The Airline Industry has its origin with the first scheduled service by the St Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line on January 1, 1914. The plane, a Benoist XIV, conducted 1205 commercial flights across the Tampa bay in Florida, USA. The airline discontinued the service after three months, as the service proved to be unprofitable (Kaufmann, 2008).
The Benoist XIV was able to transport one passenger up to 135 km, almost one hundred years later, 853 passengers can be carried in the Airbus A380 up to 15,400 km.
Since these early days, the growth in Aviation has been phenomenal. From a standing start almost 100 years ago, aviation accounts for 11.6% of total world travel. (Ribeiro, et al.2007) See Figure 1.
Figure 1 Worldwide transport industry broken up per travel type (WBCSD, 2004b)
The growth of the airline industry has been significant, as can be seen in Figure 2, the Passenger sector has grown from less than 10 billion passenger- km in 1950 to nearly 5000 billion in 2010 and the Cargo sector has grown from less than 1 billion tons-km to more than 170 billion tons-km. (Rodrigue et al, 2009).
From it’s beginning in 1914, the world airlines now comprise of 5,541 airlines listed with an IATA unique identifier, a meteoric rise by all accounts. (IATA, 2012).
Figure 2 World Air Travel and World Air Freight Carried, 1950-2010 ( IATA)
The growth in aviation has been drive by 3 main factors (Holloway, 2003), they are:
Aviation has changed from a method of transport used by the wealthy to a common method for all. In the early days of aviation, the airline business was highly regulated and services could only be operated by state owned flag carriers. Through progressive deregulation, many different types of privately owned operators have proliferated which has increased competition, lowered fares, raised output and offered wider markets.
Figure 3 – Decrease in operating cost with New Technology (Dr. Peter Barrington, 2012)
• Improvements in Technology:
New Aircraft Technology has enabled a decrease in operating costs for the airlines, See Figure 3. Through competition, this decrease has delivered lower prices to consumers, and ultimately higher demand, as predicted in the typical airline Supply/Demand Curve seen in Figure 4.
Figure 4 Classical Supply and Demand Curve showing demand increasing with lowering of price (Chen et al , 2007)
The internet has led to direct contact between airlines and their customers, customer comparing different airlines’ product offerings, and more spot purchases by airline travellers.
The rise in airline transport has provided substantial opportunities for the world’s aviation; however, the expansion has also provided a high level of challenges. The Worlds Airlines Profitability can be fragile, and as Figure 5 shows, can be easily impacted by Macroeconomic disturbances.
Figure 5 Airline Profitability 1972-2011 (CCAirways Blog, 2010)
Figure 6 Average Price of Airline travel trend since 1979 (Perry, 2011)
As Figure 6 shows, the increased competition has driven down the average price airlines can obtain. The Price per mile for an average airline ticket has decreased by more than 50% between 1979 and 2010.
This decrease in price has placed tremendous pressure on costs as airlines strive to maintain profitability, and ultimately their survival.
Figure 7 (Dr. Peter Barrington, 2012) shows the different types of cost classes that are incurred by an airline.
Figure 7 –Cost Classes in a Modern Airline (Dr. Peter Barrington, 2012)
• Non-Operating costs are incurred regardless of whether the airline provides a service, these costs can be minimised by negotiation only,
• Indirect Operating Costs (IOCs) are costs incurred when an airline provides a service, however, they are not directly related to the amount of service the airline produces, they are incurred whenever the airline produces ASM/ATM , these costs can also be minimised by negotiation only,
• Direct Operating costs (DOCs), are dependent on the level of output. They include items such as fuel, maintenance and productive staff, these costs can be minimised by negotiation, innovation and technology. The variable costs are normally where an airline can deliver the maximum savings.
Figure 8 Operating Costs for a Modern Airline (ICAO, 2001)
The Introduction of Composites is primarily to reduce the Direct Operating costs of Airline. Composites can reduce the Fuel Costs and Maintenance Costs of the airline in particular.
The Cost of Fuel has become a major concern for Airlines. Figure 9 shows the upward trend in Fuel Price since 1990.
Figure 9 Fuel Price 1990 to 2011 (IMF, 2011)
Aircrafts fuel consumption is based on the degree of drag that is generated during flight.
Drag comprises of Induced Drag and Parasite Drag. Induced Drag is a result of the downwash of the airflow over the wings, and is proportional to the lift generated by the wings. In flight, the lift generated by the wings is directly proportional to the Weight of the aircraft.
Figure 10 Specific Strength comparison Aircraft Materials (Airbus, 2007)
Composite Materials can offer between 20 to 50% reduction in weight over moreconventional materials, depending on the type and application.
Figure 10 shows the specific strength of various composite materials over more traditional aircraft materials.
Figure 11 also shows the same comparison chart. It can be seen that composite materials have a far lower density for similar or better Strength.
Figure 11 Different Mechanical Properties of Aircraft Materials (Boeing, 1996)
Parasite Drag is caused by the shape of a body and by skin friction, the more streamlined the body, the lower the parasite drag.
Composite Materials can be fabricated to a more streamlined shape by moulding and winding in a more practical way than traditional methods of aircraft construction.
A good example is the blended wing of the Boeing 787 shown in Figure 12. The Boeing 787 is an aircraft made up of almost 50% of composite materials by volume (Boeing, 2011).
Figure 12 Boeing 787 composite blended winglet (www.boeing.com,2011)
The improved characteristics of composite materials can lead to a significant reduction in fuel consumption. Figure 13 shows the projected savings on the Boeing 787 aircraft which utilises a high percentage of composites in its construction.
Figure 13 – Fuel Consumption development over time (www.boeing.com, 2011)
In addition to the superior weight and drag capabilities of composite materials, composite materials also exhibit improved fatigue properties when exposed to cyclic stresses. Figure 14 shows Composite properties compared to 2024-T6 aluminium.
Figure 14 Fatigue Performance (http://www.kokch.kts.ru/me/t9/index.html, 2012)
This improved fatigue performance can lead to higher intervals between structural inspections, and less structural repairs. Figure 15 shows the projected savings between a Boeing 787 and a comparable aircraft with a lower percentage of composite structure.
Figure 15 Maintenance Costs Reduction of a Conventional Metallic built aircraft compared to the composite built Boeing 787(www.boeing.com, 2011)
While the above advantages are true, it is worth noting that there are a number of issues that still remain with regards to the use of composites, and their impact on the cost of an airline.
While not a DOC, it should be noted that the initial costs of composite materials, and of their manufacture, can be more expensive than traditional metallic materials. This in turn transfers to a higher list price by the Aircraft manufactures. Figure 16 shows the prices of different Glass cloth, as can be seen Carbon may cost up to £50/m2 while Aircraft Aluminium can cost in the region of £6/m2 (Gurit Guide to Composites, 2009).
Figure 16 Cost comparisons of various composite materials (Gurit Guide to Composites, 2009)
The Gains achieved through lower Operating Maintenance can be diminished by Composites deterioration when exposed to the operating environment. If unprotected, Composite materials can degrade when in contact with Heat and Water, See Figure 17 (Gurit Guide to Composites, 2009). It is essential that proper prevention is in place in order to realise the potential cost savings through lower maintenance.
Figure 17 environment effects on various composite resins (Gurit Guide to Composites, 2009)
Impact damage to composite materials does not exhibit the same dynamics as traditional metallic materials. It is often the case that after an impact, the resultant damage to the material is not always be visible. Figure 18 shows the level of delamination that may not visible after such an event. This delamination may deteriorate over time, and may warrant extensive large repairs at a later time.
Figure 18 Non-Visible Impact Damage (Ratwani, 2010)
The Ultimate test of Composite materials will be on the delivery of the expected benefits.
From the Data Published by Boeing, it would appear that the structural efficiency (MTOW/OEW) of the Boeing 787 aircraft, with the highest proportion of Structures (80% by volume) in any Modern Large Civil aircraft is 50%. This does not compare well with the Boeing 767, the aircraft that the 787 is replacing. The Boeing 767 has 30% by volume composite with a structural efficiency of 48%.
Ultimately, the environmental case for increasing our development of composites is compelling. Figure 19 shows the ever increase in the use of composites in Aircraft Development.
Figure 19 Composite Structure in % of Structural Weight from beginning of Composite use to present day
The Stern Review, 2006, identifies that 1.6% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from aviation, but that the demand for air travel will rise with our income.
The Advisory Council for Aeronautical Research in Europe, in 2002, laid out targets to reduce the emission of CO2 from an aircraft by 50% by 2020.
The reductions of airframe weight using composites can assist to achieve this target and, enable the growth of aviation with the increasing cost of Carbon fossil fuels.
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