Three ways to improve air travel

Aerotropolis author Greg Lindsay says aviation is the mode of transportation "with the greatest potential to improve the economy." Here are three ways to improve it.

U.S. president Barack Obama touted innovation and infrastructure in his State of the Union speech last week , but he didn't say a word about the skies above.

Writing in the New York Times, Aerotropolis author Greg Lindsay says it's a major oversight, since aviation is the mode of transportation "with the greatest potential to improve the economy."

He writes:

Some analysts predict that a return to $140-a-barrel oil would put a crimp on the airline industry, if not ground it altogether. But aviation growth doesn’t correlate to rising oil prices. Rather, it’s about expanding economies: oil prices have tripled in nominal terms since the start of the Iraq war, yet the annual number of passengers worldwide has risen 43 percent since 2003. In the global economy, speed trumps costs.

In his op/ed, Lindsay outlines three things necessary to improve air travel.

They are:

1.) Upgrade air-traffic control systems. "The government must finally switch from radar to the G.P.S.-based system known as NextGen, which lets planes fly via satellite signal instead of following radar beacons, saving time and fuel, which in turn increases airport capacity."

2.) Treat airports as federal, not local, investments. A waning federal financial commitment threatens the economy. "O’Hare International Airport, for decades the largest in the world, is a primary reason that today Chicago has a higher G.D.P. than South Africa. But O’Hare, like many American airports, desperately needs more and longer runways."

3.) Invest in high-grade biofuels. Solazyme and other firms have achieved this, but not affordably at scale.

You can read Lindsay's complete op/ed here.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com