Modern day airliners are feats of engineering on many fronts. They are marvels of aerodynamics, often sport complex hydraulic and electrical systems as well as the most modern and efficient power plants. In this article, we will take a look at arguably, a count down of the best 10 modern airliners in service today.
10) McDonnell Douglas MD-95 (Boeing 717): This single aisle twin jet was an airliner developed by McDonnell Douglass prior to their merger with the Boeing Company. Although design and marketing was done my McDonnell Douglass, the first airframe was produced in 1998, by Boeing in its Long Beach, California plant.
The 717 is intended solely for short hops, typically less than an hour to two in flight time, and it does this job very well and efficiently. It also is designed for extremely high cycles (a cycle is defined as a whole flight sequence from takeoff to pressurization to landing again) Hawaiian Airlines uses the 717's very effectively for it's short intra-island hops. Other major users include Air Tran Airways and Midwest Airlines.
9) Embraer Regional Jet family: Although small and usually cramped, the ERJ family has filled a vital niche in the aviation industry. Most of these are operated by regional airlines, which serve as "feeders", operating under a contract with major airlines.
The ERJ family is vast, from the rear engine mounted 37 seat ERJ-135 to the all new state of the art E-190, with a seating of 98 seats.
8) Canadair Regional Jets: These are the ERJ's main competition. Manufactured by Bombardier Aerospace, based in Montreal the CRJ's are also popular with Regional Airlines. It is note worthy that the CRJ series has enjoyed better sales than it's competitor, Embraer. The baseline model is the CRJ-200, which to the untrained eye is somewhat similar to the ERJ-135/145. The family of aircraft tops off with the CRJ-900, a long extended CRJ-200 but with more power and better avionics and automation systems.
Unlike Embraer, which started with a relatively clean sheet when they expanded the line to the ERJ-170/190, Bombardier kept most of the basic designs the same.
7) Boeing 747: Most call her the queen of the skies. The 747 is without doubt an icon. Although the first 747-100 rolled off the line in February of 1969, Boeing has always been updating the 747, making it longer, extending its range, increasing its efficiency.
The 747 was tailor made for long distance, high density hauls, and that's where they are mostly used (except for Japan, where airlines use 747's for domestic hops because of the high demand) It has also gained success as a freighter. When Airbus first attempted to tame the menace of the 747 with their A340, all they got was an aircraft that was considered as a failure. Lacking in performance, it lost out orders to the 747-400. As of 4th May, 2009, the 1419th 747 is taking shape in Boeing's Everett factory. All future orders will be for the new 747-8 version.
Although one might argue that the 747 is not really "modern", this is the reason it scores so low. The 747 helped define the modern day aviation industry and it will keep flying for many years to come, in its new incarnation as the 747-8.
6) Airbus A330: The Airbus A330 is a long range twin jet. After Boeing gained ETOPS certification with the 767, permitting twin engined aircraft to fly off where once was only the realm of Quad jets and Tri-jets, the A330 was instantly given a role it could perform very well. Like all Airbus aircraft since the A320, the A330 has a side stick instead of the usual yoke and is Fly By Wire, instead of pulleys and cables.
The A330 along with the Boeing 767 are masters of the trans-Atlantic routes, hauling passengers from Europe and Africa to the United states and vice-versa. It is somewhat more fuel efficient than the older 767's, although it is a level playing ground in this regard with the modern 767-400's.
5) Airbus A380: The A380 is nothing short of a flying elephant, both appearance wise and size wise. It has a double deck wide body cabin seating up to 850 people. Most airports have to modify there taxiways and runways to allow this mammoth to even operate there.
Its engines have a combined thrust of 280,000 lbs of thrust, propelling the A380 to a maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.96. At Maximum Take-off Weight, its ground roll can amount to 9,000ft of runway.
4) Boeing 757: The 757 is the starship of the airliner world. It's a fact that it is grossly over powered, and even fully loaded and at hot and high conditions, it climbs like a home sick angle heading towards home.
The 757 is a narrow body twin jet that can carry about 230 passengers (precise amount varies by the airlines configuration) just as effectively as a short hop from a small 4,000ft runway as a Trans-Atlantic crossing. It is the jack of all trades and many of the American Major airlines are finding them invaluable right now.
3) Airbus A320: The A320 is an entire family of twin engine, narrowbody jets. It is the second best selling family of jets today. Famous for being the first commercial airliner that used Fly By Wire controls, it is extremely automated.
The smallest member of the family is the A318, which is primary competition for the 717 and it tops off at the A321, which was intended to be a competitor for the 757, but failed miserably. Its flight deck is very similar to most other Airbus products, as well as being extremely spacious.
2) Boeing 777: The Boeing 777 is, currently, the longest range commercial aircraft in the world. The long range variant can fly a total non stop distance of 9,380 Nautical Miles (That's the equivalent of 17,370 km) Impressed yet? How about this- It's a twin jet.
When Boeing first started development, many naysayers said that a twin jet would never earn the ETOPS certification that would allow it to go anywhere in the world (known as ETOPS 330)
Boeing proved them wrong by demonstrating to the FAA the aircraft's high standard of reliability. And if one of it's engines, which are the most powerful and largest turbofans in the world, were to quit while flying over mid ocean, it could safely make it back to land on it's remaining engine.
The 777 is an amazingly technologically advanced aircraft, featuring systems such as automatic rudder compensation on the event of an engine failure on takeoff roll, as well as being Boeing's first Fly By Wire aircraft. Despite this, Boeing still opted to retain the traditional yoke.
1) Boeing 737: Few aircraft have enjoyed as much success. Boeing has sold more units of this single aircraft alone than Airbus has sold its entire product line since its formation. The 737 has come to be known as the industry standard for reliability, and has defined itself as the airline work horse.
Since its rollout in 1967, it has amassed more than 8,000 orders. There are more than 1,250 737's flying overhead at any one given time. Although it is a 60's design, the 737 has had many major improvements. The 737NG line introduced an all glass flight deck, as well as HUD's and increased automation. Newer, more efficient and more powerful engines were fitted. It was lengthened considerably and its operating weights were also increased.
Some airlines, like Southwest and Ryanair operate exclusively this aircraft, with Southwest having a fleet of over 540 737's. A few weeks ago, Boeing announced the new Boeing 737 Sky Interior, which boasts new lighting to help make the flying experience more soothing and increased space.
With the Boeing backlog for the 737 still sporting some 2,000 orders, and with more orders to come in the foreseeable future, one will be seeing a whole lot of this amazing aircraft.