Materials within the plane also will have a major impact on passenger comfort. The Airbus Concept Plane, which embodies what air transport could look like in 2050, features a biopolymer membrane coating for the cabin that would control the amount of natural light, humidity, and temperature. Self-reliant materials (such as the leaves of a plant that water rolls off of in beads, taking contaminants with it) could be found on the fabric of seats and the carpet to keep them clean.

Changing How We Fly

The GEnx engine from GE uses advanced materials and design processes to reduce weight, improve performance, and lower maintenance.
The Aviation Safety Program (AvSP), part of NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, helps develop new ways to achieve exceptional levels of safety for air travel despite increasingly crowded skies and congested airports. Working with partners from academia and in the public and private sectors, AvSP conducts foundational research and develops new technologies to overcome the emerging challenges created by the nation’s transition to the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).

NextGen is a transformative change in the management and operation of how we fly. NextGen enhances safety, reduces delays, saves fuel, and reduces aviation’s adverse environmental impact. It integrates new and existing technologies, including satellite navigation and advanced digital communications. Airports and aircraft in the National Airspace System (NAS) will be connected to NextGen’s advanced infrastructure, and will continually share realtime information to provide a better travel experience.

NextGen technologies and procedures are helping to restore flexibility to an air transportation system that is nearing the point where growth may be inhibited. Performance Based Navigation (PBN) capabilities and procedures, enabled by satellite positioning and other aircraft- and ground-based technologies, are freeing aircraft from the old highways in the sky that are dependent on ground-based beacons. PBN enables more direct, fuel-efficient routes and provides alternatives for routing around NAS disruptions, such as bad weather or unexpected congestion. Likewise, automation system improvements are providing air traffic controllers with greater decision-making tools, while digital information sharing is helping aircraft operators, controllers, and traffic managers work together to maximize efficiency in the air and on the airport surface.

NASA is one of several U.S. government agencies that plays a crucial role in helping to plan, develop, and implement NextGen through new ideas and technologies. These ideas include software that reduces airport runway and urface congestion, new landing techniques that save fuel and time, computer models that predict more accurately the influence of weather on flight paths, and air traffic control solutions that allow more takeoffs and landings in the same amount of time.

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