This is aviation: Where it is, where it’s been, where it’s going

You could probably see this entry coming. The writing was on the wall. After all, there have already been entries for automobiles and locomotives.

320px-HH-65C_Dolphin[1]As far as I’m concerned, aviation can be classified into two sub-groups: General and Specialized.

The first is commercial in nature; the second is aviation that is anything other than commercial. Nothing really complicated about that.

In my lifetime I’ve seen many different aviation-related developments. Probably the most remarkable of all is staffed space flight. And, even how that has developed over the years has been impressive.

When I was a child growing up in Baltimore, I can remember walking to an airport that wasn’t that far from my home – Rutherford Airport, if I recall correctly. It might have been a half-hour walk. I would go there on occasion to watch small single-engine planes fly in and out. It was something to do on a Saturday or Sunday, or weekday during summer when school was out.

Around the same time, our class at school went on a field-trip to the “big” airport, Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) – back then it went by a different name: Friendship Airport. There were all kinds of jet aircraft there. Our class got to walk through one courtesy of one of the airlines.

The first time I ever flew was when I was 12. I had a cold at the time, so the experience for me was probably mixed. On the other times that I’ve flown, some were better and others not so much. So, for me it has been a mixed bag. I even traveled on a propeller plane once. It was considered a regional flight.

What I know from my reading and researching is that in America, there are somewhere around 5,000 airports and roughly 50,000 scheduled daily commercial flights. Those are some pretty busy skies even without the non-scheduled air movements.

One of the more creative designs in my opinion was the Concorde or Supersonic Transport. Though I have never seen one, I’ve seen pictures in newspapers, magazines and books as well as the moving images broadcast on television and those featured in movies.

I know this sounds cliché, but in terms of aviation development, the sky’s the limit. And, to think, in America it all began with the Wright brothers, though, I know, there are some that dismiss that claim, or argue about where the original flight occurred – one or the other.

Meanwhile, in the specialized category are aircraft like airships or blimps; drones; gliders; hang-gliders; helicopters or choppers or whirlybirds; hot-air balloons; special-purpose airplanes like crop dusters; and rockets.

NASA's Helios unmanned aerial vehicle
NASA’s Helios unmanned aerial vehicle

As for what’s ahead, it is difficult to say what the future holds. There are experimental programs and those currently under development. Is commercial space flight in the cards? There are several of these projects in the works. And, the Solar Impulse – a plane that uses nothing more than the sun’s light to stay aloft in the air – well, it’s currently on an around-the-world flight. Its emissions are zero, zilch, non-existent.

Which begs the question: Will there ever be flying machines besides gliders and those experimental craft powered by sunlight that will be totally emissions-free? If this does one day – pardon the expression – “fly,” what a breakthrough that’ll be! At which point that’ll be even more impressive than the Supersonic Transport and perhaps the greatest thing since staffed flight itself – at least, to me, it will be.

383px-Apollo_13_liftoff-KSC-70PC-160HR[1]Top image: U.S. Coast Guard

Middle image: NASA

Bottom image: NASA’s Apollo Thirteen lunar mission liftoffNASA

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