Posted by Jonathan
Throughout the decades, there have been great strides in advancing technologies used in aircraft engineering. However, you may be wondering what the most ground-breaking discoveries were that sculpted the modern commercial jets we know today.
In this blog, we will discuss some of these achievements and the impact they had on the airline industry.
The First Turbojet Engine
What may surprise you is the concept of jet engines existed before WW2 (World War 2). In 1926, an RAF cadet named Frank Whittle first explained his ideas for a turbojet to his superiors. Eventually, the Whittle W.2/700 engine was created and flew in the Gloster E.28/39 and Gloster Meteor.
However, it wasn’t just England that had the idea of a jet engine to revolutionise aircraft engineering. During WW2, Germany made the first jet to see aerial combat: the Messerschmitt Me 262. Despite the jet engine being a leap forward from the conventional propeller engines, it proved to be ineffective during that time. Expensive maintenance and fuel consumption was the main drawback.
Jet engines work by intaking air at the front before compressing it, spraying it with fuel and setting it on fire. The resulting burning gases then expand and blast out from the rear of the engine, causing thrust to move the aircraft forwards. It was only in later years that it would be first utilised in the airline industry with the Comet.
The Development of Autopilot Systems
From its first inclusion in 1912 by the Sperry Corporation, autopilot systems have advanced substantially, being able to execute more complex actions. In the past, they would only be able to lock the flight controls in place. The autopilot used in 1912 would commonly work by connecting a gyroscopic heading indicator and altitude indicator to hydraulically operated elevators and the rudder.
However, with advancements in aircraft engineering, autopilots have improved by having the ability to manoeuvre the aeroplane and navigate the assigned flight path. This has improved work conditions for modern-day pilots in the airline industry, allowing them to have periodic breaks during long-distance flights. Autopilots are normally integrated into the FMS (Flight Management System) and can connect to the auto-throttle system.
The Rise of the High By-Pass Turbofan Engine
As previously mentioned, the jet engine was a great achievement in aircraft engineering. However, the refinement of jet engine designs would eventually see the rise of the high by-pass turbofan engine.
These engines are much more efficient than the early turbojet engines. They allowed faster cruise speeds and longer ranges for the planes. The engine creates more thrust while using less air and, consequently, less fuel. These turbofans are nearly as fuel efficient as turboprops.
These are just a few of the several intriguing inventions in aircraft engineering history. However, hopefully, this list has piqued your interest to learn more about the history of avionics!
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