Closing the aerospace disconnects
By Ben Iannotta|April 2020
Aerospace specialists in the U.S. seem to be in tune with the views of the public on just one of the three topics we explore in this month’s feature articles.
These disconnects are a problem, because they can spawn surprise, even anger, among the populace or risk pushing government policymakers toward poor decisions.
First, consider flight shaming in the air travel market. Surprisingly, the flying public and business leaders are starting to get in sync on this issue. Wise airline executives, engineers and manufacturers now recognize that, particularly in Europe, a significant portion of the public wants to fly on cleaner aircraft and offset their carbon emissions through tree-planting programs or other measures. By taking flight shaming seriously, these leaders are starting to think like the generals and admirals who long ago left the policy arguments over climate change to the politicians. Like it or not, retreating Arctic ice has created new navigable seas to protect, and some air travelers now feel guilty enough about their carbon footprints to switch to the train or wish they could.
Regarding the U.S. Space Force, President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech in February probably did little to bridge the chasm between what the average person thinks this new branch of the armed services is about and what its mission actually is. Trump’s references to the Space Force could have led some to believe that the Space Force is about getting war fighters into space. In reality, this new branch is beginning to absorb the existing “Chair Force,” the playful term for the Air Force personnel who work at computer terminals. Their mission is as much about ensuring that troops have GPS coverage, communications and satellite imagery as it is about confronting bad actors in space. Strategists in the Space Force know the danger of creating debris and the need to find creative ways to deter or punish bad actors. Our article explores what the force should do in the years and decades ahead, as the space economy expands to deep space.clc
Urban air mobility is where I sense perhaps the greatest disconnect. Pioneers of this field would be wise to be more forceful in socializing the idea that one day, perhaps not so long from now, thousands of small, electric aircraft will ply the skies of our neighborhoods and cities. It’s good to see NASA and FAA gathering data about the potential noise from these proposed aircraft. Residents will be more accepting if they know this change is coming.