Perhaps the greatest highlight of the transportation revolution, for which the twentieth century is famous, is the remarkable development of aviation. By shrinking the world in terms of travelling time, air travel has made it possible for one to have breakfast in Baltimore, lunch in London and maybe dinner in Delhi! Quite obviously, besides revolutionizing transportation, air travel has revolutionized our lifestyles as well.
As it helps cover long distances in short periods of time, the aircraft is perhaps the most convenient and useful means of travel. But the more comfortable and efficient air travel becomes, the more complex and sophisticated the techniques of aviation get. In no other mode of transport is there as much need for human skills to combine with machinery and equipment sophistication, as in air travel.
Before every flight, about a dozen engineers and technicians responsible for the safety of the flight, inspect the aircraft thoroughly, to ensure that each of the numerous systems and equipment in it is in The pilots and the cabin crew, consisting of air hostesses and pursers, then take over the aircraft to make the final preparations for the flight. The members of the cabin crew, in particular, have the responsibility for making the aircraft hospitable; to make the passengers feel as comfortable as possible on board. The standards of comfort and the facilities on board have changed with time. If in the past, fruit juice and snacks were all that the passengers could have on board, the longer duration of flights nowadays has made it necessary to serve the passengers with multi-course meals, often with a choice of dishes.
Keeping in mind the needs of the modern business traveller, some airliners provide advanced office facilities like facsimile machines, telephones and personal computers, and in certain cases, even secretaries. On the other hand, for the casual traveller or the tourist, they provide in-house entertainment, like films, music, videos and facilities for fun and party games. As the number of passengers in modern aircraft is in the order of hundreds, with each of them having unique tastes, interests and purposes, the crew have a really challenging time ensuring that all of them enjoy the journey on board equally well. It, therefore, goes without saying, that with so many privileges and comforts being made available, flying is the most expensive mode of travel.
It is a tribute to both the genius of aircraft designers and the skill of the technicians that, even with a multitude of systems and machines on board, each of which can falter an/trine’ to lead to disaster, the number of accidents forms only a small fraction of the flights that have been operating worldwide since air travel became a commercial proposition over half a century ago. But many of the crashes that happen have indeed proved to be catastrophic, causing heavy loss of life and destruction of the aircraft involved. Air travel, therefore, offers a mixed bag of fortunes: we may have unique enjoyment if our fate is kind to us; otherwise, we perish.
In modern times, besides accidents, hijackings also loom as a threat on the commercial aviation scene. The aircraft is a pet target of terrorists, because it gives them the best chance of frightening the people the most, with hardly any threat of retaliation. The huge cost in terms of life and equipment has made hijackings an effective tool for terrorists to bargain for their needs. Even though hijackings do not often result in disaster, the trauma that passengers experience owing to them, makes them undesirable. The threat of hijackings has made airliners to take great precautions in air travel. Elaborate security check, which often can be very inconvenient, have to be made before every flight. In some cases, passengers may have to spend more time for such checks than for, their actual journey.
Civil Aviation Jet lag is another hazard that passengers, particularly those on long distance flights, experience. In such flights, the speed of air travel causes fatigue to the passengers. Moreover, the vast time differences which are a feature of long distance travel, adversely affect our body systems, thereby causing considerable discomfort. Though our body overcomes such discomfort in time, frequent travel across time zones will cause irreparable harm to our system.
From the remarkable that air travel has achieved in recent years, it is obvious that people have put its conveniences and advantages ahead of its drawbacks. The increasing frequency of flights worldwide, indicates that air travel is gradually changing its image from that of an expensive and privileged mode of travel to that of a necessary and popular one.