Updated April 20, 2013
I have been an enthusiastic pilot now for more than 50 years. As a result, I have observed several cases of what appears to be forward progress in the field of aviation to be the opposite. One of these involves the replacement of flying fields (large plots of land dedicated to airplanes taking off and landing) by runways.
The large fields made it possible for all take offs and landings to be made directly into the wind. There was no requirement for either the airplane or the pilot to be trained and capable of using cross wind techniques.
When the first dedicated runways were built by the Ford Motor company to replace the flying field requiring cross wind capabilities for both the pilot and aircraft, it had to be a step backwards. I have never read an article anywhere which considers that to be a fact. Runways are not progress but a step backwards!
A search for such an airport today has not resulted in any finds. If you are aware of one, I sure would appreciate its name and location as well as a picture. I just located a picture of Chicago Midway and it appears to have originated as a flying field with landings and takeoffs not limited to runways. A takeoff or landing was always into the wind with no cross wind capabilities required either of the pilot or the aircraft.
Consider how many times you have been confronted with a considerable cross wind when you were planning on flying and how many times it negatively affected your decision to fly. Or the number of times that you made a decision to fly while at home and upon reaching the airport you reconsidered whether to fly or not because of the existing cross wind. Yep, runways replacing the big open field were definitely a step backwards.
Another case where most believe progress occurred was when analog cockpit information (round electro mechanical dials were replaced by digital information. Once again, I believe it was s step backwards. When I am asked to describe myself as a pilot I say "I am an analog pilot and proud of it!" Analog pilots hand fly their aircraft with a high level of proficiency and look out the window most of the time.
Diamond DA-42 Garmin G-1000 Digital Cockpit
Digital pilots spend way too much of their time punching the buttons on their flight management systems with both heads down looking at the flight management systems hundreds of buttons and selections and asking each other "What is it doing now?"
To further my argument in favor of analog information being superior to digital information, look at the wrist watch you are wearing. Most people prefer the analog (round dial) wrist watch because its superior information delivery power.
Reading the transcription of the cockpit voice recording of the pilots flying Air France 447 reveals the real result of the digitization of the flight process and the much too heavy emphasis by the authorities to force us to engage the autopilot and utilize it.
There is a concept called "unintended consequences" that are the result of new procedures and capabilities. When the procedure described as Reduced Vertical Separation Minima was first implemented on March 27, 1997, few recognized the disastrous unintended consequences that resulted. Because the procedure required the pilot to have the autopilot engaged with altitude hold selected while operation in Reduced Vertical Separation Airspace a loss of the pilots hand flying proficiency resulted which contributed heavily to the Air France 447 disaster which killed 228 people.