MIAMI – Not long ago, we wrote a piece titled ‘American Airlines Invests $550m In Tulsa Maintenance Facility’ exploring what is ultimately set up to be the largest investment of its kind in American history.

The facility in question, in Tulsa, already handles half of AA’s maintenance work, but will now be better equipped to handle even more.

Changes to the facility, as we wrote in our piece on the subject, will include roof replacements, infrastructure improvements, and IT upgrades, among other things.

The mention of IT upgrades is seemingly meant to describe improvements that will be made to the facility itself. However, the mention of an IT component to a new chapter of maintenance for one of the world’s most influential airlines got us thinking about some of the tech upgrades that are occurring on actual airplanes as well.

We tend to assume that newer planes are as technologically advanced and capable as they can be. And to some extent, this tends to be a fair assumption.

However, many are still somewhat unaware when it comes to the specific tech upgrades that are affecting modern flight. Below, we’ll identify some of the specific aspects of technology that are making an impact on air travel.

IoT Integration


For those who aren’t particularly familiar with the term, “IoT” stands for “Internet of Things,” and especially refers to a network of electrical systems, sensors, and devices that are wirelessly connected.

This sort of network can have virtually innumerable applications in various aspects of modern life. But the IoT is useful in aviation primarily for its ability to bring about better maintenance and greater efficiency.

Covering every potential application would be nearly impossible, but generally, airlines and airports can use vast collections of sensors and technologies to collect data and simplify processes.

This can accomplish specific goals ranging from facilitating preventative maintenance to freeing up flight crews to focus on passengers rather than small tasks that can now be automated.

PCB Design


PCB Design There aren’t many aspects of aircraft technology more fundamentally important than the PCBs (or printed circuit boards) that enable electronic systems and devices to run properly. Generally speaking, PCB involvement in airplanes is nothing new.

However, it’s worth pointing out that as planes become more advanced and more capable, PCBs have had to improve as well in order to meet the demands of electrical systems.

Today, FAA aircraft certification standards come into play in PCB design, such that those behind these vital electronic components have to adhere to strict design requirements. This makes the process more difficult but is also leading to ever more capable PCBs that effectively help to make more advanced airplanes possible.

AI


There’s some overlap between AI in air travel and the previous two categories discussed, IoT integration and PCB design. Specifically, the use of data collected by IoT systems can require AI, and some AI-related technologies require advanced PCBs to function properly.

As for how AI is being applied more broadly though, an article exploring AI beyond auto-pilot spoke to various ways in which artificial intelligence is simplifying the flying process for pilots and flight crews.

Basically, today’s AI systems have enough capability and are backed by enough data, to manage the more intricate aspects of managing a plane, enabling pilots and crew to focus more on directing the experience.

AI is also now capable, in some respects, of essentially taking overflight in the event that a pilot falls ill or, in the worst of situations, collapses.

Biometrics


Biometrics in air travel have come to represent a fairly active topic of conversation. Mostly, the idea refers to the use of face or eye scans as substitutes for personal identification for people checking in at airports and moving through security.

However, the same basic concept may ultimately have a greater impact on the flying experience than we tend to discuss right now.

Essentially, if one’s biometric identifiers come to represent full substitutes for ID and boarding passes, they could play into every aspect of the experience. We could soon be using our faces and/or eyes to board planes, purchase drinks or viewing materials, and access other perks on planes or in airports.

Altogether, these relatively subtle changes could soon amount to air travel experiences that are safer, more efficient, and more comfortable all at once.