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Between 20, there were 2.94 billion passenger emplanements on scheduled commercial flights—about 735 million annually.

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By halving the time to clear the next flight for departure on some runways from two minutes to one, Atlanta controllers can now put as many as 12 more planes per hour into the heavens.

In many ways, flying has become an unpleasant, increasingly expensive, and frequently contentious effort.

Like the ancient wonders, this list is somewhat arbitrary. Sure, the world is filled with new, man-made wonders of an astounding scale, like the CCTV headquarters in Beijing and the Three Gorges Dam.

But monumental buildings and dams have been done before, even millennia ago.

Part of this series’s goal is to highlight systems that are overlooked or maligned yet remain both extraordinarily functional and vital to the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people. And serious glitches, on the ground and in the skies, have become more rare.

Between 20, the likelihood of a piece of luggage being mislaid fell by more than half—from a rate of 7.03 per 1,000 passengers to 3.22 per 1,000, as the The global system, of course, is far from foolproof, as the lost Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and its cousin shot down over the Ukraine made clear earlier this year. S., the world’s busiest airspace, safety has improved dramatically.

Traveling the skies may no longer feel like a miracle, but the systems that make it possible and increasingly more efficient deserve our adulation.

Slowly, imperceptibly, and often invisibly, the FAA is rolling out what it calls the Next Gen project, an alphabet soup of acronyms that describe a set of initiatives, procedures, and protocols that are improving the way we fly.

Today, the point of buildings and infrastructure shouldn’t be to impress but to connect. With land and infrastructure dollars hard to come by, subtle upgrades to the operating system are effectively increasing the capacity of our airports and skies, making it all run more smoothly and safely. S., air travel is a form of mass transit, so these efficiency improvements matter a great deal.

In the 21 century, our ability to thrive rests in large measure on the quality and power of the networks that transport data, information, and life-giving substances like water. In 2013, there were 21.58 million commercial flights, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The seven wonders of classical antiquity were architectural marvels, triumphs of human ego and raw power.

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