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Air Travel Changes At Less Than Supersonic Speed

By SARAH DiLORENZO and LORI HINNANT

LE BOURGET, France (AP) â¿¿ When the Concorde started flying in the 1970s, hopes were high that the traveling masses would soon streak through the air faster than the speed of sound or soar in planes that hurtled like missiles above the earth's atmosphere. Instead, jetliners still look the same as they did five decades ago and travel times have barely budged.

To consumers who have watched the world's technological imagination shift to Silicon Valley, the airline industry seems plodding. Computers and cellphones are obsolete almost as soon as they're unwrapped. The aviation industry looks stuck in time by comparison.

"Twenty years ago, 10 years ago even, a lot of technology and innovation came from the aerospace industry," said Larbi Ouchelouche, who is the project manager at Speel Praha, a Czech company that makes black boxes and other flight monitoring systems. "But today, the commercial is going so fast."

Restricted by huge costs, rising fuel prices and safety concerns, the aviation industry is unable to make the same leaps and bounds. It has instead turned its eye to less obvious advances, ones that companies say have allowed more people to fly than ever before.

But even some industry insiders revealed a touch of disappointment at the Paris Air Show this week.

"Look at all the aircraft ... they're exactly the same (as they used to be), they're just using different material," said Gerrard McCluskey, the vice president of engineering at AERO Vodochody, a Czech aerospace manufacturer.

One of the most talked about innovations at the show in Le Bourget this week was the use of composite materials â¿¿ including carbon fibers and plastics; Airbus' newest jet, the A350, relies heavily on composites. But to the naked eye, it looks just like all the other Airbuses on display.

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