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TheStreet Open House

Air Travel Changes At Less Than Supersonic Speed

The new plane shaved about an hour off the trans-Atlantic flight to Paris from the company's headquarters compared to a commercial jetliner.

"Their business model is a lot different," Cass said of commercial travel. The commercial airline "business is to transport people from Point A to Point B at the lowest cost."

Cabin pressure inside most commercial jets is the equivalent of standing at the top of an 8,000-foot mountain â¿¿ hearts work harder, breathing speeds up. It's the equivalent of a low-level workout for the duration of the flight.

Private aircraft like the Gulfstream cabin have been taking altitude artificially lower for around 15 years â¿¿ cutting back on fatigue, lessening the effects of jet lag. The most recent Boeing and Airbus models have adopted the technology â¿¿ a subtle change but one that travelers crossing an ocean might notice after a few hours in the air.

"You don't get the puffy hands, the puffy feet," Cass said.

Other tangible changes may eventually come from composite materials, said McCluskey of the Czech manufacturer, even though most planes are made of aluminum and will continue to be for years to come.

Composites allow for longer panels â¿¿ rather than the small ones, riveted together that are seen are many aluminum planes â¿¿ and that means fewer pieces that need to be connected. Planes made from composites should also be able to stay in service longer because the new materials withstand damage better. Fewer pieces and longer in-service times mean cheaper construction â¿¿ and that will allow manufacturers to play more.

"In the world we live in today, constrained by all the economics that we have, the money is just not there anymore," said McCluskey. "So it's step by step, and the steps are slower unfortunately."

There hasn't been what innovators call a "disruptive technology" since the Concorde, and the idea of supersonic mass travel has faded away with the end of that program in 2003. The only future possibilities would be for commercial flight to go either electric or ballistic â¿¿ literally exit the Earth's atmosphere like a missile and come down somewhere else on the globe, said Gerard Feldzer, an aerospace analyst who once led the French air and space museum at Le Bourget.

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