When you wake up in the morning and reach for your phone, take your morning medicine, and add fruit to your breakfast plate, there’s a very good chance that all of those items traveled to you in part by air. Today is International Civil Aviation Day, a celebration of the non-military, non-state side of aviation that impacts our everyday lives in surprising ways. If you order from Amazon, ship gifts to relatives across the country, or enjoy receiving your packages quickly, then you have reason to be thankful for civil aviation.
The next time FedEx or UPS delivers a package to your doorstep, consider that it’s one of 6.5 billion packages they’ll deliver that year and one of 25 million they’ll deliver that day! Their airline fleets are crucial to achieving this level of volume. For instance, FedEx has a fleet of 650 planes that deliver approximately 6 million packages to 400 destinations every single day, with a super hub in Memphis, Tennessee, that supports their flight operations.
UPS has a fleet of 291 planes, and every package that is being shipped more than 200 miles away from the origination point will be flown on a plane in their fleet. Worldport in Louisville, Kentucky, is the hub of the UPS fleet. Every night, 125 planes land there to unload, re-fuel, and depart in a matter of hours.
You may be surprised to know commercial airlines are also heavily involved in moving freight and goods. To put this in perspective, U.S. airlines moved nearly 2 million tons of domestic freight in August 2022 alone, according to The Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That’s a lot of products and goods!
You’ve also probably noticed your USPS postal workers putting in late hours and even delivering packages on Sunday during this busy holiday season. Shipping demand is so high right now that the United States Postal Service will deliver 9.7 million packages on Sundays alone between Thanksgiving and New Year. Air freight is a key part of the USPS delivery service, but the USPS does not own any planes. Instead, they contract with U.S. airlines to make moving mail and packages as efficient as possible. In recent years, Amazon has also started carrying cargo shipments for USPS on its planes.
Civil aviation flights are responsible for a lot of cargo. If you’ve ever sent flowers to a sick relative, enjoyed a seafood dinner at your favorite restaurant, or looked forward to getting the newest smartphone, it’s highly likely that civil aviation played a key role! Here are the top nine items flown on civil aviation flights:
- Produce and perishable agricultural products
- “Just-in-time” production and emergency shipment parts
- Seasonal items with a short shelf life, like cherries in the US
- Plants & flowers
- Production samples
- Electronic consumer goods
Civil aviation doesn’t just connect us with the products we love, it’s also crucial to our economy. The Federal Aviation Administration recently released 2020 data about the contribution of civil aviation to the economy. In 2020, civil aviation contributed nearly a trillion dollars to economic activity in the United States. Not only that, civil aviation is responsible for 5 million jobs in the United States. Civil aviation is also leading the charge to bolster the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (a.k.a. drones) to better meet demands and boost efficiency.
And if you’re wondering who the superstars of civil aviation are, look no further than the North Pole! It turns out Santa is the most prolific civil aviator in history. You might be surprised to learn that Santa’s sled has to travel 2,340,000 mph to deliver packages to every household in the world on Christmas Eve. Not only that but his sleigh is estimated to weigh 354,430 tons based on the most popular Christmas present requests and the amount Santa spends per child creating presents. Let’s not forget our favorite reindeer! Rudolph needs 1,708,000,000 carrots on Christmas Eve to maintain his energy levels for the Christmas Eve flight, so make sure to leave some carrots alongside the cookies for Santa!
International Civil Aviation Day is a great reminder of the importance of aviation in our everyday lives. This holiday season and beyond, we pay tribute to all of the aviators and support staff who make civil aviation possible!