Commercial airliners underwent huge changes during the late 1960s and early 70s. The year 1969 saw the introduction of the world’s first wide-body jet, the Boeing 747, as well as the maiden flight of the supersonic Concorde. One proved much more influential than the other: Although few supersonic jets have been builtt wide-body carriers have become extremely popular. They include the Douglas DC-10 and Lockheed L-1011, both introduced in 1970, and the European Airbus A-300, wliich first flew in 1972. The efficient configuration of the A-300—two wing-mounted engines—has been adopted by the majority of airliners developed since then. A new generation of airliners is currently in development, with the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747X, each capable of carrying more than 650 passengers, approximately scheduled to arrive in 2005.
Today there are many different forms of recreational flight. The most popular and least expensive options—paragliders, hang gliders, and ultralights (powered hang gliders)—do not even require a government license. Many people master these aircraft as the first step toward becoming a licensed pilot, at which point they can either rent a plane, construct a “home-built” (a one-to-six-passenger aircraft made from a kit), or purchase a production airplane of their own, such as a Cessna 172. As well as getting involved in aerobatics or air racing, licensed pilots can also experiment with sailplanes (gliders) or balloons. The possibilities are endless. Technological advances will continue to allow aircraft to evolve. New composite and ceramic materials will enable lighter structures and the ability to with-stand the temperatures of hypersonic flight. Engines of the future will be quieter, more fuel-efficient, and more environmentally friendly, and will operate at higher speeds. In the twenty-first century, these technologies could produce an airliner capable of flying anywhere in the world in under two hours. No doubt the greatest factors in the future of flight, however, will be the same creativity and determination that have led us to where we are today. Thanks to our infinite powers of imagination, the sky is truly the limit.