2010 marked the 100th year that regular air passenger service began, but it was not with airplanes. Airships– engineered, powered aircraft– are not balloons but they do use an inflated container (envelope) to gain lift. There is new research and interest in airships for use in heavy lift/container transport, military applications like long-term reconnaissance and new possibilities for passenger service.
Air transport systems today consist of ground facilities like airports and the control systems used to track, communicate with and manage air traffic . Civilian and military air transport systems are used in every country on the planet and connects the world’s population together in a web of fast moving connections that facilitate travel and trade. The advent of jet engines and pressure controlled cabins made safe, quick transport possible. But this fast-moving aspect of air transport has its problems. It allows the spread of dangerous diseases, creates extra channels for smuggling and can be hijacked by criminals and terrorists.
Air transportation also proved to be a fertile ground for information technology development. Early ticket sales and traffic management was done with limited technology and looked similar in function and form to train ticketing and scheduling. A chance meeting between IBM salesman, Blair Smith, and American Airlines president C. R. Smith on a flight in 1953 helped spur development of electronic ticket sales and information management using then new computer technologies.
Military Air Transport, an early history.