On January 1, 1914 the airline industry was born.
A visionary entrepreneur named Percival Fansler brought together investors, a pilot and an aircraft. And Abram C Pheil paid US$400 to cross from Florida’s St Petersburg to Tampa in just over 20 minutes.
Over the next 100 years, commercial aviation transformed the world in ways in which those early pioneers barely could have imagined. The first century of commercial flight has given people freedom to push back boundaries, embark on adventures and satisfy their curiosity about the world.
Today we take for granted the ability to use that freedom to connect safely across enormous distances with friends and family, link together businesses and markets, knit together ideas and concepts, grow friendships and transport goods. Even as the internet grew virtual connectivity, the demand for people to travel and meet only increased.
This year double the 1.6 billion people who travelled in 2000 will fly. Change is at the heart of the story of commercial aviation’s first 100 years. Markets were opened for entrepreneurs to bring their products and ideas to the world. People came together to solve problems. Cross-cultural understanding flourished as people explored the world for business, adventure or learning.
Now it would be hard to find any business that is not in some way touched by commercial aviation. More than a third of the goods traded internationally are delivered by air. In excess of $2.2 trillion of economic activity is supported by air transport. And air cargo supply chains are integrated into businesses ranging from your local florist, grocer, pharmacist or jewellery shop to those that manufacture your phone, TV or car.
With the growth of commercial aviation, our world has become much smaller and our future has grown much bigger.
Every day an amazing feat of coordination and cooperation is repeated tens of thousands of times to make it all happen. It involves some nine million people who work directly in the aviation industry. The dedication and commitment of airport workers, pilots, cabin crew, engineers, dispatchers, baggage handlers, security staff, air traffic controllers, office workers and many others keeps our world connected.
As an industry, the celebration of our first 100 years provides a great opportunity to share the enormous contribution aviation makes to all of our lives. Everybody who flies has a stake in aviation.
Without a doubt, among the billions of passengers who will criss-cross the globe next year will be politicians, business people, regulators, artists, adventurers, students, future leaders, and of course, families. Throughout 2014, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) will engage in a global conversation rooted in the enormous changes since that first passenger boarded a plane 100 years ago, and focused on making the next century even more momentous.
For despite the impressive achievements of the industry, the road ahead will not be free of challenges. These include taxation, regulation, infrastructure, finance, environment, security and distribution, to name just a few.
For the world to benefit from another 100 great years we all must work together in a collaborative process to address and find solutions to these challenges.
Iata’s goal is to build understanding of these challenges with the transparency and openness which are critical for us moving forward.
Therefore, we will continue our efforts throughout this year by participating in and supporting strategic discussion events such as the Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi, to work closely with various stakeholders at the highest levels of the industry.
I ask you all to join us in the celebration and the conversation. Please take a look at www.flying100years.com to see the story for yourselves.
Tony Tyler is the director general and chief executive of Iata
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