2020 will go down in history as the aerospace industry’s “annus horribilis.”
Just one year ago, business was booming with the order books filling up with new aircraft. Few would have predicted the widespread disruption that this year has brought. The first publically announced case of COVID-19 was recorded in Wuhan, China on December 31, 2019. By March 2020, country after country had entered lockdown in a bid to slow the spread.
Demand went into freefall as lockdowns and border restrictions were announced. UK regional carrier Flybe, which had been struggling before the pandemic, became one of the first airlines to go into adminstration. As the restrictions took hold, airports closed and other airlines including Virgin Atlantic and Thai Airways filed for bankruptcy protection. Many other carriers shed thousands of jobs as demand came to a virtual standstill.
Mutant strain of virus closes borders again
Throughout 2020, it seemed the profit warnings and tales of doom just kept on coming. Once again, the beginning of this week has seen the aviation industry left reeling from a new raft of border restrictions with the discovery of a mutated strain of the COVID-19 virus with an accelerated rate of transmission. This latest twist in the pandemic story has resulted in London and large swathes of south east England being placed under the strictest Tier Four measures with travel restricted between the UK and a growing list of countries.
The unpredictability around the virus also resulted in the cancellation of this year’s key aerospace and defence events including the Farnborough Airshow. But the show must go on and the industry is fast learning to adapt, even though it seems there is still some way to go before we even identify that elusive ‘new normal’.
The latest measures to slow the spread of the virus have dashed all hope of anything resembling a normal Christmas this year, but the roll out of the first approved vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech in the UK and other countries means there is light at the end of the tunnel. And aviation will be at the forefront of bringing the pandemic to an end through transportation of vital vaccines and medical equipment across the globe.
Manufacturers have played their part in the fight against COVID-19 with companies pivoting from airframe and component production to ventilators and PPE. Startup Apian explored the possibilities of using drones for vital medical deliveries. Fewer flights creates cleaner skies – and the pandemic has accelerated the mission to achieve net zero emissions. Hygiene measures such as touch-free tech and UV cleaning will improve airport and aircraft experience for many years to come. Virtual events, such as FIA Connect, have helped share insights and have kept the industry’s key conversations flowing.
Throughout the year, FINN has (mostly) Zoomed in, keeping readers up-to-date with the industry’s biggest issues and developments.
Here are our top five of videos of the year:
Most viewed video of 2020: Ethiopian Airlines
The Aviation Africa Summit in March was one of the few aviation events to go ahead this year. FINN editor-in-chief Alan Peaford caught up with CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam at the event.https://youtu.be/zJ4G5UiQeMw
Editor’s pick: Tackling the growing problem of space debris
Human beings are responsible for some of the most destructive acts on Earth. For the last 60 years, homo sapiens have also been expanding their communications, meterological forecasting and navigational capabilities through launching satellites into orbit. But along with all the technological progress comes an ever increasing problem – space junk.
Natural inspiration from Lily the barn owl
The mechanics of a birds’ “suspension system” which enables them to fly in gusty winds, is at the forefront of a study by scientists from the University of Bristol and the Royal Veterinary College which could have real implications on the design of bio-inspired aircraft.
Tackling human trafficking
In September, FINN looked at the role aviation is playing to tackle the second largest criminal trade in the world worth $150 billion criminal industry of human trafficking.
Drone innovation to help fight COVID-19: Apian
Apian, part of the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme is aiming to establish a network of secure air corridors for electric drones to navigate via satellite-enabled GPS. Each drone will be able to carry COVID-19 samples, test-kits and PPE. Using drone technology will avoid courier call-out waiting
Wishing all our readers across the world the best Christmas possible – and a much brighter 2021