The aviation industry is ubiquitous. People fly on airplanes. They invest in airline companies. They worry about route changes, the impact of corporate bankruptcies and mergers, security, and whether there will be any food on board. They look for good deals on ticket prices. The industry is heavily unionized, so the labor movement has a vested interest. Airlines struggle for profitability. Airplane and engine manufacturers are part of the industry. Global competition for aircraft is cutthroat. New business models are of interest not only to airline companies but also to academics studying the industry. Airplanes fly people, obviously, but also carry freight, so air cargo is another aspect of the industry. The science and engineering of aircraft design affects business decisions, meaning even the nonscientific business searcher should worry about the technical literature.
Although it's beyond the scope of this column, travel shopping sites are evolving from just being glorified travel agencies into real search engines. At WebSearch University [www.websearchu.com] in New York City, May 2005, Chris Sherman cited Kayak, Mobissimo, and AOL's Pinpoint as emblematic of this change from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. "New research features help with the overall travel experience, not just finding the best deals," according to Sherman.
In many respects, aviation presents generic issues to the business researcher. It's multidisciplinary, and most of the companies in the industry are public, traded on international stock exchanges. On the other hand, it has unique challenges since the standards by which one judges aviation companies encompass items that are different from other industries, such as fuel costs, passenger load, aircraft utilization, flight crew productivity, and discounted ticket prices. For those seeking work in the industry, there's a nice review from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Career Guide to Industries [www.bls.gov/oco/cg/cgs016.htm].
FLY ME TO THE MOON
Common wisdom says that, when researching an industry, you first determine its industry code. According to the Census Bureau [www.census.gov/ epcd/naics02], the two-digit SIC code for Air Transportation is 45, with scheduled air transport bearing the 4512 code. Translating that to NAICS, that's 481111 for "scheduled passenger air transportation." These numbers are for the 1987 SIC codes and the 2002 NAICS. It would be nice if all researchers could easily remember where to look for these codes, with that URL being imprinted somehow in their brains. For once, however, sloppiness pays off. Entering the name of an industry and either "sic code" or "naics code" in a general search engine almost all the time will pull up the correct code in the first few hits. If you simply need a reminder of where the full set of codes can be found, enter "sic code" "naics code" in a search engine. Usually the first two hits will be for OSHA's SIC code list [www.osha.gov/oshstats/sicser.html] and the Census Bureau's NAICS code list [www.census.gov/epcd/ www.naics.html].
Not all sources for industry overviews, however, rely on industry codes. Many rely on lists of available industries. You click on the industry name rather than entering the code. There's only one small problem--the words used to define the industry aren't consistent from one source to another. Most frequently, the aviation industry is considered a subset of Transportation, which is logical because that's where it falls in both the SIC and NAICS schema. Novice researchers may be tempted to believe that aviation is included in Aerospace and Defense, but this is usually not the case. Information about military aircraft, and even nonmilitary aircraft, however, will turn up in that category, so totally ruling it out isn't smart. A recent search for aircraft in Northern Light's Business Research Engine, limited to the Aerospace and Defense industry category, retrieved information on the Saudi government's acquiring planes for commercial use, limitations on flights over the Grand Canyon, and an analysis of composite materials used to manufacture both military and general aviation planes. …