Airplanes, long at the forefront of technological innovation, have continued this impressive adoption of new technology over the last ten years. These advancements have made aircraft safer, smarter, and more efficient, allowing more people to take to the skies than ever before. For a taste of the breadth of innovation that has taken place over the last decade, here are a few advancements that have been implemented during that time.
One of the biggest challenges with any aircraft design is managing the weight of the body of the aircraft. After all, a plane needs to be strong to ensure it can withstand the incredible forces associated with flying. At the same time, though, the lighter an aircraft can be made, the more efficient it can be. Over the past decade, new body materials, especially carbon-fiber, have allowed new aircraft to fly greater distances than ever thought possible. From small implementations in certain sections of an aircraft to an entire body made out of this groundbreaking material, the future of flight lies in its ability to utilize new materials.
Since the basic body design of an aircraft has changed little in quite a long time, the most important gains in efficiency have come through advancements in engine technology. Larger, more efficient engines allow two engines to be used where only four engines used to be practical. These newer engines are also more reliable, resulting in some of the safest years of commercial flying the world has ever experienced.
Advancements in simulators have made this virtual training increasingly close to the real thing. As computers become more powerful, clearer, more accurate visuals are able to be projected onto the simulator screens, allowing pilots to get a better feel for the airports where they will be landing. This, combined with high quality flying lessons, allow more pilots than ever before to take to the skies.
The most powerful tool in the airline industry is data. One way that airlines and aircraft manufacturers collect data is through an army of sensors mounted around every aircraft. These sensors give information about temperature, fuel consumption, engine performance, and a host of other data points that are available in real-time. This information is used to diagnose potential problems, make improvements to future products, and better utilize airline fleets. All told, the knowledge that these sensors provide has improved flying for everyone who steps on a plane.
With the incredible rate of innovation over the last decade, the only question is if this pace of innovation can continue over the next ten years. If so, there’s no telling what new advancements and products might be introduced, all dedicated to the single goal of making flight even more magical than it’s always been.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at facebook.com/brooke.chaplan or Twitter @BrookeChaplan