July 2001 Issue

Future Flight

Next-generation airplanes may be trivially easy to fly. But are we being sold a bill of goods?

Tucked away in labs around the country, engineers are hard at work designing the next steps in a plan that would revolutionize transportation. The goal is one any aviation buff would admire: Substantially shift personal transportation between cities from being based on personal automobiles on highways to small aircraft.

The Small Aircraft Transportation System ties together the work of other NASA and industry programs that have aimed to improve the powerplants, weather capabilities and navigation complexities of small aircraft. The visionary goal is lofty – to create a way to reduce the cost of a new jet to a point comparable to a “high-end luxury vehicle” in order to reduce average door-...

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