That same year, a single piece of technology was introduced that would shape the way we fly today, and mark a pivotal moment for one of the industry's most important companies in the process.
When you step into a modern airliner, it is worth stopping to think how far aviation has come in the past 100 years. Today's passenger jets utilise composite material, are highly fuel-efficient, generate up to half a terabyte of data every flight, and use a combination of advanced cockpit technology, soft LED lighting, lower pressurisation and higher humidity levels to keep you safe and comfortable.
Roll back 100 years to 1 January 1914, when the world's first passenger flight took place between St. Petersburg and Tampa in Florida, US. The one paying passenger completed the 21-mile journey in 23 minutes; at cruise speed, a modern passenger jet can cover around 270 miles in the same time.
That same year, a single piece of technology was introduced that would shape the way we fly today, and mark a pivotal moment for one of the industry's most important companies in the process. That technology was Lawrence Sperry's gyroscopic stabiliser — the world's first autopilot. The company is Honeywell Aerospace.
1914: Honeywell's story begins
On 18 June 1914, Sperry and his assistant demonstrated the capabilities of his new invention to a large crowd that had gathered on the banks of the River Seine. The men flew down the river, each standing on one of the Curtiss C-2 biplane's wings, with only the autopilot at the controls. Sperry's autopilot research would eventually provide the basis for today's advanced navigation systems. And his company, which later became a part of Honeywell, has played a leading role in aerospace innovation ever since.
Sperry Aerospace isn't the only legacy Honeywell company to have helped shape the way we fly today. In the 1930s, Garrett AiResearch's founder Cliff Garrett played a leading role in pressurising military aircraft cabins during long-haul flight — research that has become the foundation for cabin pressurisation on all modern aircraft flying today.
While these advancements in technology were being refined to enable mainstream long haul air travel, Honeywell'sDon Bateman was also creating arguably the most important safety system in the history of aviation. In 1974, the FAA mandated that all turbine-powered and turbojet-powered aircraft must be fitted with his Ground Proximity Warning System to minimize Controlled Flight into Terrain accidents.
Bateman and his team went on to pioneer the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System in 1996, which features GPS positioning and an ever-growing terrain and obstacle database. In 2003, Honeywell introduced the world's first Runway Awareness and Advisory System, which helps guide pilots to the correct runway. Today SmartLanding/SmartRunway provides over 20 alerts for everything from unstable approaches to insufficient runway length. In 2009, Emirates became the first airline to install this revolutionary safety system on its Airbus A330, A340 and Boeing 777 aircraft, and today nearly 2,500 in-service aircraft around the world are equipped.
The adoption of Satcom technology is booming in the Middle East. In 2009, Oman Air became Honeywell's first Satcom customer. The airline installed Honeywell's SwiftBroadBand equipment across its entire fleet, giving passengers the ability to use in-flight mobile text services.
Honeywell Aerospace has been a part of Middle East aviation's evolution and growth from the beginning, and has been active in the region to propel the aerospace industry forward for over 30 years.
The industry still has challenges including operational costs and, increasingly, capacity issues to overcome. But through aircraft technologies, the challenge of supporting regional passenger growth is most certainly surmountable.
When you consider the progress we've made since Sperry's first demonstration of the autopilot 100 years ago, it is inevitable that over the next century technology will continue to hold a pivotal role in supporting the growing passenger demand right across the Middle East. Here at Honeywell we look forward to playing our part in this evolution. The best is yet to come!
Paolo Carmassi is president of Honeywell Aerospace – EMEAI.