There have been numerous predictions on the coming of the air cargo boom and how we are preparing to meet the challenge of an all-cargo air transportation system. There are, however, certain influences of a serious nature that have not been addressed.
This paper does not address how great things are for air cargo, but rather how we must prepare now for an environment-compatible air cargo transportation system. It will also look at what technology is prepared to contribute along these lines and to other types of problems that technology alone cannot solve.
One single factor offers a strong deterrent to the development of such a system; today's economic pressures place industry in a position that it is prohibitive for any one element to underwrite the research, development, and production cost of a new aircraft, much less a new approach to air cargo transportation. Also, there are other facets of the overall environment that exert significant influences on the shape and design of an all -cargo air transportation system.
In light of this fact, consideration must also be given to national problems that affect two of the largest departments in our government, namely the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Defense (DOD). The DOT has a responsibility to see that our domestic transportation needs are met in the future both on the surface and in the air, including ecological effects, i.e., noise, pollution, and fuel conservation. Technology has permitted significant gains in these areas, however, a transport aircraft designed specifically for minimum fuel consumption and maximum operational efficiency for commercial operation has not yet been produced. The reason for this lies, at least partially, in the inability to establish a coordinated set of requirements and needs of the shipper and surface transportation industry.
The DOT has predicted that the U. S. demand for domestic cargo transportation will approximately double in the next 20 years. The DOT has also expressed concern over the difficulties that surface transportation will have in absorbing an increase of this magnitude. They would like to see the air cargo industry absorb some 5 to 10 percent of this growth. In order to accomplish this by 1990, the present air cargo system must be expanded through planned programs which will fully define the market and system requirements. These requirements involve still another DOT responsibility which is to assure that an adequate Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) is available to the military during national emergencies.
In the future, the military must depend heavily on the CRAF to meet such an emergency. There is not an adequate number of heavy cargo airlift airplanes in the CRAF today to support the military. The Department of Defense (DOD) is dedicated to maintaining a formidable position within the political environment, hence, the responsibility to maintain an adequate national defense posture, requiring a tremendous heavy cargo airlift capability during national emergencies. Of principal concern here are the mounting pressures relating to the world balance of power, overseas troop withdrawals, remote presence, and overall military response capability. This is of prime significance since this may be the area that will shape the foundation for an all -cargo air transportation system; one that will fulfill the requirements of commercial and military aviation in times of peace, brief national emergencies, or global warfare. Technology has contributed substantially to the capability of maintaining our current military posture. There are, however, related problems within the political environment that technology alone cannot solve.
The DOD and DOT are jointly aligned in the physical environment to the extent that they are similarly allied in the ecological and political arena. The elements of concern in the physical category include requirements of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF), coordination of commercial and military design objectives, market definition, and joint industry/government efforts required to sustain system definition. It must be recognized here, too, that while technology is applicable, it is not the paramount issue in resolving the problems of an environment-compatible air cargo system. The primary effort must be in systemdefinition - and this has effectively begun with Project INTACT, a joint industry/government program dedicated to this purpose.
Hence, there is a common problem to be solved and there are three principal problem areas that must be addressed in advancing an all -cargo air transportation system. Collectively these problems are of an environmental nature - specifically, they fall into three categories - ecological, political, and physical.