I searched around a bit more for better data on airlines, and found a great resource at MIT, at least on the economics. Some people at MIT did the heavy lifting of distilling the data that went into BTS with up to date and continuous data on passenger, revenues and expenses. Resented in parallel with last week’s post, I give you the load factor, balance and ratio for America’s 15 or so air carriers of the last 20 years:
The great thing about air passenger traffic is that there aren’t that many actors, really, making presentation of the data by carrier easy. The other neat thing about air traffic is that it is a finite act. There is no trip chaining, detouring or even destination diversity in an airplane. Everyone in a given vehicle is leaving from the same place and will arrive at the same pace at the salmi time. It is much like transit in this way, except airports are rarely where people want to be.
The airport is a specialized and industrial facility in the service of speed and wind. The runways of an airport have to be straight and oriented with the direction of the wind. A crosswind landing is not any fun, as the landing gear of an airplane are bult to turn the direction the plane is going, not perpendicular to that. The pavement of runways has to be very very flat and very very straight, meaning that they consume a lot of concrete and a lot of land. Finally, Aerodynamic (as opposed to theoretical gravity manipulation) means that airplanes need lots of space beyond the confines of the airport to get up to cruising altitude. This means no obstructions, and nothing very tall at all for miles past the end of each runway.
And then of course there’s the noise.
This makes airports terrible destinations for most, with high limits and noise restrictions cutting off the development potential of some very high passenger throughput. Airports are unanimously linked to their larger cities by some very wide pipes, either interstate highways, low headway bus services, or even rail transit.
There is a movement to close this gap around airports (away from the runway prism, of course). Aerotropolis is meant to develop meeting and even living spaces near the airport for easy access to global commerce. This naturally starts with Air cargo services, but can extend to industrial turnaround services. For example, when I needed to get my laptop services, I sent it to Memphis’s FedEx hub, where it was substantially rebuilt right next to the airport and shipped back to me within a week.
Its funny that the most successful version of Aerotropolis has been Schiphol Airport outside Amsterdam. It has the most runway directions of any airport I have seen, a response to its coastal location along the North Sea. Perhaps the constraint of the wayside services focused development into wedges of successful live/work/meet/do communities. Perhaps having too much space is an impediment to good local economies, even in a global hub.
Of course, the energy efficiency and public infrastructure remian sketchy. For Later