Systems Of Systems Ideas

System of System Idea are ideas that would impact upon the whole concept of the air transport system and inevitably lead to widespread changes in the system. Some examples are given in the table below.

The Airborne Metro

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The concept
This vast concept envisages an era when climate changing emissions, ground congestion and noise pollution will no longer be acceptable at their presently forecast levels. It seeks to sustain the apparently unlimited demands of people for travel without the huge penalties that these are beginning to impose.
The concept depends upon the feasibility of very large flight vehicles, perhaps carrying over 3000 passengers and for these eventually to be nuclear powered. These large "Air Cruisers" would stay aloft on a semi-permanent basis receiving their loads of passengers, freight and supplies in mid-air.
The concept does not require every airport or airline to be compatible with the cruiser concept but most of the large hubs would need to be capable of working in this way.
Starting from the top level of the concept we could have the Airborne Metro system populated entirely by these long-range cruisers. They would travel on predictable, efficient looping paths that take each individual cruiser near to several major population hubs. Their flight paths would also be arranged to intersect with those of other cruisers so that links could be made to anywhere on the global cruiser network by changing from one cruiser to another.
Cruiser tracks would be followed by a considerable number of similar cruisers each following the other at intervals of perhaps an hour. They would be controlled from the ground and have defined track and altitude instructions together with emergency diversion paths. The North Atlantic route might have 20 or 30 cruisers in its looping path from Europe over New York, Washington and Chicago to Los Angeles and back. Reverse tracks would also be flown to provide more convenience for passenger routing.
At the level of the air-cruiser the system has many attributes of a metro system. It works to fixed routes, it has interchange locations and passengers can usually choose between several routes for the most popular journeys.
Interchanges present specific challenges requiring two cruisers to fly with precision and to dock together whilst airborne for the exchange of passengers.
Feeding the cruisers with passengers and freight would require a fleet of locally based aircraft probably of a standard specification and carry 100-200 passengers. These aircraft would be equipped with docking facilities allowing them to link with the cruisers. The internal arrangements of the aircraft would also reflect this special to role design. For example the loading of personal baggage might need to be streamlined to allow hold bags to be pax-loaded into a designated cargo pod for transfer to the correct cruiser flight.
These feeder aircraft could take off from conventional airports, with or without ground power assist schemes1, and would then fly an intersect course to permit docking with the cruiser and the transfer of passengers. The height, location and duration of these manoeuvres would need to be optimised to give the least impact on journey times and greatest economy. Preliminary calculations suggest that a round trip feeder link from ground base to ground base might last about two hours. This would imply that the passenger takes about one hour from the departure lounge at ground base to being installed in the cruiser. Feeder aircraft would fly relatively fixed routes and be to a "frills-free" concept of mass transportation since the average occupancy time would be something under an hour.
Airport congestion could be materially reduced by such a concept. Airports would have very many fewer VLCT movements and would, instead, be focussed on the rapid throughput of passengers onto and from feeder airlines. This would allow the airport to be re-designed to permit, for example, 4 runway operation and materially reduce airport holding populations. Passengers would have to take responsibility for part of this transaction and ensure that they boarded the correct feeder for their destination. Booking "hard" tickets for a particular flight might be phased out in favour of a controlled board-when-you-come approach. Improvements in the power and reach of computer processes by the time of introduction would no doubt allow this to be adequately controlled with least passenger inconvenience and waiting. This would to a major extent compensate for the additional travel time induced by the feeder/cruiser link. Passengers arriving at the airport would be able to register for a seat in the next cruiser available and thereby spend less time at the airport

The concepts address two basic elements of the airborne metro:

  • Delivering benefits,
  • Policy issues.

For a full account on teh airborne metro, please click here.


Ground Power Augmentation

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The concept
Conceptually envisages using ground provided power through devices mounted on the airfield to assist T/O or landing. The benefits perceived for such use are that the aircraft might then be able to fly using less installed power and to use less energy taking off and landing than would otherwise have been the case. The benefits would be expressed in reduced carbon emissions and in lower costs. The devices put forward include catapults, ramps, wind-tunnels, magnetic forces, cables and winches.

The concepts address three basic elements of ground power augmentation:

  • Delivering benefits - the take-off phase,
  • Delivering benefits - the landing phase,
  • Policy issues.

For a full account on ground power augmentation, please click here.


Future Airport Systems

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The concept
Airports are an essential element in the Air Transport System (ATS). Airports were started as aerodromes, where the boarding of passengers was the essential function. Since then airports have diversified into hubs and more regional airports where there is a strong desire to be more than an aerodrome and many airports have become a combination of air station, shopping mall, business centre and parking lot.
Unless the ATS will become completely structured around VTOL aircraft, airport functions are here to stay. Airports are related to 4 major elements in the ATS system of systems: the passenger; the ATS security; the ATS capacity and the surroundings of airports. There is also a strong relation to multi-modal transport chains.
If air transport is to grow, sufficient airport capacity will be needed. At this time, the 43 European hub airports that still handle 85% of the European traffic are congested and some are reaching the limits of their capacity.
There are some 2200 other airports in Europe (including 450 main regional airports) that are currently underutilised. But these airports are often not located at the main populated areas of Europe where traffic flows are most densely.
The development of the airside of airports has not changed much since air transport started. The way passengers, cargo and planes are handled is basically the same as 50 years ago (although many processes have been automated).
The additional security measures that are needed in air transport of today have complicated the procedures at airports. Many passengers will experience time consuming and sometimes humiliating security checks, which are not designed to handle large numbers of passengers at the same time. Different organisations have to work together at an airport which easily creates disruptions in handling passengers and goods.
It is time, therefore, to have a fresh look at the airport operations and to develop new ways to handle passengers and goods at these nodal points. We must keep in mind the ACARE target, that a passenger should not be obliged to spend more time at the airport than 15 to 30 min. from arrival at the airport to boarding a plane.

The concepts address three basic elements of future airport systems:

  • The passengers,
  • Capacity increase,
  • Delivering benefits,
  • Policy issues.

For a full account on future airport systems, please click here.


Personal Transport Systems

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Every science fiction writer of the 1950’s seemed to incorporate some kind of personal flying machine. The prospect seemed glittering. People of apparently ordinary means could load up, take off and travel in uncrowded skies to visit relatives. Today we have the same ambitions but a greater realism about the challenges that will present themselves. We are, however, also armed with infinitely greater technologies and so the time to re-examine such Personal Transportation Systems [PTS] is appropriate. Today’s concepts are more varied and more practical than Waldo Waterman’s "Whatsit" of 1935 with its detachable wings and car-like fuselage.
The literature is rich in both historical and current attempts to crack this attractive nut. Agencies such as NASA and Boeing down to individuals in sheds at home are equally taken with the concept. Some 70 concepts are being worked on today, some have reached flight trials and some remain, probably firmly, locked into the concept stage. None have yet been effectively marketed or sold on the world market although some, like the Wallis Autogyro come tolerably close to the concept. The design of PTS vehicles is extraordinarily varied with concepts for jet-packs, personal flying machines, aero-cars and others.
The more serious teams recognise that designing the air vehicle is only a relatively small part of overcoming the challenges. It seems likely that this small part will be solved in this century. The other challenges remain, although they too are receiving attention. The issue of control by an unskilled pilot, the doubtful quality of runways that will be used, the big issue of safety and congestion, the question of policing, of licensing and regulation, the resilience to bad weather and the pilot’s ability to take this into account are all issues that now hold the attention of the serious PTS builder.
Most builders follow the strict line of the PTS, a personal aircraft. But other ideas envisage the creation of individual lifting devices that could serve to lift one many in their singular form and when coupled together or separately attached to a load could lift heavier objects. Some single central controller is foreseen to manage the units and to direct the flight.


Future Airline Systems

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The concept
The concept of an airline has remained almost unchanged since the dawn of air travel. A state or business buys and operates aircraft and charges passengers and freight to travel on them – it calls itself an airline. They operate from airports that will usually be owned by others and they pay fees for the use of these airports. In later years, this simple model has necessarily needed to be changed in detail. As airport congestion has increased, the notion of the airline owning take-off slots has become more dominant. The trend to out-sourcing catering supplies has led to the formation of great enterprises specialising in this work for many airlines.
In recent years the pressure on the major hub airports and the increasing amount of time that passengers are asked to spend there has raised again the originating idea of point-to-point journeys. The latest major change to the air travel industry has been the advent of the Low Cost Carriers (LCC) which has accounted for a large fraction of recent increases in travel.
Under present expectations air traffic is set to increase – by as much as 4-5 % per annum for passengers and up to 6 % per annum for freight. Over two or three decades this would equate to massive additional demands on every aspect of air travel. It is possible that some of the enshrined conventions of the airline industry will be under pressure and need new models of business if the challenges of the late 21st Century are to be met. Several ideas were put forward that bear upon this possibility.

The concepts address three basic elements of future airline systems:

  • The airline airport
  • Airline business models
  • Revisiting slot allocations

For a full account on future airline systems, please click here.

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