Airplanes have changed in their size, engine systems, control systems, construction, and range and payload capabilities since the first powered aircraft took to the air in the early 20th century. Modern passenger airplanes are larger, faster, more powerful and also more fuel-efficient as compared to early aircraft.Know More
Early airplanes often used wood and fabric for construction and featured two, or sometimes even three, wings. Between the two world wars, airplanes evolved into monoplanes and aluminum became the material of choice. While aluminum is still used for the majority of airplane construction, modern aircraft use a significant amount of composite materials. For example, the Airbus A350 XWB uses composites for 50 percent of its construction.
Early commercial planes, such as the DC-3, carried less than 50 passengers and had a range of less than 2,000 miles. However, newer passenger jets can carry many more. The double-deck Airbus A380 can be configured to carry over 800 passengers, and the Boeing 777-200LR can fly more than 9,000 miles.
Airplanes use control surface, such asailerons, rudders and elevators, to control their roll, yaw and pitch in flight. Pilot controls were first transmitted to the surfaces by cable. Later, hydraulic systems came into play. Airbus introduced fly-by-wire systems in the 1980s, an industry standard in the early 21st century.
Engines used in aircraft have changed from reciprocating piston engines to more efficient jet engines. While the former powered aircraft by turning propellers, the latter may propel aircraft forward in a number of ways, including the use of propellers.
Airplanes take longer to fly west than east because of high-altitude winds that blow from west to east. The Earth has four such wind patterns, and they are called jet streams. When planes fly from west to east, the jet stream helps accelerate the aircraft. When they fly in the opposite direction, the planes cannot fly as fast into the face of the wind.Full Answer >
Many experts seem to agree that fully automated airline flights are an eventuality rather than a fantasy. Some sources indicate that cargo planes are likely to be the first civilian aircraft to operate without flight crew, which could take place in the 2030s. Automation technology has become increasingly important to pilots, but some passengers may be nervous about flying on a plane with no pilot or other flight crew.Full Answer >
The greatest certified height reached by a commercial airliner as of February 2014 is 60,000 feet. Although greater heights can be dangerous for equipment as well as passengers, there is little turbulence after an aircraft flies above 50,000 feet.Full Answer >
Airplanes fly because the design of the wings produces lift that counterbalances the weight of the aircraft. Air flows more rapidly over the top of the wing than underneath it, which reduces the air pressure above the surface. The higher pressure below, exerted over the surface of the wing, pushes the aircraft upwards. Achieving lift requires enough forward speed to keep the air moving fast enough to create this force.Full Answer >