...With A Push Toward Radical New Ideas...

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The NRC report concludes that radical change is needed to meet the demands ahead. "Business as usual, in the form of continued, evolutionary improvements to existing technologies, aircraft, air traffic control systems and operational concepts, is unlikely to meet the needs for air transportation that will emerge over the next 25 to 50 years," said the report. The pace of technical progress needs to be boosted to keep up with consumer demands, or the industry will fail to achieve its potential. Among the technological needs cited by the report are a more advanced air traffic management system, sensors to detect wake vortices, synthetic vision and cockpit-warning enhancements, and better systems for enhancing the interaction of humans and machines. Not a bad Christmas list, really. The report also calls for more research into composite materials, low-emissions combustion technology, advanced avionics using nanotechnology, nontraditional aircraft configurations such as the blended-wing-body and the strut-braced or joined wing, fuel cells, and fan-drive turbines.