Challenges in Aviation Industry

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The air transport industry is among the areas fueling the development of the global economy. Due to the nature of the mode of air transportation, the planet has become a small village such that people can easily access any part of the world within 24 hours. Over the past years, the industry has faced multiple challenges and the airports are the most hit in this sector. The challenges such as delays where sometimes the aircraft have to wait in the air before landing due to congested runway cost the aviation industry a lot of money in terms of extra fuel lost during waiting. This paper will look into three key challenges facing the industry: delay and congestion, safety and environmental issue and what needs to be done to mitigate them.

Key word:

Aviation, innovative lane, runway, air transportation, safety, pollution

Challenges Facing Aviation Industry

The steps that the airport management and FAA are taking in solving the challenges facing the aviation industry are yielding fruits and have lead to a continuous improvement in the efficiency of the industry in providing services to its customers. The challenges such as delays, safety, and environmental issues have costly impacts on the industry in general and effort to solve them will help make air transport the safest and most reliable mode of transport in the world.

Delay and Congestion in Air Transportation

In the recent past, the department of transportation has received so many complaints from passengers concerning flight delays. This situation has been caused by various factors including congestion in the system among others. Such incidences are so frustrating and costly to the aviation industry and air travelers. According to the report released by the department of transportation (DOT), 25% of flights were cancelled, delayed or diverted due to various reasons that included aircraft mechanical problem, severe weather condition and congestion.  "More than 1.3 million flights arrived late at their destinations—52 minutes late on average—adversely affecting about 160 million passengers"((Stephen, 2008).). These delays have been estimated by the airport Transport Association and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to have lead to a loss of over $5 billion to the aviation industry and the travelers.

Most of these delays are caused by the operations of the airline like passenger boarding, maintenance of the aircraft, flight crew arriving late, cancellation of flights and the rest are caused by the flight delays in operation network. The delays due to operation network (OPSNET) are caused by factors such as a problem with airport equipment or air traffic control, severe weather condition, congestion in the terminal area and closed taxiways or runways. Severe weather condition is the leading cause of the flight en route and departure delays associated with the air traffic control and in 1998 and 1999 two thirds of all delays were caused by this factor. The second common cause of flight delay is high traffic volume and it accounts for 12 % of the delayed flights.

Delays have also been enhanced by the hub and spoke system used by the aviation industry.  The hub-and-spoke system is useful in the configuration of the air transportation networks but it also plays a role in putting a lot of strain on airspace system. Through this system, most airlines use the few available large hub airports as a transfer points for funneling most of their flights and passengers. These hub airports are handling over 2,500 landings and departures as well as enplane over 75,000 travelers in a day. Due to this system flights arrive and depart in masses and this exceeds the capacity of the traffic control, taxiway, runway and the gate, particularly when other factors such as severe weather that restricts capacity occurs (Stephen, 2008). If the capacity of the runway of the hub airport is exceeded, a "ground hold" is instituted hence delaying departure. The ever-increasing traveler traffic is congesting the runways at hub airports as well as air traffic control a situation that is leading to delays.

To solve the problem of congestion and delay the national airspace capacity need to be increased by constructing more taxiways, runways as well as gates in the hub airports. In addition to investing in runways, FAA is considering redesigning of the air traffic control procedures and airspace.

Environmental Problems

The operations in the aviation industry have raised environmental concerns. The development and operation of airports are associated with two categories of environmental effects; operational and footprint effects. Operational effects are those that come as a result of an increase in the operations of the aviation industry and the number of aircraft which in turn lead to increase in air and noise pollution as well as congestion. On the other hand, footprints effects refer to those issues that result from airport configuration, location and size. The footprints effects may have a detrimental impact on the quality of water, land uses and the species habitats.  The impact of operational activities at major general aviation that includes aircraft noise during arrival and takes off has been an issue that is subject to community opposition. In the United States, the airports seeking layout approval or funding must acquire an environmental assessment from the EPA (USGAO, 2007). One of the factors that will be considered during this assessment is noise pollution from these airports. To curb the impacts of the noise pollution many airports are spending a lot of money on noise mitigation.

The unacceptable noise footprints need to be avoided and to achieve this airport must come up with changes to help them avoid EPA from imposing limits on the use of the airport. The airports, therefore, are forced to make it a requirement for the operators to throttle back the aircraft engines when climbing out as well as rotating runways and limiting flight paths in use. Although such restrictions are useful in complying with the NEPA standards, they could also affect the capacity of the airport in handling the aircraft traffic, particularly during severe weather condition.     

The noise pollution from the aviation industry is a worldwide problem and the "international civil aviation organization" (ICAO) has come up with standards that recommend replacing the current aircraft that are producing much noise with new model stag III aircraft that are much quiet (Salamone, 2009). This process of replacing aircraft, however, may be costly to the aviation industry.

In addition to the noise pollution, the aviation industry also plays a significant role in contributing to the climate change due to the emission of the carbon dioxide. The aeroplanes in the air are contributing to the accumulation of gases such as carbon dioxide that has a greenhouse effect and a resultant effect of the climatic change. Similarly, the emission of gases like nitrogen oxide may cause destruction to the ozonosphere a situation that increases the risk of exposing the earth's inhabitants to the hazardous UV rays. "Standards have been established for various air pollutants including ozone, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, suspended particulate matter, and lead" (Osborne, 2013).  The federal clean air act (CAA) requires the airports to comply with these standards to be able to carry out any project development.

In averting noise pollution, the FAA has recommended substituting the current noisy aircraft with stage III aircraft which have modified engines that produce less noise. Also, the federal clean air act requires the EPA to come up with quality air standards to help protect the public from the hazards associated with the air pollutants.  

Aviation safety

The aviation security has become of important concern as far as aviation safety is concerned. The rates of accidents have significantly declined in jet airlines making the aviation industry the safest commercial transport mode. However, the improvement in efficiency and safety has not been distributed evenly in all regions of the world as developing world still records cases of poor safety in the aviation industry. The industry still faces challenges of how to improve security in the aviation industry. These challenges include: "how much to focus on identifying the terrorists as opposed to identifying the tools they might use; determining how to respond to terrorist threats, and determining the public versus private roles in improving aviation security" (Transportation Research Board.(2002).). The continuous improvement has been based on various factors; more specifically the technological advancement in the aviation industry has played a vital role in the promotion of security.

By developing and fitting the ground proximity devices on the aeroplanes the numbers of accidents have reduced significantly. Similarly, modern pilot training and more reliable aircraft engine that fail less frequently have led to fewer accidents involving the failure of equipment. The process of curbing the insecurity in the aviation industry has in the past employed a reactive approach that involves analysis of accidents, their causes and then determining a corrective action (Oster, et al., 2010). However, in the recent days, there has been a need for a proactive approach involving identification of emerging risks and making them a top priority. This proactive approach is helpful in determining chances of accidents occurring as well as understanding why they occur.

 The analysis of the causes of these aviation accidents may involve hard choices. Report from various researches indicates that aviation accidents are not caused by one cause but due to a series of mistakes, events or failures. In most cases, if one of these events was right then the accident would not have occurred. For example, in a case where there is the occurrence of engine failure during aircraft take off and the crew is unable to take the necessary precaution to safely land the aeroplane, then an accident might occur (Crites, 2013). In such a scenario there are two causes, engine failure and the inability of the crew to take a precautionary measure. If one of the two factors would not have happened then the incidence of accident could not have occurred.

The analysis of the causes of these accidents is a crucial process to the aviation industry in trying to achieve their mission of making air transport safer. The analysis of the past accidents is an extensive process and how it is done will determine the efficiency of the improvements the industry will come up with towards aviation safety (Oster et al., 2013). The efforts of reducing aircraft accidents have been successful and more specifically for those caused by severe weather conditions, equipment failure, air traffic control and pilot error. However, the biggest challenge is dealing with the risk of accidents caused by terrorism, criminals or conflicts in some regions.

The safety of the air travelers is at risk from four categories of terrorist threats. The common threat is bombing the plane to destroy it as witnessed on Air India in 1985 where 329 passengers lost their lives. The hijacking of a passenger aeroplane is another form of terrorist attack on aviation (Airclaims, 2012). The hijacked plane could be used by terrorists as a weapon leading to the death of travelers on board. The third form is the terrorist attack on an airport. An example of these attack occurred in 1975 on LaGuardia airport. Lastly, another challenge to aviation safety could be a terrorist attack that could disrupt the aviation systems such as air traffic control systems.

The airports, therefore, to be on a safe side they must put safety measures in place to avert the terrorist threats. The most airports currently have installed more sophisticated body scanners and X-ray machines at each entry point; however, the authority needs to do more in ensuring that the security systems are updated to the latest versions (Rodrigues, & Cusick, 2012). The American airline and Delta airline have installed the innovative lanes at major airports a move that has enhanced faster security process. The innovative lanes are automated and accelerate the flow of passengers by 30% through the carry-on X-ray process. Implementing the security measures is a costly process and it will remain a vital challenge to the aviation industry.


The airports are the biggest components of the aviation industry and they face three vital challenges including environmental, safety and delays which affects the management and operations. In dealing with these issues most airports are coming up with various strategies that include developing innovative lanes, replacing the noisy aeroplane with stage III plane with silent engines and building extra runways and taxiways. These approaches though costly in their implementation have been vital in helping the airport management in dealing with the challenges they face in the aviation industry.





Oster V. Clinton, Strong S. John, Zorn Kurt. (2013). Analyzing aviation safety: problems, challenges, opportunities. School of public and environmental affairs.

Oster V. Clinton, Strong S. John, Zorn Kurt.(2010). Why aeroplanes crash: causes of accidents worldwide. Oxford university press.

Airclaims (2012). World aircraft accident summary (WAAS). 1990-2012, CAP 479, issue 167, London: air claims Ltd.

Rodriguez, c. & Cusick, S. (2012). Commercial aviation safety (5th ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill.

USGAO.(2007). Aviation security: DHS has made progress in securing the commercial aviation system, but key challenges remain. Washington, DC.

Crites M. James.(2013). Issues and challenges for airports in the New Millenium. Dallas/Fort worth International Airport. Retrieved on 5 May, 2018 from

Salamone R. Michael(2009). Current and emerging issues facing the airport industry. Federal Aviation Administration. Retrieved on 5 May, 2018 from

Charlie Osborne (2013). 10, challenges for your airline and airport. Retrieved on 5 May, 2018 from

Stephen D. Van Beek. (2008). Five management challenges facing airports amid uncertainty. U.S. Department of Transportation.

Transportation Research Board.(2002). "3 - Air Transportation Challenges." Future Flight: A Review of the Small Aircraft Transportation System Concept -- Special Report 263. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10319.

October 24, 2023
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