The trouble with forecasting is that it is rarely as accurate as hindsight - although hindsight is rarely as optimistic as forecasting can be. Elsewhere in this issue are recorded this magazine's best forecasts of what will happen in 1998, Laid down here, however, are the best expressions of what we would like to record in hindsight at the end of what promises to be a turbulent 1998.

It would be nice to report at the end of 1998 that European governments had decided that European interest was more important than national interest in the restructuring of the European aerospace industry. That would involve conceding that dreams of national supremacy are no longer relevant (if they ever were) and that the only way any European nation will preserve a presence in aerospace is by allowing its aerospace companies to enter into genuine international mergers. That would also involve being able to report that some European governments had announced that henceforth decisions on what would be produced where would be made on commercial grounds alone.

It would be nice to report at the end of 1998 that European competition authorities and national governments alike had recognised that travel competition in Europe is between modes of transport as much as it is between companies within those modes. In particular, it would be nice to report that the competition authorities had spent more time on ensuring that the real costs of road, rail, sea or air travel were reflected in the charges levied on users of those services.

It would be nice to report that the air-transport industry had decided that 1998 was the year in which it would inject realism into its forecasting process by accepting that there is no market in any product, anywhere in the world, which will sustain continuous growth. It would be nice to report that, as a result, airlines and manufacturers got together and reviewed their orderbooks to make sure that the global airliner fleet is not only cleaner, quieter and more efficient than before, but is also being used more efficiently, with higher load-factors and yields.

It would be nice to report that the governments of Europe decided in 1998 that military aircraft are best designed by military-aircraft producers to meet the widest customer requirements possible, and built on commercial lines, rather than being built on the outmoded and inefficient basis of national workshare.

It would be nice to report that, in 1998, genuine progress was made towards a true international harmonisation of aircraft design and safety standards, and of pilot and engineer licensing, so that international trade in aircraft and jobs could be rid forever of petty local protectionism, and customers worldwide would get a consistent best in standards and value.

It would be nice to report that, in 1998, it was conceded that air navigation and control services were best provided by international bodies whose jurisdictions transcended national boundaries where necessary, and that airspace users should pay those bodies directly for the benefit of those services, rather than paying national governments overflying taxes which might never be re-invested in improving the infrastructure. (It would be nice, too, if, in 1998, the lingering doubts over the ownership and control of existing navigation-satellite constellations, and the funding of their eventual replacements, were resolved.)

It would be nice to report at the end of 1998 that governments around the world had taken it on board that corporate and general aviation are integral parts of the wider aviation industry, and that positive action had been taken on an international basis to guarantee their right of access to airports. That would involve guarantees that governments would not allow commercial pressures to squeeze those operators out of existing airports unless proper alternatives to the same standards, opening hours and proximity to major destinations had been provided. It would also be nice to report that no government, anywhere, had allowed encroachment by other development on any airport land, or had permitted the selling off of any such land.

If any of these wishes comes true in 1998, looking back will be a true, if unaccustomed, pleasure. It would also make forecasting for 1999 a happier task than it has been for 1998.

Source: Flight International