The Road to the Future… Is Paved With Good Inventions

We bring you 10 great ideas that made flying safer, easier, or just a whole lot more fun.

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By then, passengers may buckle in and view a screen that greets them by name, shows images of their destination, and informs them that a LinkedIn or Facebook friend is on the flight. It might schedule a dinner reservation in the city where they’re headed. It probably won’t follow them to the restaurant and serve the wine. But stay tuned.

—Mike Klesius


Push-Button Flying


Among William Lear’s 150-plus patents are designs for the first practical car radio, the Learjet, even the eight-track stereo tape player. But Lear’s most successful creation was the autopilot. While the technology had been around since 1914, when father-son team Elmer and Lawrence Sperry held a demonstration in Bezons, France, the autopilot was found only in slow-reacting airplanes such as airliners and bombers. In 1949, Lear transformed aviation when he developed a miniature autopilot (which he holds in the photo) and the first fully automatic landing system for use in supersonic fighters. The achievement earned him the National Aeronautic Association’s prestigious Collier Trophy.


A Swimming Success


Astronaut-wannabes take note: When dangling from the end of an umbilical cord 160 miles above Earth, you want to be anchored. For the unanchored, even flexing a pinkie will send you tumbling “ass-over-teakettle,” as veteran spacewalker Buzz Aldrin explained in his memoir Men From Earth.

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