A fixed wing aircraft or more commonly known as an airplane has made the world smaller since its first successful flight in 1903. This new technology was sonly exploited by businesses as a way to transport passengers in style. In November of 1906, Germany’s DELAG (Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-Aktiengesellschaft ) made its maiden flight from Frankfurt. In the United States, Pan Am, a now defunct airline first opened its doors to passengers in 1927. During the early days of commercial flight, prices were so high that only the wealthy can afford the experience to fly. It was considered a luxury and a way to display wealth rather than a prime means of transportation. The two world wars served as a test bed for new technologies applied on the aircraft. The Second World War also boosted the thriving Airline industry to new heights with contracts to transport troops. This gave way to speculations of an explosive demand for air travel in the years to come. Since then, the airplane has improved greatly in terms of performance and safety. With the rising demand for air travel in the 1970’s, companies such as Boeing, McDonnel Douglas and Lockheed introduced the widebody aircraft with higher seating capacity and thus lowering operational cost per passenger.
The Airline industry is among the most volatile sector in the economy. It has been historically sensitive to wild swing in crude oil prices. Southwest airlines has managed to escape this burden by hedging its purchase of fuel prices at a much lower rate before it rose to dizzying heights in 2008. Operational costs include periodic maintenance of its fleet, the purchase or lease of aircrafts, terminal fees and the price of fuel. Thought its over 100 year history, the industry has collectively suffered bankruptcies and government bailouts. On the manufacturing side, a government contract for military use has boosted revenue and growth for companies such as Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed and Northrop Grumman. Together with the surge in air travel volume and the incorporation of new Airliners to meet the growing demand, the Aircraft industry is in fact a booming business.
For some people, the dynamics of fixed wing flight is still a big puzzle. How could a 1 million pounder object like the 747 take flight? The answer is mainly air pressure. Harnessing and controlling it requires 2 basic factors, the ability to divert it for lift to counter weight and the speed or thrust required to counter the opposing drag. An aircraft has to be light in terms of how much its wings could generate lift, and how powerful its engine can keep it propelled forwards. The span and width of its wings has to be bigger in order to produce lift in proportion to its size and weight. The engine has to be powerful as well to produce the needed thrust to propel the aircraft forward and thus, accumulate air pressure on the wings as it rolls on the runway. Movable surfaces on the wings deflects air flow to change the balance and thus move in the direction where needed by the pilot. Modern aircraft design includes the use of composite materials due to its corrosion resistant properties and lighter weight.
Major Aircraft Manufacturers
Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) US
EADS (Euronext: EAD) Europe
Lockheed Martin Corp (NYSE: LMT) US
Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) US
British Aerospace (LSE: BTASF) UK
Sukhoi Co. (RTS: OKBS) Russia