The Aviation Crisis

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On a daily basis, the effects of the crisis could not have been more clear. Although the actual oil supply did not go down substantially, prices quadrupled. During the worst days in 1974, oil prices had risen four fold, from “$3 a barrel on October 16 to $11.75…by Christmas.” A lack of heating oil was “freezing up the Yankees” since the crisis coupled with the coldest winters of the century. Not being able to drive as much took a particular toll on morale for Americans, whose lives had become inseparable from automobiles. Sprawling suburban neighborhoods were loosely connected by highways, and shopping centers had more parking lots than pedestrian walkways. In this sense, a shortage in gasoline posed an obstacle to activities like daily commute …show more content…
The stock market saw its worst crash since the Great Depression in November 1973.
The aviation industry felt the same quake: domestic airline traffic decreased 5% in 1973. The Congressional Hearing on alternative fuels for aviation during the second session of the 98th Congress revealed just how heavy the effect was on airlines. Consuming 6% of the nation’s petroleum product, the civil aviation sector had tripled its energy consumption in the previous decade, thanks to the groundbreaking advent of the jet age, when bigger and faster passenger aircrafts powered by jet engines made air travel more accessible and reliable than ever. Los Angeles Times reported in December of 1974 that the largest airline in the nation, United Airlines, suffered a $5.26 million loss in November due to a decrease in Thanksgiving travel and a 55% increase in fuel cost (from $212 million in 1973 to $324 million in 1974). A 1975 New York Times article showed that other major airlines also saw over $70
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Early passenger jets, like 707s and DC-8s, though far faster, more reliable and comfortable compared to their piston-propeller predecessors, were nonetheless smoky, noisy and fuel-hungry, and were already being phased out by airlines. According to a 1977 article “Cost Forcing Airlines to Become Fuel Efficient,” published in Chicago Tribune, Boeing sold 45 stretched versions of 727 that year, a fuel-efficient replacement for older 707s. In addition to replacing old fleets with newer aircrafts already on the market, the airlines expressed even stronger interest in the next generation of more efficient aircrafts for the future. To meet the growing demand, NASA, alongside various engine and airframe manufacturers, began a number of research programs, in an effort to produce these technologies. At Congress’s 1975 request to evaluate the technology required to “make possible a new generation of fuel-efficient aircraft,” by the 1980s, NASA established the Aircraft Fuel Conservation Technology Task Force. In its report released during the 1975 Congressional Hearing, NASA outlined six programs in propulsion, aerodynamics and structure, all aimed to reduce fuel consumption without degrading the

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