Question: What has changed most about airline travel in the past decade?
— submitted by reader David Nguyen, Orlando, Fla.
Answer: That is a good question. I think the greatest change is more full airplanes. In the days following the 2001 attacks, air travel suffered significantly. By 2003 it was recovering, but the load factors were still down. Today many airlines have mastered the ability to keep airplanes full while being on time. The other notable difference is more modern airplanes with greater three-dimensional navigation capability.
Q: Does the old OAG still exist?
— Julio Tristan San Jose
A: Yes, the Official Airline Guide (OAG) does exist. Computers have taken over most of the distribution of airline schedules, but occasionally you will see a printed OAG.
Q: When can we expect regular supersonic travel?
— Li, Houston
I hope it is soon. Having flown as a passenger on Concorde, the benefits of supersonic travel are clear. If we can solve the economic issues – getting passengers to pay at a level that supports the added expense — then we can return to supersonic flight. Until then, we will be limited to around 80% of the speed of sound.
There are several designs proposed, but solving the economic issues will determine the schedule.
Q: I used to be able to identify aircraft at a glance (B737, 757 etc.), but nowadays they seem to all look alike. Is there any quick way to tell the difference?
— Wendell Johnson, Knoxville Tenn.
A: The Boeing 737, the Airbus 320 family and the Embraer 170 family have a similar appearance due to the engines being under the wing and being of similar size and having a large rudder. However, each is distinct when you look at wing design, the shape of the nose and windshield and the shape of the doors.
Like automobiles, while there are similarities, there are differences in appearance.