3 Aircraft That Definitely Changed Aviation

Posted by at 13:25

Civil aviation has been shaped by a multitude of factors – competition, political developments, passenger demands, costs, terrorism and, of course, technological innovation. In this blog, I’ll be focusing on the latter: technological developments that sparked a revolution in aviation history.  

An aircraft is a highly intricate piece of technology. Thanks to advances in engineering, they have become faster and safer over the years, but also more spacious, economical, silent and comfortable.

DC-8: the start of the Jet Age

The arrival of KLM’s first DC-8 in 1960 marked the start of a new phase in our history. The Albert Plesman, as the new arrival was called, was KLM’s first jet-powered passenger aircraft. Although it was a narrow-body plane – a single aisle with three seats on either side – it was a lot bigger than its predecessor, the DC-7, accommodating almost twice as many passengers.

DC-8 aircraft

That was a step forward, of course, but the new arrival’s main advantage was the reduction in flying time. The plane’s jet engines made it a lot faster than its predecessor. In fact, it almost halved flying time from Amsterdam to New York. This massive time gain was only matched by the introduction of the supersonic Concorde. Crossing the Atlantic in around seven hours was a near-futuristic experience in 1960. In the years that followed, innovation was driven by two words: faster and more.

Boeing 747: the first wide-body aircraft

The first jumbo jet, powered by four engines, landed at Schiphol almost 45 years ago. You can imagine what a sight it must have been in those days. In the preceding years, preparations had been made to accommodate this mammoth aircraft. KLM welcomed its first Boeing 747-206B at Schiphol on a misty day in January 1971. This jetliner was bigger than any plane the world had ever seen, and it provided an answer to the ever-increasing popularity of air travel. The 747 could carry from 350 to 490 passengers, plus all their baggage, in a single flight. The four engines generated 2.5 times more thrust than the Boeing 707, the counterpart of the DC-8, and they were a lot more silent thanks to various technological innovations.

Boeing 747

The Boeing 787-9: new materials

Saturday 14 November 2015 saw the arrival of KLM’s first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner at Schiphol. A momentous occasion for scores of plane spotters, KLM staff and, of course, potential passengers. I’m writing this blog a couple of days ahead of the arrival, but I’m sure many people will be lining the runway to welcome the latest flower to the KLM bouquet. That may sound slightly corny, but my carefully chosen metaphor is a reference to the name of the aircraft – Zonnebloem (Sunflower) – and the fact that all of KLM’s Dreamliners will be named after flowers.

KLM Boeing 787 Dreamliner Schiphol

This new aircraft is a marvel of innovation. Whereas the DC-2 was one of the first aircraft constructed almost entirely of metal, the new 787 is almost the complete opposite. The composite materials used to build most of the fuselage and wings have major advantages. They require less maintenance, which means lower costs, but they also allow for more comfortable cabin pressure, better lighting, wifi, larger windows and a more spacious cabin. Furthermore, the 787 is powered by two engines that are more silent and economical. In this instance, sustainability and comfort were key principles guiding design.

Innovation has always been important, of course, generating wealth and welfare, but also making products and services accessible to more people. This certainly applies to civil aviation. In our industry, innovation is also driven by public opinion. For instance, the Dreamliner’s cutting-edge engines and structural features reflect public demand for less noise, lower weight, greater fuel economy and, hence, lower CO2 emissions. But the public also wants greater comfort, although opinions on the level of comfort may vary. I believe the 787 marks a new milestone in aviation history. Whether it has set new standards will become evident in years to come. But whatever the case may be, many of us are just as excited about this innovation in aviation as people were in 1960 and 1971.

Visitors at Schiphpol Airport watch the new incoming Dreamliner 787 of KLM

Click here for more information about our Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

40 Responses to 3 Aircraft That Definitely Changed Aviation

  1. john rivera

    MTL blog

    • ray

      The DC-3 popularized aviation for passengers.

  2. RH Boks

    Milestones in aviation were also the Concorde (far behead of is time) with more support of the airliners maybe today there was a concorde-2 the other milestone comes from airbus industrie with as latest the A-380. Unfortanly KLM has no A-380 only the A-330. More support of our own aviation industry would be nice.

    • Stephen

      I disagree that KLM need the A380. The A380 is an oversized plane that at times runs empty.

      KLM did support its home grown aviation by operating the Fokker planes.

      KLM are operating a game changing advance fleet.

      Nice Blog Frido as always!

    • Marcel

      Totally agree! It seems like that KLM is not very Airbus friendly.

      • Bob

        747-8 is the more versatile aircraft. It’s about economics, not “friendliness”. Last time I flew the A-380 half of the toilets were in-op, on a 12 hour flight.

  3. Sairatun Nahar

    Hi Sir Needed job for your airline please provide what you need from my side,

    Best Regards

    Mominul

  4. Charlie McKenna

    Loved the post however , in my opinion, the 737 must be there because it is the workhorse of aviation. It was one spark in the start of LCCs and you don’t go to many European airports without seeing a 737NG or 737 Classic. Once again, loved the post.

    Regards

    Charlie

  5. C.K Ang

    Very nice Kim

    • Frido Ogier

      Thanks! :-)

      Frido

  6. Daniel nunez

    Nice

    • Frido Ogier

      Thank you Daniel. :-)

      best regards,

      Frido

    • Regina

      I’ve been loionkg for a post like this forever (and a day)

  7. sanjibaddy@hotmail.com

    Nice Post. The Focker Friendship, DC3, Superconstellation, 747, Concorde and now the Dreamliner are the Civil Aviation Milestones.

    • Frido Ogier

      Hi Sanji,

      You’re quite right. The aircraft you mention are legendary!

      Best regards,

      Frido

  8. Rick

    Where are the:

    A300 – First Widebody Twin-Engine, First commercial aircraft to use composite & CFRP materials on primary structures, first widebody with 2-man cockpit operation
    A320 – First commercial Fly-By-Wire
    A380 – First full doubledecker

    KLM hates Airbus? :(

    • Martin

      Isn’t there some agreement that KLM and or Schiphol have that commit KLM to Boeing aircraft. If I recall correctly Schiphol is the European hub for Boeing maintenance. This has to affect KLM aircraft choice?

      Please correct me if I am wrong here.

  9. John Philp

    Maybe the de Havilland Comet, the worlds first (I think) commercial jet airliner should be in there too.

    • Martin

      Can’t have that! It is British!!!

  10. Shaun CT

    I really enjoyed reading about these planes and agree with your choices. I never got to fly in a DC8 but have flown in the other 2 many times.

    I look forward to trying out KLM’s 787 in the future.

    • Frido Ogier

      Hi Shaun, Thanks! It wasn’t easy to make a choice out of so many interesting and unique aircraft. That’s why I choose three aircraft which were in KLM’s fleet and which were the beginning worldwide of a new era, like jet engines and the wide-body. The Concorde would have been in this list too, but doesn’t fly anymore and wasn’t that great success that people expected. Hope your 787 experience will come soon!

      Best regards,

      Frido

  11. Eduardo

    Nice. Love this aircraft and hope soon to experience the quality and service of KLM. It is my top of mind for my trips!

  12. Terry

    Don’t like the 787 Dreamliner. Has the battery problem finally been solved? Most people fly economy class and the layout is 3-4-3, whereas in an A330 it is 2-4-2, much more friendly when there are two of you flying as a pair.

    • jojo

      The 787 is a 3-3-3 layout in economy of KLM, air canada, etc. A Japanese airline has it in the 2-4-2 config but they will reconfiguire it to 3-3-3… saddly, 3-3-3 is extremely narrow and uncomfortable on this aircraft.

  13. Chris

    Although it is quite ugly, the A380 also is a game changer, if only because it has a huge effect on competition. I guess it was left from the list since KLM does not have any?

  14. Sanjib addy

    I think DC3 should also be included.

  15. Maxim Vos

    Love the 787, a true game changer. Flew business class in a KLM 787-9 and loved every bit of it, thank you!

  16. Hanneke Augustijn

    I was there at Schiphol when that first DC8 arrived at the old airport with my dad who worked at KLM from 1946 till the end of 1988!

  17. Carlos E Ocana

    Hola

  18. Alvarez

    Mooi stukje Frido! Ik mis alleen de DC-10/ MD-11 in het rijtje :-p

    Groetjes,

    Alvarez
    (Je weet wel, die van Dominique

    • Frido Ogier

      Ha Alvarez! Dankjewel. Tja, ik heb een keuze gemaakt. Er zijn zo veel mooie toestellen die bijzonder waren. Ik,heb deze gekozen omdat ze in meer of mindere mate ergens het eerste in waren: eerste straalvliegtuig voor passagiers, eerste wide body en eerste waarin nieuwe materialen waren gebruikt. De een mist de concorde, de andere de DC-3 of de A380… Ook stuk voor stuk bijzondere kisten. :-) Over de MD-11 heb ik wel eens een stuk geschreven. Staat er ergens tussen. Groeten aan Dominique!

      Frido

  19. Janell S

    We just flew on a dreamliner for the first time. Absolutely amazing. The way the lighting and windows work and are controlled made it easier to fall asleep at the right time and left us with virtually no jet lag. And it was so quiet and so comfortable! We had to take a 747 the other direction and it was terrible in comparison. We will be choosing flights with a 787 over other planes for our long-haul flights from now on.

  20. Rishi Pannu

    Having flown BA, AIR INDIA, AIR CANADA, EMIRATES, AMERICAN AIRLINES, DELTA AND KLM, TURKISH AIRLINES….KLM is one of the best airlines I have come across taking into account the whole long haul flying experience. My favourite is Emirates with A380 dubai to Toronto with zero problems…. I would say my list of fav. would be the 777 & the A380. I always hated the 747 where it felt like being packed into can of sardines…

  21. John Evans

    The de Havilland Comet was the world’s first jet airliner. Doesn’t it deserve a mention?

    • Frido Ogier

      Dear John, the choice I’ve made for these three aircraft has a reason: they were part of the KLM fleet and, sometimes more or less, pioneering. DC-8, first large jet aircraft for passengers, 747, first wide body and 787 as the first aircraft built with pioneering material.

      Kind regards,

      Frido

  22. Gaelstorm

    DC3
    Viscount
    747

  23. Peter

    Just flew the Dreamliner to Japan. Was OK. Economy just as uncomfortable as ever. Did notice that as it got warmer in the cabin, there was no way to adjust heat. Also, I expect that when it does hit turbulence it will bounce around more that a heavier plane (boat on choppy water idea) which does not make it an appealing thought.
    For the rest, KLM is ok.

  24. SK Neoh

    Surely any list of the most influential civil aircrafts of all time should include the DC3 which introduced flying to the general public; and Comet (but for its one fatal design flaw)/Boeing 707 which introduced jet travel?

  25. Nick

    my first long haul flight was with KLM on their 747 from Amsterdam to Nairobi, it was a fantastic experience back in 1985 flying over the Sudan desert during sunset, the seating configuration back then allowed me to have plenty of legroom in economy with no seat in front of me, the cabin crew were truly the best and despite flying with so many different airlines since, I hope soon to use their services from UK Bristol to Indonesia Jakarta… great airline and loved the history

    • Frido Ogier

      Hi Nick, thanks for your very kind post. I really do hope that our crew will welcome you on board soon!

      Best regards,

      Frido

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *