution, we could potentially see some changes in fuel line designs as well, but EPA regulations can take years to revise, so we’re only putting that in the “somewhat possible” category. Overall, we’re sure to see lots of changes, some large and some small. Stay tuned!

The emergence of drones across public airspace has started to grab headlines, with some drones being flown in surveillance capacities, and others being developed for super-fast delivery from online retailers, Amazon in particular. The FAA has just come out with new regulations for the sector, which theoretically means manufacturers could start testing out prototypes in the coming year. At the very least, Amazon have promised to deploy their first drones across Canada, where regulations are more industry-friendly than here in the States. Looks like next year might be a whole lot easier in terms of doing your holiday shopping. Don’t forget to check out our 2016 Gift Guide before you fly away! It’s got all our top editors’ picks, including the best welding helmets, watches and more to give the aviator in your life.

 

All in all, things are looking pretty good, especially since the global industry reported record profits in 2016. We’ll all be looking forward to the future, and we’re as dedicated as ever to keeping you informed about all the important changes!

#TBT Vintage aeroplane of the week: The Mighty Red Baron

In today’s #TBT post, Alan Jones celebrates the Fokker Red Baron, possibly the most distinctive vintage craft ever built:

 

 

“The Fokker was built as a regular dogfighter for Germany in the first world war, one of the first real fighting planes in the world. It’s instantly recognizable thanks to the triple-decker wing designs, and the Red Baron’s signature color scheme. In fact, it’s hard to picture the plane without a bright red coat of paint, apologies to the factory workers whose hard work was immediately covered up by Herr Von Richthofen. He reportedly shot down around 70 Allied pilots in this craft, and it’s a popular figure of legend to this day. That’s also partly because not one of these planes actually survived the war. Needless to say, the Allies did everything they could to eliminate what was one formidable threat. One especially cool story about this plane that grabbed my imagination: a man in England, Paul Ford, has spent the last few years perfecting a working replica of this plane even without the best helmet for welders and other necessary tools, and flying it around the countryside. After a few false starts and crash landings, it’s now the star of the show at a re-enacted dogfight between the Fokker and a restored (original, no less!) Tiger plane. Here’s to the triple decker, and long may it reign supreme in our imagination!”