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75 years since Pan Am's first transatlantic passenger service: How has the aeroplane changed over the years?

People say that the world is becoming a smaller place. Thanks to modern technological advancements, it is now possible to travel to virtually anywhere in the world in a matter of hours. Exotic locations such as Australia and Asia, that once seemed out of reach to most people, are now popular holiday destinations, all because it's so much easier to get there.

Not only that, you can travel in style and comfort, armed with a wireless Internet connection, the latest collection of blockbuster movies and all the peanuts you could ask for.

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This is, of course, a far cry from the early days of air travel, when the thought of propelling yourself through the air in a metal box would have triggered sweaty palms and shallow breathing in most people (in some cases, it still does).

On 28 June 1939, 75 years ago, Pan American Airways launched the first commercial transatlantic air service between New York and Marseilles. That's the first piece of pub quiz trivia for you.

The second piece is the make and model of the aeroplane used. Any takers? No? Well, the plane in question was a Boeing 314 Clipper, possessing a range of 3,500 miles and the capacity to carry 74 passengers. It was essentially a flying boat and was selected after winning a competition held by Pan American between eight US airline manufacturers in 1937.

The planes actually enjoyed several luxuries, including dressing rooms, a dining salon that could be turned into a lounge and even a bridal suite. The food wasn't bad either. Four-star hotels catered gourmet meals that were served from the plane's gallery, so no complaints there.

However, when you compare these planes to the monster jets of today, you can see just how far we've come. Take the Airbus A380 for example. Its website describes it as "the world's largest commercial aircraft flying today," and we're not arguing with that. With a range of over 9,700 miles and a 525 passenger-capacity, it's a serious piece of kit.

The amount of technology used in the A380 is astounding. The wings and fuselage are made of advanced aluminium alloys to save weight; 'Brake to Vacate' technology is used to aid landing; it makes use of three Eaton Corporation hydraulic systems and Honeywell provides the flight management system with a graphical user interface, as well as the satellite communication system.

Furthermore, there is a LTN-101E inertial navigation system provided by Northrop Grumman, the latest in-flight entertainment package from Matsushita Avionics Systems, four engines that each generates 70,000 pounds of thrust and a 22-wheel Goodrich landing gear set-up supported by a Smiths Aerospace extension and retraction system.

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As you might have suspected, all this gadgetry doesn't come cheap. According to reports, Airbus has spent an estimated $15 billion (£8.8 billion) on the development of the A380 and the average price for a single plane is around the $400 million (£235 million) mark. Despite this mammoth price tag, Airbus has delivered 132 A380s to 11 different customers as of May 2014, including British Airways, Emirates and South Korea's Asiana Airlines.

Clearly, air travel has come a long way in recent years and, seeing as the rate of technological advancement is showing no sign of slowing down, the sky really is the limit. Check out the table below for all the details.

Model Boeing 314 Clipper Airbus A380
First commercial flight 28 June 1939 25 October 2007
Classification Commercial transport Commercial transport
Span 152 feet 261 feet
Length 106 feet 238 feet
Gross weight 84,000lb 610,700lb
Top speed 199mph 633mph
Cruising speed 184mph 560mph
Range 5,200 miles 9,755 miles
Ceiling 19,600 feet 43,000 feet
Power Four 1,600-horsepower Wright Twin Cyclone engines Four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 Turbofans
Accommodation 74 passengers 525 passengers

Image credit: Flickr (Tom Wigley; The Noisy Mill)