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10 Predictions for 2021

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10 Predictions for 2021

by John Vincent, IFA CEO

Gradual recovery will start to gain pace as we move through 2021. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is far from beaten. It will continue to be at the top of everyone’s concern. On the positive side the pandemic has created a powerful sense of purpose for some sectors.  Putting that immense challenge to one side, here’s a selection of ten predictions for the coming year.  All with an impact on airworthiness.

  1. Environmental Imperative

Public and media attention will be on the environment. The UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 26) will take place in the UK in November 2021. Research, design and innovation and production all have their part to play in making aircraft ever more environmentally sustainable and safe.  Aviation will need to be well prepared to answer hard questions throughout the year.

  1. Certification Changes

The fallout from the B737MAX story will continue. Changes to the aircraft certification process will be under pressure to advance. This will include the move from prescriptive to performance-based certification, an emphasis on safety management systems, certification offices reorganisation and changes to industry delegations. The push to change will happen in 2021 but much of this will require considerable time to implement fully.

  1. Electrification

It’s not just the work on the creation of new electric aircraft but the accompanying changes in systems, equipment, parts and appliances.  Ever more efficient power controls will develop. Pressure will force the pace of battery technology to ever higher power densities.  Electric aircraft will start to fly in limited commercial roles.  New competences will need to be trained.

  1. UAS Advance

The Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) sector will continue to expand at a high rate. Projects will come and go as industry converges on systems that work both technically, economically and socially.  More and more systems will have the capability to fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). UAV systems will need new skills to support, better resilience engineering and fault tolerance techniques as they become ubiquitous.

  1. GA Revival

General Aviation will see an upturn as new innovations are brought to market. Part 23 applications will keep the aviation authorities busy at a time when there are few new big projects.  Business aviation will come out of the pandemic well. With this the associated support infrastructure, in particular MRO will see a boost in fortunes. Safety will be a concern for aerial work operations.

  1. Commercial Shifts

Aviation’s stressed finances will drive reorganisations and consolidations of business. China is potentially the world’s largest air travel market. India has ambitions. This will impact global design, production and maintenance as much as aircraft operations.  In aerospace, who does what and where will undergo big shifts.  New partnerships will grow.

  1. Government Intervention

Recognising the vital part played by air transport, particularly at times of crisis Governments will be supporting the industry by funding basic research and encouraging growth sectors. There will be greater recognition of how aviation contributes to the vitality of economies.  This support maybe unevenly spread and ill focused but will be welcome.

  1. Cyber security

The importance of cyber security will be raised.  Much off-the-shelf equipment used in aviation and engineering will come under greater scrutiny.  New vulnerabilities will be discovered as a result of accidents and incidents. Regulators will look closely at a common approach to both safety and security.  Training and bringing specialist together to fight malicious behaviours will get a lift.

  1. Cabin Upgrade

Post pandemic aircraft operators will wish to engineer aircraft cabins that are more comfortable and attuned to public health needs.  To get people traveling again there’s a need to make a journey fly by.  The connection of aircraft passengers via satellite technology will become commonplace and cheaper.  New technology for cleaning aircraft will find its place in operations.

  1. Spin-offs

Conventional civil aviation will get a boost from the supersonic, hypersonic and space projects.  Spin off aerospace technologies will find their way into everyday flying. Innovation and innovators will be given more prominence.

At a global level, the aviation industry is facing lots of problems. This concentrates minds and drives change sometimes in unexpected ways. Despite the doom and gloom of 2020, there’s a lot to look forward to in 2021.


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