In the airline industry, many different systems interact in order to ensure that planes stay on schedule and that they fly safely. Nearly all of these systems rely on computers to some degree. Computers are involved in everything from the passenger's initial travel arrangements to the functioning of an airport and the airplanes that fly into it.
When you book a flight, regardless of the method, your reservation information is processed and stored by the airline's computer system. If you book this online, your registration information is directly stored with the company. If you book your flight over the phone, a customer service representative will enter this information for you. This computer-based reservation system allows you to easily modify travel arrangements at any airport, and even to use multiple airline companies over the course of a single trip.
Many aspects of an airport rely heavily on computers. Security screening machines such as X-rays may not make use of personal computers, but they do rely on computer technology for a great deal of their operations. Furthermore, computers are necessary for the use of pre-screening measures such as the current U.S. counter-terrorism efforts.
Computers are crucial to an airport's air traffic control services. While the communication between air traffic controllers and pilots occurs through radio, the system by which this communication is synthesized with radar and weather data is based on computers. Computers allow air traffic controllers to visualize and track the location of planes in the air, and then instruct pilots as to the correct course of action.
An airplane depends on computers for a number of essential flight functions. The autopilot, which many modern airplanes are equipped with, frequently employs a computer. This relieves the pilots of many in-flight tasks, allowing the plane to process navigational data and flight control systems. Computerized "fly-by-wire" technology, which many airplanes have, transmits pilot or autopilot signals to a computer. This allows planes to respond to subtle atmospheric variables and make other adjustments easily. Additionally, some airplanes have wing flaps that can be controlled by a computer. Others have power systems that can be regulated by computer. Finally, computers are central to the efficient communication and recording of an airplane's flight data. Such data is vital to air traffic controllers, and greatly assists in the event of an emergency situation.
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