Photos of the Week: Complex Simplicity

Cutting-edge technology allows planes to bring out the kid in all of us

By BlueSkyStaff

Published April 12, 2021

Read Time: 2 mins


The Wright Flyer featured a stopwatch and Richard anemometer to calculate airspeed. A revolution counter was mounted on the engine to measure its production. A hip cradle controlled the wings and rudder, and a wooden lever operated the elevator.

That was the sum total of what passed for avionics on the very first airplane.

Obviously, such things have become a bit more sophisticated since the Wright brothers’ daring flight. Airplanes now are loaded with electronic systems and computerized networks that are light years beyond what was found even on Apollo 11.

Matthew Slafka’s photo of a DHL Aviation Airbus A300 in the mist at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport illustrates the capabilities of modern aircraft, which can fly in virtually any conditions—rain, snow, fog, darkness or all of the above—because of the high-tech instruments and controls that are now standard issue.

The best part is that all of that impassive wiring and hardware is ultimately responsible for one of the simplest human joys: watching an airplane take off.

So it’s no surprise Jeffrey Helfrich’s son couldn’t peel his eyes away from American Airlines’ Airbus A319 painted with the “PSA Heritage” livery honoring now-defunct Pacific Southwest Airlines, not even to pose for a family photo taken by mom Katie in a parking lot at Pittsburgh International Airport last year.

We feel you, buddy. Neither can we.

Thanks, Matthew and Jeffrey!

Our readers continue to pass along shots of unique aircraft, international airports, historical events, gorgeous views and even family vacation photos for this feature. We love them! Keep them coming—you can click here for submission guidelines.

Jeffrey Helfrich and his children pose for a photo in a parking lot at Pittsburgh International Airport. (Photo submitted by Katie Helfrich)

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