Affiliations: Zuster Gerarduslaan, Nootdorp, The Netherlands
Note:  Corresponding author: Ad de Graaff, Director AD Cuenta Consultancy, Zuster Gerarduslaan 34, 2632 DS Nootdorp, The Netherlands. Tel./Fax: +31 6 30403745; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract: Air transport operations and aircraft design are currently governed by incremental improvements. Before the year 2000 once every 16 years there was a step change in civil aircraft design, often as a result of external factors like military aircraft developments or the increase of oil prices after 1972. Step changes are seldom due to business or technological developments within the system itself. The introduction of the tourist class travel in the early 1950's and the new low cost carriers are one of the few examples of a step change in aviation based on market developments as such. The basic concept of airports has not changed since the 1930s, air traffic management is still based on concepts out of the same year, new aircraft look like the first generation of civil jets etc. Is the sector mature and do we still need technological research that is governed by the law of diminishing returns? Can the sector find answers to new challenges that lay ahead? Just to mention a few: environmental pressures often leading to curtailing of air transport; the availability, accessibility and pricing of oil; scarce materials; focus on customer orientation and multi modal solutions; competition from new countries like China and India that experience high growth rates and can spend far more money on R&D to become leading aviation countries. Are we looking for creative solutions for long term problems and are we stimulating the younger generation to think out of the box to enable a totally different air transport system in 2050? Initial analysis shows that the education systems do not sufficiently stimulate creative thinking by the new generation. During the EU sponsored Out of the Box (in 2006) and CREATE project (in 2010) the author together with Trevor Truman experimented with mechanisms to stimulate creative thinking through dedicated workshops and result assessments. They invited experts to add new ideas to a number of ideas the author presented at the ACARE Aerodays in 2005. The results were encouraging although perhaps a few percent of all 130 ideas generated seem to be promising in the end. These ideas relate to both the overall air transport system, the different elements of that system and breakthrough technologies. The CREATE project recommended to the European Commission to continue the initiatives to generate novel ideas and to enable funding for incubation of the most promising ones. New ideas need to be formulated. These do not always need to be fundamentally new but can be based on ideas from the past that were not followed up for example due to the limited technological knowledge at the time of invention. But humans may resist and are afraid of change. An example is the idea of air taxi and regional air transport operations in Europe. Instead of emphasizing the possible benefits, people will stress the possible negative elements like increased noise around regional airports. Whilst using the argument of safety, many novel ideas are killed at an early stage. In that sense, regulation is often a barrier for innovation. There is a need to intensify the search for novel ideas. Universities will have a major task in this process as the industry and research establishments are more and more short term oriented. Creative thinking processes will therefore need to be a permanent element of the university curricula.
Keywords: Future aviation, out of the Box thinking, innovation