The purpose of the present study is to provide an evolutionary history
of the aviation industry with a focus on the application of modern
technology and aviation logistics in design and production of more
efficient aircraft. Aviation industry have been evolving from flying of
objects that were lighter than air to the modern era when objects
heavier than air can fly at supersonic speed. Design and development of
large cargo airlifters was driven by the need for airlifting military
facilities, humanitarian aid in the post war period, and later by need
for efficiency in commercial air transport. Aviation logistics have
evolved from simple logistic techniques to MALSP I and MALSP II programs
that have improved efficiency and changed the way things are done in the
aviation industry. The use of new technology and new system have enabled
designers to counter environmental, fuel efficiency, speed, and safety
challenges with the aviation industry.
Key words: Aviation industry, evolution, new technology, cargo
airlifters, aviation logistics.
The History and Evolution of Aviation Logistics
Aviation has an extensive history that stretches from human attempt to
fly simple objects (such as kites) to the modern supersonic, heavier
than air, and hypersonic flying objects. The evolution process within
aviation industry has been guided by human desire to overcome emerging
challenges such as responsiveness to emerging challenges in both
civilian and military operations, enhance agility, and flexibility.
Despite the strong urge to improve aviation industry for easy
transportation of human and cargo there are several factors that are
inevitable in aviation research. These factors include the cost-benefit
of aviation facilities, speed, carrying capacity, reliability, and
safety of flying aircraft (Middel & Hoolhorst, 2005). These key
priorities in the aviation industry are pursued with the integration of
modern technology and application of logistics to improve and produce
aircraft that can transport large cargo for long distance within the
required urgency. Airlifting of large, heavy, and bulky cargo using
heavier than air jets is the most significant breakthrough that
researchers in the aviation industry have made in their endeavor to
improve civilian and military operations.
Statement of purpose
The aviation industry has undergone drastic changes especially in the
last few decades of the twentieth century. The initial desire for human
beings to fly was out of curiosity, but it was replaced by desire to
enhance efficiency of military operations during the First and the
second World Wars. The need for transportation of large cargo for
humanitarian aid in post war periods also created the demand for large
aircraft that could fulfill that purpose. The successful design and
development of military airlifters formed the basis of commercial
aircraft that could airlift large, bulky, and heavy cargo for long
distance within a short time. The purpose of this paper is tack the
evolutionary history of these developments with a focus on the role
played by aviation logistics and new technology in fast tracking
innovation in the aviation industry.
The research paper will be guided by the following research questions
what is the evolutionary history of the aviation industry? What is the
history of cargo aircraft development? What is the history of aviation
logistics? What role has new technology and integration of new system
played in evolution of the aviation industry? Based on current rate of
development in the aviation industry, what is the future of cargo air
The structure of the current study consists of five parts. The first
part provides provide a brief history of the aviation industry staring
the period when man flew objects that were lighter than air to the
current period when objects that are heavier than air and fly at
extraordinary speed and carry huge large cargo. This part also addresses
the need to improve on speed, carrying capacity, and the overall
efficiency of air transport.
The second part addresses the history of cargo transport by air, which
resulted from the need to enhance efficiency in military operations in
early twentieth century. The World War II also increased the need for
development of large cargo airlifters.
The third part addresses the importance of logistics in the aviation
industry and their contributions towards the modern innovation. The main
focus is the MALSP I and MALSP II programs.
The fourth part provides a discussion of the contribution of modern
technology and integration of new systems in development of more
The fifth part focuses on future expectations in the aviation industry
in terms of aircraft designs, efficiency in human and cargo transport,
and military operations.
The paper concludes that airlifting of large, heavy, and bulky cargo is
the major breakthrough the aviation industry, which has improved
efficiency in military and civilian operations.
A brief evolutionary history of the aviation industry
Aviation began in the fifteenth century when people began flying
lighter than air objects such as balloon, kite, and airships (Global
Aircraft, 2002). This idea of flying objects in air was exploited
following the discovery that air could support objects that are lighter
than it, just as water supported boats. This was followed by study of
birds’ flight, which resulted in design of parachutes and airscrews.
However, the design of a parachute with flipping wings was impractical
since human muscles could not produce sufficient energy to generate the
flight and the designed remained a suggestion. The need for power to
generate flight resulted in active thinking, design, and production of a
power driven aircraft in 1903 by the Wright brothers (Oeville and
Wilbur) (Global Aircraft, 2002). This marked the begging of human
ability to produce heavier than air objects. Application of aircraft in
military operations gained significance in during the World War I when
heavy aircraft that used multiple engines were used as bomb carriers and
biplane bombers. Further development and innovation took place during
the World War II when rocket propelled aircraft and jets were produced
and used in large scale in military operations.
Recent developments in the aviation industry have focused on improved
speed, carrying capacity, and efficiency, and economies of scale in
cargo transport. The high demand for aircraft during the World War II
resulted in the development of basic technology (aerodynamics, radar,
and jet propulsion) that researchers required to produce improved
aircraft. The Boeing Company, the largest aircraft manufacture by then,
had acquired sufficient technology and resources to large and faster
aircraft with pressurized cargo cabins for transportation of large,
heavy and bulky cargoes. The emerging aerodynamic designs, development
of power, and metal plants resulted in the production of turbojet
aircraft that could make transoceanic flights at supersonic speed. The
production of wide body jets propelled with multiple engines in 1969 by
the Boeing Company was a significant breakthrough in the production of
cargo carrying jets with reasonable economies of scale. The basic
technology have been advanced to facilitate the production of the world
largest aircraft Antonov An-225 Mriya, which has a cargo holding
capacity of 46,000 cubic feet and cruising speed of 528 mph (Slobodian,
History of Cargo aircraft
Airlifting of cargo began in 1911, but the aircraft used for air mail
services were not designed for that purpose. Design and development of
dedicated cargo aircraft began in the twenties, but the models were
derivatives of passenger aircraft. Although cargo aircraft are widely
used for commercial purposes, the main drive towards the design and
development of large cargo aircraft was the need to transport large
number of troops and their necessities during wars within the shortest
time possible. In early 1920, the British leadership was faced with the
challenge of airlifting troops and other materials in tribal revolts in
the Middle East. The solution was found in 1923 when the first aircraft
named the Royal Air Force (RAF) was developed and used to airlift over
500 Sikh troops and military materials in Iraq within a short range
(Hamilton, 2013). The success of RAF in conducting combat and military
evacuation operations paved way for further design and development of
long-range combat and non-combat aircraft such as Vickers Victoria.
However, the first designs were also constructed for multipurpose and
could transport passengers (including the troops), their luggage, and
other materials such as weapons.
The design and development of aircraft that were purely intended for
transportation of cargo began in during the World War II when Germany
designed a cargo airlifter named Arado Ar 232 (Giovan, 2012). Being the
first, design of the cargo aircraft, Arado Ar 232 brought together the
standard features (such as box like fuselage, rear loading ramp, and
high tail) of a cargo airlifter. The interesting features included in
the Arado Ar 232 and efficiency in loading and offloading created an
interest in further research, design and development of other cargo
aircraft. Arado Ar 232 was designed with tail control surface mounted on
the long boom that kept the door area clear for trucks to drive to the
ramp, thus making the loading and offloading process faster and cheap
(Giovan, 2012). All these developments were directed towards enhancing
efficiency of the Germany forces during the World War II by supplying
materials in all allied nations.
The initial drive towards the design and development of cargo aircraft
was the need to enhance military operations during the World War II.
This motive was replaced by high demand for humanitarian operation in
the aftermath of the World War II. The free world engaged in
humanitarian operations that involved the massive supply of food and
other necessities to West Merlin residents in the postwar period and
during the Cold War. The increasing demand of rapid and efficient supply
of large cargoes triggered the design of modernized air cargo with
numerous experimental features, thus revolutionizing the aviation
industry. For example, the C-82 Packet designed in the United States had
a removable cargo area while C-123 Provide was designed with an upswept
tail (National Museum of the US Air Force, 2013). Moreover, the
successful design of military and humanitarian airlifters paved way for
design of commercial cargo aircraft. This resulted in the design and
development of the modern aircraft (such as the Hughes H-4 Hercules,
Boeing 747 Dream lifter, and Airbus A380) with extraordinary carrying
History of aviation logistics
The field of aviation logistics gained significance following the
increasing need to transport cargo for long distance especially the
intercontinental voyages. The primary goal of employing aviation
logistics is to ensure that cargo aircraft have all that is needed for
effective transportation and the flight is well organized. In military
aviation dockets, these roles are played by logistic squadrons.
According to Johns (2012) the first squadron was activated in marine
aviation in 1921, but the name and approach towards aviation logistics
have undergone significant reforms since then. Despite these changes in
aviation logistics, the main objectives remain the same and include
provision of guidance and direction to squadrons in flight and provision
of unparallel logistic support in aviation. Initial aviation logistics
were established to provide support to aircraft in the battlefield, but
they were later adopted for other military and civilian operations.
Efforts towards the establishment of an effective aviation logistics
began in 1980s when the Marine Aviation Logistics Support Program
abbreviated as MALSP was set up (Yasaki, 2010). The first MALSP system
was designed with a focus on mass transportation of parts, people,
mobile facilities, and support equipment. Using this concept, tons of
mobile facilities and spare parts could be piled on an iron mountain
that was then pushed to support the aviation combat element (ACE). This
was a representation of Cold War approach, which involved transportation
of all facilities into the combat zone. This was replaced by MALSP II,
which represented a shift towards the demand pull logistics. The system
was established to eliminate the practice of forwarding all facilities
into the combat zone and initiate the practice of slicing pars,
equipment, and mobile facilities into smaller parts. MALSP II system
consist of two parts namely, programs that are designed to help
logisticians in doing their job more efficiently and changing how they
measure and think of what they do.
The first objective of MALSP II (help people do their job efficiently)
is achieved through the integration of information technology in
aviation logistics following the increase in the need for asset
visibility. MALSP II assists logisticians to utilize information
technology functionalities in enhancing worldwide visibility of assets,
logistic planning, and placement of scarce facilities. Further research
and development efforts are directed towards the integration of near
real-time and real-time scan functionalities in order to enhance
efficiency in the aviation industry. In addition, Yasaki (2010)
identified that MALSP II is undergoing significant transformation, which
is being accomplished through the integration of new capabilities
(including the modular delivery containers and cargo unmanned aircraft
system) that will shape the future of aviation logistics.
The second objective of MALSP II is changing how things are measured and
done, which is accomplished with the help of multiple programs. AIRSpeed
is one of the programs that were developed in 2004 on the basis of six
sigma model with the main objective of enhancing efficiency in process
flow (Yasaki, 2010). In addition, the completion of end-to-end program
will establish the link between the continuous improvement program (CIP)
end of spectrum and the opposite end to work with common measurements,
metrics, and to pursue the same goals. This implies that E2E alignment
will facilitate the relationship between the squadron where facilities
are needed and the government agencies that are expected to provide the
necessary support. The goals, metrics, and measurements will be sources
from naval aviation enterprise (NAE’s) current readings. These will
help in the redefinition of how performance of cargo aircraft is
measured, parameters used in the measurement, and why each of these
parameters is used. Pursuance of the two objectives of MALSP II in
military aviation logistics will reduce the time to reliably replenish
(TRR), thus enhancing the capacity to transport reasonable packages of
support equipment, parts, and mobile facilities, which will improve
efficiency and reduce strain.
Development of new technology and systems in the aviation industry
The aviation industry has undergone significant changes within the last
one hundred years, but drastic changes have occurred in the last few
decades following the integration of modern technology in development of
new systems. Technological application in the aviation industry focuses
at the resolution of various challenges, which include the safety of
aircraft, fuel efficiency, speed, and cost efficiency. The traffic alert
and collision avoidance system (TCAS) was developed to reduce the
occurrence of mid-air collision between large aircraft (Kuchar & Drumm,
2007). TCAS acts as decision support system that is used in complex
aircraft and high-tempo systems. This system functions by integrating
and balancing operational constraints, sensor characteristics maneuver
coordination, aircraft dynamics, and human elements in time-critical
circumstances. The system has been gaining significance with the
increase in production of unmanned aircraft for cargo delivery, sea-lane
monitoring, and military surveillance (Kochenderfer, Espindle, Kuchar &
Griffith, 2008). Lincoln Laboratory have been suggested improvements on
TCAS to reduce the risk of occurrence of mid-air collision like the 2002
collision between the cargo airlifter (Boeing B-757) and a passenger
aircraft (Tu-154) that occurred in Russia (Kochenderfer, Espindle,
Kuchar & Griffith, 2008).
Integration of computer aided system in cargo and military aircraft has
become a commonplace practice. The avionic systems used in development
of modern aircraft is composed of an intensive software system and made
in an advanced technology (Ananda, Venkatanarayana & Raghu, 2011). This
is a departure from the use of early models of avionic systems that were
made of federated architecture and relied on line replaceable units
(LRU) that had individual resources in each of its application. The
functions of early systems relied on redundant software and hardware
that reduced their efficiency. The use of integrated architecture of
avionics has reduced developmental efforts, weight, and volume.
Components of a modern avionic system include navigation, engine
indication, data acquisition and recording system, and communication.
In addition, modern aircraft are equipped with avionic systems that are
composed of digital communication system, digital autopilot instruments,
and crew alert system. The developmental progress that has been achieved
in modernizing the avionic system has reduced the cost of its
maintenance and increased system availability. Currently, integration of
digital-based display system in aircraft is a requirement (Ananda,
Venkatanarayana & Raghu, 2011). The display system is a form of
human-machine interface that creates a link between the pilot and the
Aircraft designers have been trying to come up with models that are fuel
efficient in an attempt to address the issue of cost-benefit in the
aviation industry. According to Middel & Hoolhorst (2005) the use of
aircraft for commercial purpose (such as transportation of business
cargo) created the urge to reduce fuel consumption in every
seat-kilometer. This issue has been addressed since 1930s by replacement
of piston engines with jet engines. The research shows that fuels
consumption in every seat-kilometer was reduced by 70 % from 1960 to
2000. Apart from cost benefits importance of fuel consumption
efficiency, environmental pollution is also an important consideration
in reducing fuel consultation in aircraft. The aviation industry
contributed 3.5 % of the greenhouse emission globally, but it was not
included in the Kyoto protocol. Despite the lack of external regulations
and pressure to regulate gas emission, the stakeholders in the aviation
industry have been conscious enough to employ innovation in reduces fuel
consumption. This has been achieved through aerodynamic efficiency,
weight efficiency, and engine efficiency (Middel & Hoolhorst, 2005).
Wing modification is one of the components considerations made by
aircraft designers when addressing the need to increasing the speed of
aircraft. The design and development of a blended wing body that is used
for subsonic transport was a significant breakthrough in aviation
industry. The blended wing body increased the safety of air transport by
addressing the issue of reduction in surface area available for
emergency egress (Liebeck, 2004). This was accomplished through wing
configuration, which was performed by effective wing masking by disk
fuselage that reduced the aerodynamic wetted area. In the blended wing
body design cargo, passengers, and aircraft systems are bundled within
the wing. This creates the need to maintain a reasonable
thickness-to-cord ration that is higher than that of a transonic
airfoil. In addition, designers reduced the maximum lift coefficient
since blended wing body control surface could not be used as flaps.
Research shows that the blended wing body has an improved performance
efficiency compared with conventional design. The blended wing body
reduced the takeoff weight by 15 % and fuel consumption in every seat
mile by 27 % (Liebeck, 2004).
Future development in cargo air transport
Despite the great achievement made in aeronautics, research is ongoing
with objectives of designing and developing aircraft of the future,
which will have a reduced level of fuel consumption, gas emission,
multiple fuselage models, and less perceived noise. Boekeloo (2012)
proposed several technological approaches (include usual and new
architectures) that are likely to improve the future aircraft models.
First, development of a standard wing and tube will reduce the hoop
stress that is required for cabin pressure. Secondly, the development of
truss-braced wings will contribute towards the reduction of wing
thickness, thus lowering wave drug. This will also reduce the blending
moments of wings, which will accommodate the use of lighter wings or
larger spans. Third, the design and development of an extruding flying
wing will reduce superficial airfoil and aerodynamic moment, which will
subsequently reduce wave drug. Fourth, development of multiple fuselages
will reduce the length of fuselage and provide a reliable noise shield.
The current trend shows that aircraft designers are investing time and
resources in deigning efficient cargo aircraft following the increase in
demand for commercial, humanitarian, and military transportation of
large, bulky, heavy cargo for long distance. Buoyancy is the major
challenge that designers are facing in developing the large airlifters.
According to Boyle (2011) the ongoing research may result in the
development of cargo aircraft that will be taking off and landing
vertically in order to vary its buoyancy. This will be accomplished by
integrating a system that will facilitate regular compression and
decompression of helium, which will vary the aircraft density in order
to control its static heaviness. Research also shows that ballast
management from interior will help designers in controlling aircraft
buoyancy (RT Network, 2013). The design of the Super-zeppelin is
perceived to be a major revolutionary milestone in development of
heavy-payload aircraft that will revolutionize the long-range hauling
and increase efficiency of cargo transport.
Airlifting of large, heavy, and bulky cargo using heavier than air jets
is the most significant breakthrough that researchers in the aviation
industry have made in their endeavor to improve civilian and military
operations. Human desire to fly like began in the fifteenth century, but
the realization of this ambition faced difficulties that delayed its
accomplishment until in the twentieth century. Flying of simple objects
(such as kites) paved way for developed of complex lighter than air and
later heavier than air objects. This means that modern aircraft have
been developed based on simple discoveries and observations of nature
especially the flying of birds. The present research reveals that the
main driving forces in aviation revolution include the need to enhance
efficiency in air transport, the need to transport large cargo in
civilian and military operations, reduce fuel consumption, environmental
conservation, and increased safety of air transport.
Aviation logistics have undergone significant development that has
resulted in proper organization of aircraft voyages and equipment of
aircraft. The development of MALSP I and MALSP II are important
milestones towards improvement of aviation logistics. The two programs
improved efficiency of in the aviation industry and changed the ways are
done. Utilization of modern technology improved efficiency in the
aviation industry, which results in emergence of new and innovative
models of aircraft at a faster rate. The new aircraft design approaches
that are dependent on computer software and hardware have allowed the
integration of digital technology in the aviation industry, which gives
a promise of future aircraft models that will be safe, environmentally
friendly, carry large cargo, and fly faster than previous generations of
aircraft. In addition, the future generations of aircraft may integrate
unique features such as trust based wings, multiple fuselages, and
standard wing and tube.
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