• An implementation plan to achieve all of the above, including a clear understanding of government and industry roles in developing precompetitive and noncompetitive aeronautical research and transitioning the results of civil and military government research to commercial development.

  1. A comprehensive suite of system models should be developed, validated, and maintained to support informed decision making throughout the process. Models should encompass the following:

    • demand

    • economics

    • environmental effects

    • existing and new technologies

    • human performance

    • interactions with other modes of transportation

    • new operational concepts

    • organizational factors

    • security threats and preventive measures

    • system engineering

    • transition (from old to new technologies, systems, and organizational structures)

  1. A commitment should be made to support a stable long-term research program to provide the knowledge, tools, and technologies needed throughout the process. At a low level, the research program should investigate innovative research ideas that challenge accepted precepts.

The Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry issued a report in 2002 with recommendations for federal action to ensure that the United States would maintain a robust aerospace industry in the 21st century. The scope of the Aerospace Commission’s report is much broader than that of this report, and the Vision 2050 Committee was not chartered to validate the results of the Aerospace Commission. However, many of the findings and recommendations in this report are supported by the Aerospace Commission’s recommendations:

Recommendation #1. The integral role aerospace plays in our economy, our security, our mobility, and our values makes global leadership in aviation … a national imperative…. The Commission, therefore, recommends that the United States boldly pioneer new frontiers in aerospace technology….

Recommendation #2. The Commission recommends transformation of the U.S. air transportation system as a national priority….

Recommendation #9…. basic aerospace research … enhances U.S. national security, enables breakthrough capabilities, and fosters an efficient, secure and safe aerospace transportation system (Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry, 2002).

A final word on the current state of the air transportation industry in the United States. As recently as the summer of 2001, many travelers were dreading air transportation because of extensive delays associated with undercapacity of the system. That all changed on 9/11. Demand for air transportation has not yet returned to peak levels. Most U.S. airlines continue to struggle for survival, and some have filed for bankruptcy. The situation undermines the argument that strong action is urgently needed to avert a crisis of undercapacity in the air transportation system. Yet that remains the case. History shows that crises of confidence or international conflict can depress the demand for air transportation, but only over the short term. In every earlier situation, the long-term trend of increasing demand has reasserted itself. Assuming that current events have fundamentally and permanently changed public demand for transportation by air is not a sound basis for planning the long-term future of the air transportation system. Current events have provided an opportunity to get ahead of the problem; hopefully government and industry will be able to make the most of this opportunity.


Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry. 2002. Final report of the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, Office of Aerospace. Available online at <www.aerospacecommission.gov/AeroCommissionFinalReport.pdf>.

Mandeles, M. 1998. The Development of the B-52 and Jet Propulsion. Maxwell Air Force Base, Al.: Air University Press. Available online at <www.maxwell.af.mil/au/aul/aupress/Books/Mandeles_B52/PDF/Mandeles.pdf>.

Moss, S., 1944. Gas turbines and superchargers. Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers 66:351–371. Cited in <http://www.asme.org/history/brochures/h100.pdf>.

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