Civil Aviation in Australia

About Civil AviationEdit


Aviation is a fast while (relatively) affordable transport mode to carry passengers or cargo. It is characterised by its independence from terrains near the Earth surface. Passengers take flights onboard mechanical aircrafts which can “defy gravity” and fly in the air. Most air travels (aviation) can be categorised into military and civil (non-military) aviation depending on their operations and purposes. Civil aviation includes both scheduled air transport and general aviation (non-scheduled). While all scheduled air transport is classified as commercial, general aviation can be either commercial or private. Most airlines (scheduled services of air transportation between areas) obtain their profits, if any, by passenger carriers. Use of the fast but relatively expensive transport mode is best justified by highly valuable goods – and people are arguably the most valuable things to be carried.


The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is a United Nations agency established in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation. ICAO and the Convention’s 192 Member States work together to enforce Standards and Recommended Practices for international civil aviation.[1]

In Australia, the first Commonwealth agency to manage civil aviation, the Civil Aviation Branch of the Department of Defence, was established in March 1921. It expanded and became the Department of Civil Aviation in November 1938. The Civil Aviation Authority, Australia’s first statutory authority with responsibility for civil aviation was established in July 1988. In July 1995, the Civil Aviation Authority was separated to form the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and Airservices Australia.[2]

Advantages and DisadvantagesEdit

Table 1: Advantages and Disadvantages of Air Travel
Advantage Disadvantage
Fast Risky
No physical barrier Unreliable services
Easy access Limited capacity
Comfort High operating cost (aircrafts)

Some of the most significant advantages and disadvantages[3] of aviation are listed in Table 1.


The most significant advantage of aviation is its high speed which shortens travel time from origins to destinations. Air travel makes long-distance travel much faster than other previous types of modes. Air transport is not subjected to ground or water conditions. This is a unique characteristic of air travel for it to become viable in most regions of the world which would not be easily accessed by other modes of transport. The construction of tracks or roads is not required, nor is the access to rivers or sea. The physical barrier to build an aviation system and to operate one is low. This also brings better user experience in terms of comfort. Air travels experience less turbulence than water transport and less vibration (of smaller amplitudes) than ground or underground transports.


The disadvantages include safety concerns, limits of technology and high costs/prices. Since aircrafts are delicate mechanical and electronic products, a small error in its system can have catastrophic consequences. Due to the isolated environment in the air and magnitude of height and speed, air travel is physically more dangerous than other slower-moving transport modes. Though the physical barrier is lower than other transport modes, aviation is still subjected to weathers. The atmospheric conditions are critical in the operation of an aircraft. To ensure safety, air travels usually have a low tolerance for adverse weathers so that scheduled services can be frequently disrupted by delays. In addition, aircrafts have relatively limited capacity when compared with ships or railroads. This also contributes to higher prices of air travel when the demand-supply relationship is considered. Economies of scale are limited to a single aircraft due to limited capacity to carry passengers or other goods. Aircrafts are expensive due to their technological complexity. The capital investment, skill requirements to operate and manage, maintenance cost and software upgrade cost could be higher than other modes of transport.

History of TechnologyEdit

Ancient TimeEdit

The inner desire of humans to fly first appeared in mythologies and legends. However, the early attempts usually ended in tragedies. The famous Greek legend of Daedalus and Icarus who escaped the Labyrinth on Crete with wings made of feathers and wax was one of them. The legend says that despite being warned by his father, the craftsman Daedalus who made the wings, Icarus flew too close to the sun. Hence, the wax on his wings melted and led to his fatal fall into the sea. The early attempts to fly by this time are known as “tower jumping” which is essentially leaping from high places with some crude crafts attached to their bodies.

Kite, Bamboo Dragonfly and Sky LanternEdit

Kites and “Bamboo Dragonfly” (or bamboo-copters) are the earliest forms of aircrafts, possibly invented in China as early as in the 5th and 4th century BC respectively. Like many other great inventions of China, they are most commonly used as toys though the principles can be applied to construct larger carriers. Legend claims that Han Xin, a general of the Han Dynasty around 200 BC, used large kites to carry people in the air to measure distances for a tunnel while in some stories the kites carried people for propaganda purposes (to terrorise the enemy).

The Chinese had also invented a form of hot air balloons called the sky lantern. The lantern cover is made of strong paper or silk inside which a small lantern is placed to provide the lift. In Chinese legends, the use of sky lantern is often attributed to Zhuge Liang around 200 AD who used sky lanterns in military combats to scare the enemy and set fire to enemy ships.

Hot Air Balloon and Airship (Lighter-than-air)Edit

Although the idea of early human-powered ornithopter (an aircraft which flies by flapping the wings like a bird) designed by Leonardo Da Vinci and others during the Renaissance was disillusioned, humans started to realise the necessity of larger and more complex devices to overcome physical limitations of the human body to fly.

The first successful manned aviation happened in 1783 by a globe-shaped hot air balloon[4]. The hot air balloon was produced by the Montgolfier Brothers, Joseph-Michel Montgolfier (1740 - 1810) and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier (1745 – 1799) of France. The late 18th century and early 19th century were the burgeoning period of non-steerable hot air balloons. The hot air balloons were used in wars but more popular as recreational sports in Britain. The aviation industry then worked on the control (steerability), safety and efficiency of the power system (hydrogen gas, coal gas or helium gas) in the 19th century. The first powered, controlled, sustained lighter-than-air airship was built by the French engineer Jules Henri Giffard. The first flight of the cigar-shaped team-powered happened on 24 September 1852, travelled about 17 miles at a speed of 6 miles per hour[5]. Electric-powered airships were invented later in 1884.


Sir George Cayley (1773 – 1857) is called the “Father of Aviation” for his work in identifying the four aerodynamic forces: weight, lift, drag and thrust[6]. He worked on several types of flying machines including airships, gliders and helicopters[7]. In 1799, Cayley recorded his simple but significant idea of the separation of propulsion and lifting systems on a silver disc (the Silver Disc). This formed his concept that the future heavier-than-air flights should use fixed-wing flying machines which is the prototype of modern aeroplanes. Cayley’s work extended and was directly applied to aircraft designs powered by steam engines. Although gliders which do not require an engine were better developed in the later 19th century, propeller-driven aircraft attracted many mechanical and aeronautical engineers at that time to explore possibilities of longer-distance air transport.

The Wright Brothers are credited for the first powered, sustained and controlled flight with their heavier-than-air Wright flyer on 17 December 2017. Their success was a result of the superior understanding of the aerodynamics established from systematic modelling experiments. The Wright Brothers conducted more than 200 tests with their wing designs and found mistakes in the previous models of lift during their study of gliders. They built their own wind tunnel and corrected the aspect ratio of aircraft. In February 1908, they signed a contract with the U.S. Army to deliver a machine which can fly for one hour with a pilot and a passenger at an average speed of 40 miles per hour for $25,000. In 1909, they completed the contract and received a bonus of $5000 for exceeding the required speed. The Wright Company was then established in November of the same year[8].

The history of commercial flights can be dated back to 1909 when DELAG operated Zeppelin airships to provide flight services[9]. Though it was not initially successful in arranging regular schedules, the experience contributed to the development of commercial airlines as a prototype.

Quantitative AnalysisEdit

The objective of the quantitative analysis is to use a three-parameter logistic function to predict the life cycle of the aviation industry in Australia. It is known from experience that a transport mode usually undergoes stages of birthing, growth and maturity before its decline. The logistic model simulates the first three phases of development and provides a graphical illustration. The function can be written as:

  •   is the status measure, i.e. the number of passengers in millions taking scheduled air travels.
  •   is the year in which the passengers take the flights.
  •   is the saturation status level i.e. the upper limit of the annual number of passengers in the aviation industry.
  •   is the inflection time i.e. the year when half of the maximum number of passengers   is reached.
  •   is an arbitrary coefficient to control the rate of increase of the function.

The equation can be transformed into the following form:


The parameter   is trialled against the set of   and   which are given by the data. The linear relationship is then analysed with Microsoft Excel Regression Analysis Tools to identify the most suitable   and calculate the value of   by dividing the y-intercept by  .


Based on the World Bank data[10] on the number of passengers carried in the world and in Australia from 1970 to 2016, the current numbers of passengers carried are plotted in Figure 1 and 2 for World and Australian data respectively. Simple built-in trendline functions in Excel are also shown, one is a linear regression fit and another is exponential. The trend lines indicate sustained growth in the number of passengers for both World and Australian aviation. However, they are not as useful in forecasting and prediction because there are physical limits to the number of passengers carried, i.e. population growth and the number of aeroplanes, unlike the constant or accelerating increases demonstrated by the trend lines.

Figure 1: World Aviation, Passengers Carried
Figure 2: Australian Aviation, Passengers Carried

The plot of   against   with actual and modelling statistics are shown in Figure 3 and 4 respectively for the world and Australia. Data are processed with curve-fitting procedures and regression analysis to increase the accuracy of the model. The results of the model are used to provide evaluations and to estimate the life cycle of civil aviation in Australia. Data are available on the World Bank website and the data used are at the end of this page. The world dataset is to test the validity of the logistic model and is set as a reference to develop a model for civil aviation in Australia.

Figure 3: World Aviation Projection
Figure 4: Australian Aviation Projection

Table 2 records the values of  ,  ,   and the   (R-squared) for the world and Australian aviation.

World 16500 0.053917397 2040.954657 0.992391193
Australia 360 0.054608286 2040.952314 0.985462429


Both World and Australian aviation industries have shown similar trends in their development. With a high goodness of fit of the model (  of 0.992 and 0.985 respectively), the inflection year is calculated to be around 2041. While the data indicates that aviation industry has not reached the inflection year i.e. the rate of growth in the number of passengers has not slowed down, it is uncertain when the growth would start to decelerate.

The model predicts large numbers of passengers taking air transport in the future (upper limits at 16.5 billion for the world and 360 million for Australia) which may not seem likely at the first glance. However, a news report by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) states that “The International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects 7.8 billion passengers to travel in 2036, a near doubling of the 4 billion air travellers expected to fly this year [2017].”[11] This claim is also supported by the logistic model which predicts about 7.1 billion passengers in 2036 and 7.8 billion in 2039. Since the majority of air transport growth occurs on the routes to, between or from the Asia-Pacific region, the aviation industry of Australia can be expected to expand as well.

According to the Airbus Global Market Forecast 2017-2036[12], domestic Australia/New Zealand has a rank of top 15th passenger flows in 2036 with 1.8 times the flows in 2016. The multiplier returns a result of around 131 million passengers in 2036 which is lower than the logistic model result of 156 million. Since the main driver of Australian aviation market is growing tourism from China and China is predicted to have the largest number of passengers taking air transportation [12][13], the rise in total passenger trips by aviation may exceed expectation and validate the logistic model. However, it is important to acknowledge differences in world aviation and regional aviation development because the latter is susceptible to more regional constraints and influences from multilateral relationships. The growth of aviation industry may not be as fast if the country’s GDP growth or demographic growth fall below the world average.

Life CycleEdit

Birthing (1964 - 2009)Edit

The first commercial flight took place on 2nd November 1964 between Sydney and Melbourne[14]. Although there were earlier flights as far back as in 1922 when an 84-year-old pioneer Alexander Kennedy became the first passenger of Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services (QANTAS) to fly from Charleville to Cloncurry[15], the domestic jet Essendon Airport in 1964 marked the first modern commercial airliner in Australia. Prior to the advent of passenger travels, the aviation industry was mostly funded by airmail services and private investors (who were interested in the technology or races). It was during this period that most of the safety policies were constructed[2].

  • The International Convention Relating to Air Navigation (Paris Convention) was signed in October 1919. The convention entered into force in Australia on 1 June 1922.
  • The Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) was signed in December 1944. The convention entered into force in Australia on 4 April 1947.
  • Other domestic aviation laws and policies in compliance with international conventions. Examples include Air Navigation Act 1920, Civil Aviation (Carrier's Liability) Act 1959, the Civil Aviation Act 1988, the Civil Aviation Amendment Bill 1998, Aviation Transport Security Act 2004, etc. Refer to Aviation Policy & Regulation for more details.

The policies and regulations of this period focus on the establishment of management systems, clarification of responsibilities and safety measures. Many practices use experiences from previous modes in regards to ticketing, cross-border operations and scheduled services.

Growth (2010 - present)Edit

Since 2010, the number of passengers has exceeded 15% of the saturation status level (15th percentile). The growth becomes stable and is powered by Australia’s GDP growth[16]. Since Australia has one of the highest propensity to fly[17], the growth can be expected to be sustained with Australia’s population growth.

The major policy which has come into force is Air Navigation Regulation 2016 which modifies and augments the Air Navigation Act 1920 to accommodate the modern development of technologies, licensing and international economic instruments. The focus of policies in the growth phase has mainly concentrated on training, licensing, international operations and sustainable economic (and environmental) growth of the industry. Deregulation of air services continues to raise market performance and quality of services.


The quantitative analysis suggests that civil aviation industry in Australia is still in its growth and has not yet reached the inflection year (when around 50% of the saturation status is achieved). The model suggests civil aviation in Australia would reach maturity after 2070. Any policy changes and market activities would only be marginal then and development in other transport technologies is anticipated.

the World Bank Data[10] and Predicted DataEdit

Actual and Predicted Passenger Data Used in Figure 1, 2, 3 & 4
Year Number of Passengers (million) Number of Predicted Passengers (million)
World Australia World Australia
1970 310.441392 7.3187 352.0792 7.3226
1971 331.604904 7.3266 371.1448 7.7248
1972 7.7956 8.1486
1973 401.5718 9.3846 412.3486 8.5950
1974 421.1452 10.6647 434.5900 9.0653
1975 432.2765 11.0551 457.9969 9.5605
1976 471.773396 10.8643 482.6266 10.0821
1977 513.269292 11.3065 508.5388 10.6313
1978 576.090004 12.1223 535.7958 11.2094
1979 648.4006 13.0225 564.4621 11.8179
1980 641.872888 13.6488 594.6049 12.4583
1981 640.6194 13.2195 626.2942 13.1320
1982 654.482108 13.1879 659.6023 13.8407
1983 685.101596 12.6015 694.6044 14.5861
1984 732.410288 13.2368 731.3780 15.3698
1985 783.198104 14.4121 770.0037 16.1936
1986 842.594296 15.4973 810.5644 17.0595
1987 904.838104 16.8802 853.1459 17.9692
1988 953.896012 18.8163 897.8362 18.9247
1989 983.2088 15.1143 944.7262 19.9281
1990 1024.976616 17.5534 993.9091 20.9814
1991 1133.228204 21.8601 1045.4803 22.0868
1992 1145.436692 23.8866 1099.5378 23.2464
1993 1142.265216 26.9293 1156.1811 24.4625
1994 1233.233404 26.8885 1215.5122 25.7373
1995 1302.89164 28.8314 1277.6345 27.0732
1996 1390.963704 30.0751 1342.6527 28.4726
1997 1455.104192 30.9535 1410.6731 29.9378
1998 1466.96178 30.1857 1481.8026 31.4712
1999 1562.2563 31.5797 1556.1488 33.0753
2000 1674.064712 32.577569 1633.8193 34.7525
2001 1655.230214 33.477398 1714.9216 36.5052
2002 1627.404873 39.021581 1799.5625 38.3360
2003 1665.309283 41.386432 1887.8474 40.2471
2004 1888.695284 41.596552 1979.8802 42.2410
2005 1969.590799 44.657324 2075.7623 44.3200
2006 2072.413898 46.951775 2175.5920 46.4863
2007 2209.136496 48.728837 2279.4642 48.7421
2008 2208.218737 51.488427 2387.4690 51.0896
2009 2249.728546 50.026967 2499.6918 53.5308
2010 2628.261258 60.640913 2616.2116 56.0673
2011 2786.95383 63.36031034 2737.1011 58.7011
2012 2894.054972 66.355274 2862.4249 61.4336
2013 3048.275073 68.197955 2992.2394 64.2661
2014 3227.291386 68.12323767 3126.5913 67.1998
2015 3463.849192 69.77934548 3265.5174 70.2357
2016 3696.181786 72.59770081 3409.0428 73.3743
3557.1810 76.6161
3709.9321 79.9612
3867.2827 83.4093
4029.2046 86.9600
4195.6545 90.6123
4366.5729 94.3650
4541.8838 98.2164
4721.4943 102.1646
4905.2940 106.2070
5093.1549 110.3410
5284.9309 114.5633
5480.4587 118.8702
5679.5570 123.2577
5882.0274 127.7213
6087.6549 132.2563
6296.2083 136.8575
6507.4411 141.5192
6721.0927 146.2357
6936.8893 151.0008
7154.5454 155.8079
7373.7650 160.6504
7594.2432 165.5215
7815.6681 170.4140
8037.7223 175.3207
8260.0847 180.2344
8482.4324 185.1477
8704.4427 190.0534
8925.7948 194.9441
9146.1717 199.8127
9365.2619 204.6522
9582.7614 209.4556
9798.3751 214.2163
10011.8185 218.9278
10222.8188 223.5840
10431.1168 228.1791
10636.4673 232.7075
10838.6406 237.1641
11037.4230 241.5441
11232.6177 245.8431


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  2. a b Civil Aviation Safety Authority. (2017). Key moments of Australian aviation safety history. Retrieved from Publications and resources, Civil Aviation Safety Authority:
  3. techievp. (2018, January 1). Advantages and Disadvantages of Air Transport. Retrieved from AdvantagesNDisadvantages:
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  10. a b The World Bank. (2018). Air transport, passengers carried. Retrieved May 7, 2018, from
  11. International Air Transport Association. (2017). 2036 Forecast Reveals Air Passengers Will Nearly Double to 7.8 Billion, Press Release No. 55. Geneva: International Air Transport Association (IATA) 2018. Retrieved from
  12. a b Airbus. (2017). Global Market Forecast: Growing Horizons 2017/2036. Blagnac Cedex, France: AIRBUS S.A.S. 2017. Retrieved from
  13. Mott MacDonald. (2017). Annual Analyses of the EU: Air Transport Market 2016. Croydon, United Kingdom: European Commission. Retrieved from
  14. (2014). Essendon Airport welcomed Australia’s first domestic jet 50 years ago. Sydney: Aviator Media Pty Ltd. Retrieved from
  15. Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services (QANTAS). (2018). The Plane, the Place and the Passenger. Retrieved May 9, 2018, from
  16. Civil Aviation Safety Authority. (2017). Annual Report 2016-2017. Australia: Commonwealth of Australia 2017. Retrieved from
  17. Morphet, H., & Bottini, C. (2015). Propensity to fly in emerging economies. Sydney: PwC. Retrieved from