‘Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder’

Aviation: Past, present and future

Stephanie Lipinski, Print Editor-In-Chief

When airplanes were first invented, humans were enthralled with the idea of flying. The Wright brothers’ first flight in 1903 lifted the human race to new heights, and everyone wanted to see the world from a bird’s eye view.

About 20 years later, Charles Lindbergh became the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic. Ten years after “Lucky Lindy’s” flight, Amelia Earhart attempted to fly around the world. When Earhart took to the skies the entire world was watching, and when she disappeared the entire world was devastated.

“The general public was airplane-crazy very early on, and there is an incredible trend toward a love affair with flight,” said
Dr. Dennis Cremin, associate professor of history at Lewis University. Yet, soon the general public moved on from its aviation obsession.

By the 1960s, flying seemed less unusual, and by the 1970s commercial flying was common among the general public.

“We were also increasingly moving toward innovation, and as Americans we like things that are the latest and the greatest,” Cremin said. “It seems to me that in some ways, flight continues to be interesting to the general public, but interest almost transferred to space exploration.”

While space comes to the forefront of pop culture, by the 1970s and 1980s everyone could fly on commercial flights.

According to Cremin, by the 1990s, people could arrive at the airport 25 minutes before a flight and get on the plane, but this all changed after 9/11.

“Our love affair with commercial airlines has fallen off a bit,” Cremin said, “but it has also become this incredible status symbol. You only have to think of Kesha singing about her G-6. Her gulf stream private plane that shows that celebrities have moved into their own flight experience that is part of the top 1 percent.”

Though the general public has begun to take flying for granted, there are many things happening in aviation right now that could affect our everyday flying experiences.

“One word to describe the industry is rapid change, and the technology is going to change how we do so many things,” said William Parrot, associate professor of aviation at Lewis University.

Technology is continually transforming the industry, such as GPS satellites changing how pilots navigate.

“Unfortunately automation will eliminate the human side,” said Parrot. “Whether or not you see a commercial airplane with no pilots in the cockpit, arguable the technology is here to do that already.”

Pilotless machines, such as drones have been present in the military for some years, and they have slowly seeped into common everyday use. For example, at O’Hare, the train taking you to the terminal has no conductor. It remains to be seen, whether the general public will let planes get into the air without a human pilot behind the controls.

“The designers have concluded that you reduce the number of human decisions that have to be made, and you, in theory, reduce the potential for error,” Parrot said.

While the hype of aviation for the general public has died due to long lines at the airport, metal detectors and TSA frisking you, the public should remain concerned about the future of the aviation industry.

In the future, perhaps not as far off as we think, machines could hold human lives in their circuits.

Stephanie Lipinski

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