Commercial Aviation has Come a Long Way – What the Future May Hold

The Benoist Airboat

The Benoist Airboat

July 14, 2014 (Scottsdale, AZ)

This year marked 100 years of commercial aviation, which has come a long way throughout the years. We have the Wright Brothers to thank for getting it all started back in 1903 with their historic 12 minute flight in the Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Once man was able to take to the sky in a powered aircraft, the possibilities for commercial flight were endless.

 

Today it seems pretty routine to hop on a commercial flight and fly anywhere in the world, but back in 1914 it wasn’t that easy. The first true, paid commercial flight took place in 1914, between Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida. The Benoist Airboat  held one passenger that needed to weigh less than 200 pounds and the flight took 25 minutes. The cost of a one-way ticket was $5.00. A few years later, KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) started scheduled flights between Amsterdam and London, and is still in operation today, making them they oldest commercial airline.

DC-3

DC-3

100 Hundred Years of Advancement

The first Trans-Pacific flight was on a Pan-Am M-130 Clipper in 1935. It flew from San Francisco to Manila in a week and had to make several stops to get there. The Clipper was a flying boat with spacious cabins and a dining area. The American Airlines Douglas DC-3 entered into service in 1936, offering flights from New York to Chicago. The DC-3 was known as “the plane that changed the world.” It was considered a modern marvel for its time, having both long range capabilities and speed.

 

de Havilland Comet

De Havilland Comet

By 1952, the jet-age had arrived and the British made De Havilland Comet was the first commercial jetliner. Jets soon took over the commercial airline industry and by 1970 the world’s first wide-body luxury airliner took flight. Pan Am introduced New York to London flights aboard their beautiful, huge Boeing 747. Additional milestones followed over the next two decades beginning with Southwest Airlines’ introduction of their low-cost fare approach. By 1973, the first female pilot was flying for Frontier Airlines. In the 1980s, American Airlines offered the first frequent flyer miles program, providing incentives and benefits for repeat customers.

 

Airbus A380 - Photo by Joe Ravi

Airbus A380 – Photo by Joe Ravi

The Future

Commercial jets have become bigger, faster and more technologically advanced. In 2007 the world’s largest commercial aircraft, the Boeing 747, was replaced with the mammoth Airbus A380 Super-jumbo.

Compared to early commercial jets like the De Havilland Comet, that held 44 passengers, this  modern marvel has two passenger decks and holds 853 passengers. If Airbus has something to say, the future of commercial airliners is going to be something like a scene out of Star Wars. Design concepts for future aircraft can be found on their website , featuring a jet with a skeleton-like frame called a bionic structure and membrane. The membrane allows you to see panoramic views of the outside. Other futuristic features include “organically grown” seats. The plant-based seats adapt to the passengers’ bodies and conform to become a custom fit for the individual. The seat will offer a massage, drinks and vitamins.  Body heat absorbed by the seat will create energy that will be used to help power the aircraft’s cabin; according to www.airbus.com. The special organic materials used in the cabin will clean and repair themselves. Personal cabin spaces can transform into an office or a bedroom and the cabin and jet could change shape. It all sounds so futuristic (much like it would have been for the Wright Brothers to imagine a 747), but Airbus claims it will become a reality in the not too distant future.

 

Looking back over the last 100 years of commercial aviation and the advances that have been made, it’s easy to imagine a future like Airbus predicts. To view some of these amazing concepts, you can go to: http://www.airbus.com/innovation/future-by-airbus/concept-planes/

 

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