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Impact Of Smarter Aircraft On Maintenance, Reliable Travel

Carl Esposito is Honeywell’s vice president of strategy, marketing and product management.

Many consider the Golden Age of aviation to be the 1920s and 30s when aircraft went from wood and fabric to metal bodies, while others associate this age with the 1960s and the rise of jet airliners. Regardless, everyone can agree that the Golden Age of aviation was a time of glamor, growth and innovation. Now while I may have a hint of nostalgia thinking about what it must have been like to fly during that time, I find myself more inspired about what’s ahead. There’s no doubt the 1920s, 30s and even the 1960s were pivotal moments in aviation, but the true Golden Age of aviation is today.

Aviation technology is advancing so quickly, and we’re able to provide a flight experience unlike anything passengers have known before. This Golden Age is steeped in data, connectivity and technology advancements that are going to transform the way people fly in the next decade--and beyond.

Let’s start in the cabin, where connectivity and content are must-haves. Over the next 10 years, inflight connectivity will continue to evolve; there’s no question about that. It will get better, faster and more common globally. Delayed or interrupted connections will soon be woes of the past.  

More passengers worldwide will have access to better flight experiences because of connectivity. Imagine catching up on a Netflix series without buffering or posting a picture to Instagram of a beautiful sunset in the clouds. Passengers will be able to measure a flight not in hours, but the number of episodes they can watch. 

Even more, those regions and markets that have historically lacked access to connectivity will become greater consumers of this technology. Developing countries like India, where only a fraction of aircraft are Wi-Fi-enabled today, will be leading the way in terms of growth and usage. 

Now as data usage continues to grow and we connect more planes, there will also be a groundswell of content.

You may be thinking, “connectivity on an aircraft isn’t new, so why the importance of content in the next decade?”

Well, reliable connectivity on an aircraft will be new, and content can’t be distributed without consistent, high-speed, global coverage. What does this mean for passengers? They will likely see partnerships forming between their favorite airlines and new or existing content providers like Hulu, YouTube or Netflix over the next decade for the best in-flight entertainment.

Beyond the cabin, one of the most exciting changes we’ll see is the rise in predictive maintenance technology. 

Imagine tracking the health of your engine from takeoff to landing. You could see a problem before it causes a delay, and handle it while on the ground, or even resolve it in the air. It would be like attaching a FitBit to your engine, APU or any number of mechanical components. 

The result of this is smarter, predictive maintenance schedules for airlines and operators. That means the days of unexpected aircraft groundings due to maintenance are virtually gone and in 10 years, passengers should never have a plane delayed due to maintenance issues. Flights will be on time and safer, so passengers will never miss a birthday, a meeting or a goodnight story with their children.

In fact, let’s go one step further. Plane delays in general should drop to categorical lows in the next 10-15 years because of the rise of software on airplanes. Software and apps, which are increasing the speed at which new technology enters the cockpit, will give pilots a fresh perspective on how they can avoid delays in an increasingly congested airspace. This means passengers are getting from gate-to-gate quicker so they’re not scrambling to catch connections and can make it home on time.

When we think about the Golden Age of flight, it’s not just about the glitz and the glamor of commercial airliners. It’s about transforming the way people fly and creating an exceptional travel experience--making it safer, more efficient and predictable. No need to longingly look back at what was, the Golden Age of flight is now. We’re making the impossible, possible--and there’s nothing more exciting than that. 

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