Ways Planes Have Changed Over the Years

In the United States and many other developed countries, traveling by plane is not a big deal to most people. In fact, some may find themselves traveling weekly or every other day for work purposes. Those who have been traveling by plane for some time may also have noticed some changes in planes and airlines over the years.

Like most other things, planes were bound to change and develop over time. With advancing technology, changes in work dynamics, and increasing demand, it’s no wonder that the airplanes of today are so different from their ancestors from over a century ago. Without further ado, let’s now have a look at how planes have changed over the years:

1. The Materials


The earliest airplanes made use of material such as fabric or wood for construction. They would have two wings, or sometimes three. Things stayed like this for some time, but the rapid evolution of airplanes came about with the first and second world wars. Eventually, airplanes became monoplanes, with aluminum being their main medium of construction. Aluminum is still utilized in a lot of airplane construction,  though a compost material is the main choice for most modern aircraft. Some even use composite material for half of the airplane body.

2. More Passengers, Longer Distances


The earliest forms of commercial planes, like the DC-3, would only carry between 40 and 50 passengers at the most. Their range would be below 2,000 miles, meaning that no one could travel great distances in one flight. Overseas travel was an especially risky undertaking.

Today, however, we know how modern airplanes can carry hundreds of passengers and all the staff required to cater to them. There are even double-decker planes that may carry almost a thousand people at once. The  Boeing 777-200LR can fly above 9,000 miles in one go, with newer models probably managing more miles with each new model.

3. Higher Safety Standards


With more upgrades to modern airplanes, the safety standards of airlines have also increased. These include ways to make the air circulation better, make the autopilot more advanced, and doing whatever it takes to ensure no malfunctions whatsoever. Statistics show that fatal plane crashes are becoming less and less common in the past few years, so these safety standards are probably doing their job.

With each passing year, we may expect the safety standards for each plane to become more strict and thorough. You may also be interested in knowing how an automatic pilot in an airplane works.

4. Better Control Systems


All airplanes make use of control surfaces to have influence over the pitch, yaw, and roll when in flight. At first pilot controls were sent to these surfaces through cable. After that, there was an upgrade to hydraulic systems. During the 1980s, the fly-by-wire systems first introduced by Airbus came into use. These would go on to become the industry standard until and including the 21st century.

5. Engines

aircraft engine

Earlier on, most aircraft had reciprocating engines to propel them through the air. Now, though, we have jet engines that are much more efficient in almost every way. If we look at pictures of the earliest models of aircraft, we will notice large propellers on them. These were for the purpose of moving the aircraft forward.

With the more efficient and powerful engines available today, there’s little need for propellers to directly move the plane. They might be used within the machinery of the plane for providing thrust, but the huge propeller at the front of the plane is now obsolete. If you would like to know more about plane engines, here are the main types of aircraft engines used in commercial and fighter planes.

6. The Entertainment Options


As recently as twenty years ago, entertainment in a plane meant getting a pair of headphones so that you could access a couple of channels and an in-flight movie (usually the airline’s choice with no other options).

Today, in-flight entertainment has come a long way. Depending on the length of your flight and the class you’re sitting in, you can have a wide range of TV channels and movies at your disposal. This is made possible through satellite technology. If your seat is comfy enough, you can stay away for several hours while feeling right at home.

7. Space and Seats

Airplane seats

Speaking of comfortable seats, the chances of getting these are getting quite low. Unfortunately, airplane seats are getting smaller and harder as the years go by. As recently as the late 90s, things were pretty comfy on every plane ride. Even on long flights, one could stretch out easily and have a relaxing time. The seats would be soft and easy to fit in.

Fast forward a decade or two, and the airlines are making the seats as small as possible in order to squeeze in more passengers. They’re also cutting corners in various departments, which means that the material of the seats may be of lower quality and harder than before. Overall, flights are getting more adorable and stuffy.

8. Sizes


The Boeing 747 was once one of the largest commercial planes flying in the skies. The Airbus is now the largest plane, especially the A380. It’s a double-decker plane, so large that most airports cannot accommodate its size. If an airport management wants to handle this plane, they might have to upgrade their location a bit.

9. Fuel Efficiency and Economy

designs of planes

Airplanes utilize a lot of jet fuel on each flight. Since the cost of fuel is rising rapidly, planes now need to be as efficient as possible when using fuel. Airlines want to keep their planes in the sky and also price their tickets reasonably enough to be affordable and profitable. With these factors in mind, companies such as Airbus and Boeing have made several changes to the designs of their planes. They have now become much more fuel efficient, which means a higher flight capacity and relatively lower prices of tickets as well.

10. Different Types

several planes

In 1998, there were several planes around that hadn’t seen any redesigning or upgrades for many years. Some might even have gone decades without any major changes. However, now there are many types of planes on the runway. New planes are being frequently developed, redesigned, engineered, and tested on a large scale as we speak.

There are still a lot of workhorses on standby, but the newer planes are good at giving a stellar flight experience for international flights.

11. Lighting


When we sit on a plane today, we may not even realize that the atmosphere is making use of mood lighting. The earlier airplanes focused more on flying and keeping the passengers in the air without any accidents. Now, airlines have the luxury of looking at other aspects of the plane. These little auditions can make the passengers feel better and happier while contained in a small space for several hours.

Many airlines now have specially colored lights in the airplane cabins so that passengers find it easier to sit back and relax. The mood lifting will probably be quite subtle, so most passengers might not have noticed it despite being frequent fliers.

12. The Addition of Sleeping Berths or Beds


While seats were more comfortable twenty years ago, they still weren’t ideal for sleeping in. This made things very comfortable for passengers on an overnight flight. Today, with upgrades such as business or first class, you can now get a full bed on an airline for snatching a few hours of much-needed sleep. Some airlines might have full-sized beds on board, while others offer just an extended seat or berth.

Other options might include sleeping pods, which are mini versions of beds. They save space and provide a place to sleep for tired passengers. Of course, the bed option is going to cost a bit each time.

13. Cockpit

Plane cockpit

Plane cockpits have seen some noticeable changes over two decades. Some old airplanes might have their original cockpits, but most have seen upgrades to make the pilots’ jobs easier. There are now upgraded computers, new buttons, and new switches as well. With new displays, pilots can more easily control the flying system of the plane and know what’s going on throughout the whole flight.


Planes aren’t just for travel these days; they’re also used for entertainment, skywriting, fighting wars, carrying supplies, and so much more. Even something as simple as a paper airplane can be a teaching tool. Over the years, we can see many changes in airplanes–their engine systems, range, sizes, control systems, designs, and load capabilities are now unrecognizable from the first airplane models or versions. Airplanes today are larger, stronger, speedier, and more fuel-efficient than the earliest forms of aircraft. However, it does seem like the seats are getting smaller and the airlines only focused on squeezing out as much profit as they can for each trip.