The Future of Aviation

As Boeing publicly states that their passenger numbers will be higher than pre-pandemic levels in 2024 what’s the forecast, trends and opportunities for the UK’s aviation industry going into the future?

The UK aviation industry is a dynamic and critical sector, contributing significantly to the nation’s economy and connectivity. In recent years, the industry has faced numerous challenges and transformations: from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to evolving technological advancements. This blog explores current trends in the UK aviation industry, supported by recent airline statistics, and delves into the vital role of maintenance and calibration of equipment.

Current Trends in the UK Aviation Industry

1. Recovery and Growth Post-Pandemic

The pandemic dealt a severe blow to the aviation industry worldwide, and the UK was no exception. Passenger numbers plummeted, and many airlines struggled to stay afloat.

The United Kingdom based airlines transported 129.4 million passengers in 2023, up from approximately 106 million registered in the previous year. The industry is on a recovery trajectory as passenger traffic peaked at 176.22 million in 2018, before decreasing significantly due to the coronavirus pandemic. Already Heathrow are reflecting the strong performance to date and their 2024 passenger outlook has been bumped up to 82.4 million.

2. Environmental Sustainability

Sustainability has become a key focus for the aviation industry. The UK government has set ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions, with the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Airlines are increasingly investing in more fuel-efficient aircraft and exploring alternative fuels.

In April 2024, the UK government published its mandate on the production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). The UK aims for SAF at 2% of aviation fuel in 2025, rising to 22% in 2040. The government has sustainability criteria to determine eligibility which includes:

  • SAF must be made from sustainable, not-recyclable wastes or residues (such as used cooking oil or forestry residues), recycled carbon fuels, PtL fuels. Fuels made from food, feed or energy crops are not currently eligible.
  • It must meet relevant technical specifications for jet fuel and achieve a minimum 40% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction (this minimum threshold to be increased in future years).
  • PtL fuels will be subject to additional criteria to ensure genuine GHG emissions reductions.
Aeroplane cockpit gauges

3. Technological Advancements

The integration of advanced technologies is transforming the aviation landscape. From artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance operational efficiency to the use of drones for various applications, technology is playing a crucial role. The implementation of digital health passports and biometric screening is streamlining the passenger experience and enhancing security.

4. Expansion of Low-Cost Carriers

Low-cost carriers (LCCs) are expanding their market share in the UK. Airlines like Ryanair and easyJet have been aggressively increasing their routes and capacity, making air travel more accessible and affordable. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), LCCs accounted for nearly 40% of the UK’s total air traffic in 2022 and that’s set to rise this year.

5. Supporting the Airlines

The entire aviation industry is growing alongside the airlines from tier 1 suppliers through to OEMs who supply parts and tooling for aircraft maintenance.

The closest airport to CoMech’s HQ is EMA (East Midlands Airport) and it’s the World’s leading eco-friendly airport connecting 4.2 million passengers over 90 destinations every year. They add about £300million to the regional economy every year and are the UK’s busiest pure cargo airport (second only to Heathrow). With a busy Summer ahead, they’ve completed a range of updates to the airport as part of a 5 year £150million investment.

Aeroplane landing gear on runway

Aviation Maintenance and Calibration of Equipment

The safety and reliability of aircraft are paramount in the aviation industry. Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) activities ensure that aircraft are in optimal condition and comply with regulatory standards. Here’s a closer look at the importance of maintenance and calibration in the UK aviation industry.

Importance of Maintenance

Regular maintenance is crucial to ensure the safety, efficiency, and longevity of aircraft. This includes routine inspections, repairs, and the replacement of parts. The UK has a robust MRO sector, with companies like British Airways Maintenance Cardiff and Monarch Aircraft Engineering leading the way. These organisations adhere to strict regulatory standards set by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the CAA.

Calibration of Equipment

Calibration of aircraft instruments and equipment is essential for accurate and reliable performance. Calibration involves the precise adjustment of instruments to ensure they provide correct readings. This process is vital for navigation, communication, and monitoring systems. Inaccurate instruments can lead to severe consequences, including navigation errors and compromised safety.

Technological Integration in Maintenance

The use of advanced technologies is enhancing the effectiveness of maintenance processes. Predictive maintenance, powered by data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT), allows for real-time monitoring of aircraft components. This helps in identifying potential issues before they become critical, thereby reducing downtime and maintenance costs. The use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) is improving training and operational efficiency in MRO activities.

The UK aviation industry is navigating through a period of significant transformation. As the sector recovers from the pandemic, it is embracing sustainability and technological advancements. Simultaneously, the importance of rigorous maintenance and calibration practices cannot be overstated, ensuring the safety and efficiency of air travel. CoMech are proud partners with several aviation businesses supplying safety critical calibration to airlines and the wider sector. With these trends and innovations, the UK aviation industry is poised for a resilient and dynamic future.

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