Even though Britain’s Comet 1, the first jet powered commercial aircraft to cut usual turbo-prop journey times by 60%, it wasn’t the airplane that paved the way forward in jet transport. After numerous mechanical problems and explosions in mid air, the type was put to rest in the early 60s. It was Boeing’s 707/720 (improved version) that really started things off. After its successful debut years, the aircraft became the backbone of many airlines’ fleets (along with the first 747 [-100 series]) and played a vital role in transporting passengers to their destinations safely. It proved to be an extremely reliable and safe airplane and held with it features which are borrowed greatly in Boeing’s more modern aircraft today. In the 21st century, even after the 707 was discontinued over 20 years ago, the type remains in service with developing countries’ airline fleets as these poorer nations can only afford to buy their aircraft second-hand from freight operators willing to sell them at a fair price.
It only took Boeing’s success with the 707 to realise what a key player they could become in the civil aviation market. Not even five years later, the 727 was launched and acted as a smaller aircraft to accompany the 707 on shorter and more exotic routes (it held the ability to land on extremely short runways) and in fact outsold its older sibling, making it the most ordered jet of all time. Yet this milestone was made to be broken. In 1963, the first Boeing 737 took its test flight from Toulouse Airport and was granted its air-worthiness later that year. The -100 and -200 models were on offer at first, later arriving the -200Adv. All variants were a booming success and invited airlines over to Boeing who had previously not bought their products. They became to be known as the ‘original’ 737, with nearly 2,000 delivered (beating the previous champ, the 727).
Around the same time, a new idea arose to build a gigantic long-haul aircraft capable of transporting over 500 passengers in a three-class layout, dubbed the 747. The airplane got the go ahead and the prototype first flew shortly after the 737-100, and came into service months after it. Continual improvements have been made to the design, with each variant (-100, -200, -300, -400) having the significant ‘hump’ extended backwards, along with fuel-efficiency and range being advanced further.
This golden age of aircraft manufacturing for Boeing (who dominated the market) was soon to be evened out by European newcomer, Airbus. The Europeans felt that they too should be getting a benefit from this market segment and so introduced the Airbus A300, followed by a shortened A310. The A300 became the first wide-body jet to be used in commercial air travel to only have two powerplants (the award for the first wide-body overall goes to the 747) and proved to be a safe and trustworthy machine. Even if not becoming quite as successful as some of Boeing’s previous products, the A300 & A310 gained Airbus a world-wide reputation and something to be considered as an alternative to Boeing.
A decade later, in the early 1980s, the Boeing 767 and 757 entered service to compete effectively with the Airbuses. They made a powerful impact, with over 2,100 deliveries of both types by the year 2000. By 2007, all four of this magnificent aircraft were discontinued from production despite modernisms like fully glass cockpits [everything digitalized]. Improved autopilots on these now older airplanes made it possible to continue improvement to newer models like the ‘triple 7’ and A340.
By the late 1980s, Airbus made public their new family of jet, the A320, to compete directly with the champion 737-100 and -200 models. Boeing made efforts to unveil a new production line of the legendary 737 (the -300, -400 and -500 or ‘classic’ series) which still managed to keep the A320 at bay, even though Airbus won previous loyalty customers of the 737 who chose the A320 instead. The larger A330/A340 to support Airbus’ growing reputation was unveiled in the early nineties to rival Boeing once again along the 767/747 production lines, to which Boeing responded with the 747-400 and a technologically superior model, the 777 family of airplanes. In 1998 Boeing also purchased McDonnell Douglas from bankruptcy.
Competition became fierce between these two duopolies of Europe and the US, and today Boeing only hold around 60% of the global market for commercial airliners, down 22% from two decades ago, while Airbus hold around 35%. The remaining 5% goes to manufacturers like Bombardier (Canada) and Embraer (Brazil), who specialize in smaller, different markets.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes
Next Generation (NG) 737s (600, 700, 700ER, 800, 900, 900ER)
Airbus A318, A319, A320, A321
Boeing 777 (all types), Boeing 747-400 [747-8 and 787]
Airbus A340 (all types), Airbus A380 [A350]
Boeing 767-400, Boeing 777-200 [Boeing 787]
Airbus A330 (all types) [A350]
The Concorde was a joint venture between Sud Aviation of France and BAC of Britain, and entered service with Air France and British Airways in early 1969. The aircraft was intended to be for a niche market aimed towards passengers who wanted a somewhat different experience from flights using conventional airliners, but these travellers would not expect to get this lifetime-opportunity cheap. All Concordes were equipped with standard business-class configuration, and later or upgraded models featured all of the luxuries which are standard today on this higher up type of refinement. Altogether 20 were built, and they could cut across the Atlantic in just over three hours from London to New York – a massive reduction over ‘normal’ jet aircraft.
This made the Concorde popular for the upper-class and many businessmen used the service to fly over to North America and return to Europe the same day. Sadly, after a disastrous air crash in France on July 25th 2000, coupled with the 9/11 bombings just over a year later and rising maintenance costs, Concord’s two operators, its only two operators, decided it would be best to retire the type from service. Today, the airplane can be seen at aviation museums around the world, and holds a place in the memories of pilots and the public alike.
Different classes – Economy, Business & First
In civil aviation today there are three main classes of comfort, luxury and refinement to choose from among most airlines of the world, however some carriers are known to let the customer go into more detail with their choices. This is done by letting them choose between two added selections – premium economy and premium business, which mix two classes’ innovations into one level, these being economy ; business and business ; first respectively. The customer will decide what is best for him/her depending on their needs and financial situation. Travellers who work for a company may get a better ticket all paid for by the firm, so in reality not all people who fly business or first class actually pay for the experience. Whichever class the customer decides to go for, they will receive the same professional service from the crew on board but varied customer demand.
The three classes are as follows:
* First – the most luxurious of all classes, first class holds features that are near to that of your living room. It is common for airlines to include sleeper-cabins that are to be put simply a small privatized space enclosed by walls stretching a little up from the aisle, while offering numerous luxuries to the customer. These can include meals on request, a huge selection of music or films to choose from on a retractable L.C.D. display, a large supply of magazines and sometimes even a few pillows or a blanket to help the passenger sleep on long flights.
* Business – this is a type of class available to passengers on most airlines that is lower in levels of accommodation than first but significantly higher than economy. Business class is popular on most legacy airlines’ flights, and is the most premium service offered when looking at short/medium haul travel, though is surpassed by first class on longer flights. Other carriers may use business class as their finest facility and may not have a first class as there is no need for one as it would take up too much space onboard the aircraft.
Meals served on business class are often the same as first, but possibly with a smaller selection. Passengers may not demand a meal as they can on first whenever they want, though finishing touches like wine being served in crystal glasses and metal cutlery remains common between the two types of class. Amenities like music, video, magazine and computer power ports are in good supply, but again to a lesser degree compared with first.
Legroom in business class is well-heeled, but no lie-flat beds will be on offer like on first. Instead, a
wide, comfortable, reclining leather seat will be offer and in comparison, takes up as much room as 1.8
. economy seats put together. Business class is recommended for travellers on medium-haul routes; as it
fulfils the role of keeping the customer relaxed without the need of them to sleep through the journey.
* Economy – trailing after business and first, economy class is aimed at the majority of travellers and is the most basic type of service offered by airlines today. Most low-cost carriers use economy as their standard service to have as many passengers fit on as possible, though this type of economy is notorious for being the harshest and most limited. Legroom, seat pitch, and the size of seats are generally a good fraction smaller than business, and only reflects the saying ‘you get what you pay for’.
It is rare for this type of service to offer any extra meals except for the one or two offered as standard (depending on flight), and a built-in entertainment LCD screen is also uncommon, though many airlines are retro-fitting their economy classes with a more up-to-date design. Economy class is typically a little more generous in facilities on long-haul flights, yet passengers could still suffer from cramps. It is advised that you take a walk around the cabin once every 3 hours when in economy on a lengthy flight to avoid pain in the muscles after landing.