Industries Changed by Aviation
In the 110 years that have passed since the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk, aviation has changed our world immensely. Millions of people have been able to travel the world faster than ever before. Armies have been able to defend their homelands from the skies. Man has walked on the moon.
In fact, it’s now difficult to think of an area of human activity that hasn’t been affected by aviation. Some industries have been completely changed. This article, presented by Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology, looks at five industries that have been transformed or enhanced by the power of flight.
Aviation has been a major enabler in modern communication. Throughout the 20th Century, the development of air mail made it possible for letters and packages to cross the globe in days rather than weeks. Even today, FedEx and UPS planes are some of the busiest in the world.
In addition to airplanes, other forms of aviation have been put to use to improve communication. The first satellites went up in the 1950s. Ever since then, engineers and scientists have been using these flying machines to receive and transmit telephone, television, and other communication signals. Thanks to rockets and satellites, scientists can now place rovers on Mars and be in constant contact with them.
In the field of medicine, a few minutes of delay can often mean the difference between life and death. The advent of aviation has helped medical experts reach the patients who need them more quickly. Consider organ implants. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 80 people in the U.S. receive organ transplants each day.
When highly-perishable organs are retrieved from donors, there is often a very small window of opportunity for matching and placing them with recipients. The link between recipient and donor is often an airplane or helicopter. Organ flights, where a medic accompanies the organ with a pilot, help save lives every day.
Aviation has helped first responders and hospitals react quickly in other life-threatening situations. Medevac flights were first used during the Korean War. Adopted by state police and hospitals in the 1960s, helicopters now make quick transfer of patients from accident scenes or between medical facilities faster and safer.
Search and Rescue
Aviation has helped make search and rescue missions faster, safer, and more effective. Victims of flooding, adventurers in the backcountry, and sailors who find themselves in trouble now look to the skies for rescue. Aerial crews can quickly reach out-of-the way destinations, conduct surveys of the territory, and respond to distress calls from harsh terrain or weather conditions that would put ground responders in danger. They can land and rescue lost individuals themselves, or provide accurate guidance for ground crews working their way towards the scene.
Additionally, aviation has provided new tools for fire fighters, particularly when fighting forest fires. Specially-equipped helicopters and aircraft can spray water or fire-extinguishing chemicals over a broad area quickly, without endangering ground crew.
Archaeologists have always appreciated the advantages of getting a high-level view of the land. Patterns in crops, land features, and even how frost forms on the earth can all give clues about the hidden remains of structures under the soil. Prior to the arrival of powered flight, archaeologists attempted to use hot air balloons and cameras attached to kites to look for these tell-tale marks from above.
Now, light aircraft regularly help archaeologists survey possible sites, and some archaeologists have used satellite images to detect possible structures in unexpected places. Combined with the use of infrared or ultraviolet cameras, aerial archaeology techniques are helping uncover the secrets of the past.
Finally, aviation has made spaceflight possible. The development of jet and rocket engines throughout the first half of the 20th Century enabled both unmanned and manned missions to space. Entering orbit and reaching the moon, while amazing achievements, were only first steps. Aviation principles enabled scientists to place huge telescopes, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, into orbit, send probes into the outer limits of our solar system, and land robots on the surface of Mars.
Using flight-powered instruments, scientists have now identified Earth-like planets orbiting other suns. Aviation has helped us expand our understanding of our world, and of our universe.