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IB Geography: Changing space - the shrinking world: Changes in transport - Air

A guide to resources on the shrinking world for your IB geography course, compiled by your librarians.

Videos - Introducing the history of flight

Growth in air travel and speed

With the innovation in aviation and the continuous growth of aircraft speed, nowadays we can travel further and faster by air within shorter time. The following chart shows the increment of aircraft speed in 70 years.

The cruise speed of 1940s propeller-driven aircraft increased from about 100 to 300 knots over a period of 20 years, for Boeing and Douglas aircraft. At the start of the commercial jet age, at the end of the 1950s, cruise speeds were about 450 knots. The majority of turbofan-powered aircraft in today's world fleet have average cruise speeds of about 500 knots.


The global airline industry expanded by 12% in 2010 to generate revenue of more than $501 billion. It is predicted that the aviation industry will be worth $714 billion in 2015, representing 42% growth in five years. In terms of volume, the global airline industry grew 6% in 2010 to reach almost 2.4 billion passengers; this figure is forecast to climb more than 28% by 2015 to exceed 3 billion passengers.


The following video shows an animation of all commercial air traffic in the world during a 24-hour period, with each point of light represents a plane.

(Source: youtube)

A glance at the global aviation market:

  • 2000 airlines operating more than 23,000 aircrafts, providing service to over 3700 airports
  • In 2006, there were 28 million scheduled flight departures and carried over 2 billion passengers
  • Growth of world air travel has averaged approximately 5% per year over the past 30 years
  • Annual growth in air travel has been about twice the annual growth in GDP
  • Expected to double over next 10–15 years

The economic impact of aviation

Aviation is a vital part of the increasingly globalised world economy, facilitating the growth of international trade, tourism and international investment, and connecting people across continents. The economic impacts and benefits of aviation can be summarised as the following (hover the mouse over the head bar to view):

Direct impact
The world’s airlines carry over 2.6 billion passengers a year and 48 million tonnes of freight. Providing these services generates 8.4 million direct jobs within the air transport industry and contributes $539 billion to global GDP, larger than the pharmaceuticals ($445 billion), the textiles ($236 billion) or the automotive industries ($484 billion) and around half as big as the global chemicals ($977 billion) and food and beverage ($1,162 billion) sectors.
Indirect impact
Induced impact
Benefits to tourism
Contribution to world trade
Stimulus for greater productivity
Influence on innovation

Advantages and disadvantages of flying

As well as being very exciting, airplane travel really can be one of the most efficient ways to travel around the world. The availability of cheap air travel means that it is now easy for almost anyone to fly anywhere. Nobody can doubt the fact that our lives have been changed by air travel.

(Source: Flickr)

  • Speed: It is much faster to travel by plane; it is possible to cross to the other side of the world in less than a day. It is now possible to easily go to places that would previously been too far away for most of us to travel to.

  • Safety: When you are looking for a safe way to travel from one place to another, air travel is near the top.

  • Cost: It is now possible to get to destinations all over the world at very affordable prices because of the availability of cheap flights.

  • Comfort: Airplanes can be quite comfortable with quality food, entertainment, and this makes it a nice way to travel.

  • Convenience: You can book air tickets easily online or by making a phone call. Most international airports are equipped with comprehensive facilities such as WiFi can car rental services.
  • Cost: Airline travel is costly in general compared with other methods. It's possible to get a low-priced ticket if you purchase it far in advance, but if you need to fly at the last minute, expect to pay a premium for your flight.

  • Flight delays: Having your flight delayed is a significant disadvantage of flying on an airplane. a long delay can force you to miss a connecting flight or business engagement.

  • Travel to airport: Most airports will be situated on the outskirts of the city. Considering the time to/from airport and the time waiting around before taking off, plane travel can sometimes end up as long as other types of travel, particularly short flights.

  • Security checks: There are a lot of people who feel that the hassle involved with security checks on airplanes can be quite troublesome.

  • You do not have nearly the same room for movement on a plane as you do on a train.

  • Lost luggages: One of the worst parts about flying is learning that your luggage hasn't arrived at your destination. While numbers show that the odds of having your baggage lost are low, missing luggage is a serious inconvenience for those affected.

  • Limited space: Some economy sections of certain planes are quite crammed and there is very little room.

Quiz - test your aviation knowledge

Try this fun quiz to test your aviation knowledge! Click the link below for the full size version.

In your text books...

Books in the Senior Library

Journal of Commerce - Air Cargo News

The Journal of Commerce (JOC) is the "leading information and marketing services provider for the domestic and international containerized cargo community"  (JOC website)

Explore these links to find the latest news on aviation industry from the Journal of Commerce website:

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Create a timeline of air transport change

Image from: TikiToki

One of your pieces of coursework for this topic involves creating an interactive timeline using TikiToki.

The image above is an example of a TikiToki timeline showing changes in air transportation.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

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