Aviation Personal Air Vehicles Term Paper

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The introduction of a personal aircraft with a cost under $50,000, short take off and landing capability and the ability to safely travel on residential streets might have a significant impact on society, provided that regulations were relaxed enough to make the sale and use of such vehicles legal and practical. The initial changes would be small, as the infrastructure is not currently present to support the operation of aircraft from many of the locations people would want to use personal aircraft. Over time, airports would begin to appear in neighborhoods, at shopping malls and near busy workplaces. With the infrastructure in place, upper middle class commuters would be the likely early adopters of personal aircraft. Suburban middle class workers generally want access to the high-paying jobs and recreation options provided by a city, but prefer to live in areas with less population, more open space and fewer poor people. Personal aircraft would provide easy access to the city from much longer distances, resulting in a much larger radius for suburban development and increasing the gap between well-off suburban families and the urban lower-class. One of the primary reasons for using personal aircraft in many cities would be to avoid the severe traffic congestion that accompanies the traditional commute. While the use of aircraft would reduce highway traffic, the sky would become quite crowded, especially near major landing zones. As with traditional aircraft, strict air traffic control would be required for busy areas to prevent mid-air collisions. Having three dimensions in which to move does reduce the risk of collision with another vehicle; personal aircraft would probably be involved in far fewer multi-vehicle collisions than cars are. Most crashes would be single-vehicle accidents caused by user error. The social impact would ultimately depend on changes to regulation and infrastructure.

Term Paper on Aviation Personal Air Vehicles Assignment

Aircraft design and flight are currently heavily regulated. The regulatory approval needed for significant design changes to aircraft models is so difficult to obtain that it is common for an aircraft design to remain in production for decades with few changes. The basic design of the Cessna 172, one of the most popular airplanes ever, has not changed since the mid 1960s. (Ericg)the original design dates to 1957, and is very similar to today's model. Obtaining a license to fly an aircraft is also difficult, requiring a significant amount of time and money. While it may be reasonable to require pilots to be well-trained, it is a barrier to the adoption of aircraft if it is many times more difficult to obtain a pilot's license than a driver's license. Given the number of people who die in car crashes, it might be beneficial to society if it was harder to obtain a driver's license, but until that is the case, more people will drive than fly, regardless of the availability of aircraft.

Cars are attractive because the infrastructure required for their use is already in place. Gasoline is sold on nearly every street corner, and there are streets almost everywhere people want to be. Airports, even landing strips for very small aircraft are rare in suburban residential areas, as well as urban commercial areas. If aircraft were subject to noise restrictions similar to those imposed on motorcycles, the addition of neighborhood airstrips might not be difficult, however, space is much more limited in commercial areas. It might be possible to convert the roofs of parking garages and shopping malls for aircraft use, but it might be impossible to make room for airstrips in some cities. Landing aircraft in areas crowded with tall buildings is more dangerous than operating from open fields. The buildings are not only a navigation hazard, but they also create dangerous wind currents. Some urban areas would likely support aircraft operations without huge changes, and some would not. Higher-income apartment complexes and shopping malls would be very likely to support aircraft operations. Some colleges might offer support for aircraft in order to attract upper-class students who want to remain living with their parents, but live too far away to commute by car.

Training is another barrier to the adoption of personal aircraft. It is not enough to be able to afford an aircraft; one must learn to fly it. Aviation historian Janet Daly Bednarek points out that flying is much harder than driving a car. (Boyle) Many people would not choose to spend the time to learn to fly in order to buy an aircraft as a secondary vehicle. Operating a vehicle in three dimensions is necessarily harder than two, and is complicated by the fact that most aircraft must maintain a minimum speed in order to fly. Even with advances in technology, flying will never be as easy as driving. There are, however, advances being made that will help bridge the gap. The Airscooter corporation will soon begin production of an ultralight helicoptor with a price under $50,000 and flight controls similar to a motorcycle. (Airscooter II) They claim it will be much easier to fly than current aircraft designs.

Most large employers of the middle class are located in cities, but the middle class workers they employ do not want to live in the city. Inner cities are often old and decaying, severely polluted and inhabited by the poor. The middle class, as a rule do not want to live in old buildings, breathe pollution or see poor people. The popularity of the automobile led the middle class to move to suburbs, where they could live in new houses with big yards, and limit their exposure to pollution and poor people. The heavy use of automobiles made the pollution worse and widened the gap between rich and poor. If inexpensive personal aircraft were available, and the support infrastructure was in place, suburban middle class commuters would be the major market. With the ability to travel twice as fast as the speed limit on most expressways, personal aircraft would likely increase the radius around major cities in which suburbs develop. Urban sprawl would increase and the ties of the middle class to the cities would be reduced. Property values in existing suburbs would be somewhat reduced at first. Eventually, many would become working class neighborhoods, in much the same way that inner cities became working class when the middle class moved to the suburbs.

Congestion is a severe problem in most cities. The average time a Los Angeles resident wastes in a year while sitting in traffic has more than doubled since 1982, from 19 hours to 50. (Liu) Other large cities have similar traffic problems, and there is little sign of improvement. There are incentives for carpooling and using public transportation, but the convenience of having one's own vehicle outweighs the incentives for many commuters. Replacing a significant percentage of cars with aircraft would reduce highway congestion, but might create problems of its own. Air congestion is unlikely to be a problem in most areas, as air travelers are not restricted to small portions of the air in the way that cars are restricted to the road. There are three dimensions in which to move, and a lot of open space. Congestion would likely be a problem in the central commercial districts of large urban areas. There are only a limited number of places to put landing strips in dense cities. The roofs of parking garages might be good candidates in many cases, but they are not always in places where such use would be safe. Flying an aircraft through the middle of a city in order to land on top of a parking garage is very dangerous today. Very precise flying is required to navigate between buildings, which is exacerbated by the turbulence buildings cause on windy days. There are also low-visibility obstacles such as power lines and other types of cables strung between buildings. The most common arrangement would likely be a downtown airport, with aircraft being taxied on surface streets as the final leg of the commute. Such an arrangement does have some disadvantages, as any aircraft is likely to be suboptimal for street use. Government regulation is, again a barrier, as meeting car crash safety standards adds a significant amount of weight to a vehicle - as much as 1000 pounds. (Malik) There would be significant congestion around urban airports, requiring strict air traffic control to prevent mid-air collisions. Away from major airports, the only significant risk of injury would be to the occupants of the aircraft. Much like motorcycles, the likelihood of injuring bystanders with an aircraft is low. Most airplane crashes are caused by simple pilot errors like running out of fuel. (Safety FAQ's) Shifting the risks of irresponsible behavior from the general public to those actually engaging in the behavior is good for society overall.

Aircraft users would likely see a net positive effect on their everyday lives. Flying, instead of driving would shorten commutes and reduce stress, as well as providing more opportunities for recreation. A 150 MPH aircraft would more than double… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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