A Note from Our Partner

The first scheduled commercial flight took off just over a century ago. Since then, commercial aviation has transformed our world. This year, we expect 3.5 billion passengers to board aircraft and about 50 million tons of cargo to reach its destination by air. It’s a modern miracle that each day almost 100,000 flights take off and land safely. In doing so, they connect our planet as never before.

Flying has become such a part of daily life that many take it for granted. The global aviation system is so seamless that we don’t notice the careful choreography of its many partners—airlines, airports, air navigation service providers, caterers, ground handlers, fuel suppliers, maintenance companies and many more.

Sitting in an aircraft cabin, it is easy to forget that modern commercial planes are technological wonders. Engines burn at temperatures reaching nearly 1,500 degrees Celsius—hot enough to melt most metals. The largest commercial airliner—the A380—can take off weighing 575 tons. That’s about 2.5 times the weight of the Statue of Liberty. And navigation systems are so precise that you can depart New York knowing within a few minutes what time you will land in Hong Kong—some 13,000 kilometers away.

When we buy a ticket from an online travel agency in London, we seldom if ever think of all the processes and global standards that work together to ensure that a seat is waiting for us when we check in online in Tahiti for our flight back.

But the most incredible achievement of aviation is its safety record. Aviation’s centennial year was marked by some high-profile tragedies. Every loss of life is one too many. That is what drives aviation professionals to continue to find new ways to ensure passenger safety. In fact, 2014 was the industry’s safest year ever by many parameters. For example, there was only one major accident for every 4.4 million flights over the course of the year. Accidents can and do happen. But flying is the safest way to travel.

IATA is very pleased to have collaborated with Scientific American and its Custom Media Division in this effort, which reminds people of how flying continues to change our world for the better. Although we have 100 remarkable years of aviation history to look back on, I am convinced that the best is yet to come. Connectivity still has much potential to contribute to development. China’s phenomenal growth is apparent to all, with air links continuing to play a crucial role in its economic expansion. Further development is expected in the key markets of the future—Africa, India, Brazil and Indonesia.

As we look ahead, there are undeniable challenges facing us. A few are absolutely fundamental. We will never take our eye off the ball on safety or security. Building infrastructure to meet demand will require the commitment of government, industry and individual communities. And we are dedicated to sustainability.

We have set a target of achieving carbon-neutral growth by 2020. In addition, by 2050 we will cut our net emissions to half the 2005 level. New technology, biofuels, lightweight materials and advanced operational procedures will be critical to earning our license to grow. That’s important. We live in a connected world. Safe, efficient and sustainable air links are essential to modern life and livelihoods.

For aviation, the future is not just bright—it’s brilliant!

Tony Tyler, Director General
International Air Transport Association (IATA)
The Height of Luxury

Science leads the way to a better passenger experience.

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