Cox and Forkum has a great cartoon about the Wright brothers, celebrating their tremendous achievement, and lamenting the lack of innovation in the aviation industry today.
WrightBrothers2003-X.gif
As Heike Berthold explains, there has not been a radically new civilian aircraft design in 50 years. While technology has surged ahead in every field, today’s jetliners and private aircraft are virtually the same as those of 40 or 50 years ago.

While FAA bureaucrats engage in constant “restructuring,” the weight of government regulation and leftist judges have made it prohibitively expensive to release a new aircraft design and has restricted private flying to a hobby for wealthy individuals who can afford to spend thousands of hours getting the proper certifications. Because the government has made selling aircraft commercially so expensive, more people build their own experimental planes than buy them today, and most U.S. small aircraft are now at least 25 years old. Imagine how difficult the government would have to make selling a new car to force most people to build their own or own a 25 to 50 year-old model. Not surprisingly, the kits being assembled today are often more advanced (using advanced composites and avionics) than the new pre-assembled airplanes being sold today. (And the same kind of attitude pervades space flight.) The technology is here. It is our philosophy that America needs to rediscover.