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The Innovations That Made Modern Flight Possible

Aircraft have radically changed our ability to traverse the earth, allowing for all types of individuals to reach their destinations at speeds not before thought possible. Despite early aircraft being major game changers, consistent improvements have been made to bolster their abilities, efficiency, performance, safety, and more. In this blog, we will discuss some of the most important innovations in the realm of aviation that have come about before and after the first powered flight, allowing you to be more aware of how heavier-than-air flying machines were made possible.

One of the first innovations that made flying possible was the invention of wings, or airfoils. Mimicking the wings of animals and bugs, aircraft airfoil structures are generally designed with a slight teardrop shape where the bottom of the surface is fairly flat while the top features a curve. Due to the shape of the airfoil and how it cuts through the atmosphere during forward movement, ample lift is generated to create an upward force on the aircraft to keep it in the air.

Despite many modern aircraft relying on powerful powerplants such as a gas turbine engine, early aircraft solely relied on propeller assemblies after the era of simple gliders. In order to sustain flight over a longer period of time, the propeller assembly was created as a propulsion system, featuring a set of propeller blades that rapidly spin in a circle to generate thrust to move the aircraft forward. While the engine generates linear motion through the firing of pistons, this motion is transformed into rotational energy for the propeller through the use of a crankshaft assembly.

The first jet engine came about in 1937, vastly bolstering the power of aircraft with a greater ability to compress fuel and air mixtures to generate large amounts of thrust. While many piston engines utilize gasoline and diesel as their fuel, jet engines typically require high grade kerosene. Generally, kerosene is known for having a very low freezing point and a cleaner burning process, making it very useful for the particular needs of advanced jet engines.

While jet engines and other systems improved the flight characteristics of various aircraft, so too did the implementation of aluminum and aluminum alloys for construction. Many early aircraft were constructed from wood, making them fairly strong at the cost of high weight and increased maintenance. With aluminum, engineers struck a very optimal balance between strength and weight, ensuring reliable and airworthy aircraft that would weigh low enough to remain optimal for flight.

The last innovation that we will cover is the autopilot system, that of which is a relatively recent innovation as compared to some of the other examples. In the present, autopilot systems are utilized to automatically manage the flight attitude of an aircraft through its linkage with gyroscopes, flight instruments, and other systems. Despite being able to manage many processes for optimal control, pilots still must remain attentive and will often be attending to other controls and processes while the autopilot system is running. As such, the autopilot system is generally intended to alleviate certain roles from the pilot so that they can spend more time focusing on the most crucial aspects of flight and safety while having the ability to reassume control whenever needed.

Alongside such examples, other various innovations have come about since the debut of flight, those of which include air traffic control, landing gear, the pitot-static system, and much more. If you own or operate an aircraft and require various parts to keep it in operation, let the experts at Aerospace Domain serve as your strategic sourcing solution with time and cost savings on over 2 billion listed items. As you explore our offerings, utilize our online RFQ forms to rapidly request quotes for your comparisons. Upon receiving a completed form, one of our dedicated account representatives will reach out to you with a customized quote for your comparisons. See why countless customers steadily rely on Aerospace Domain’s services when you get in touch with one of our team members today!


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