Editor's comment: Who do we think we are?

blue-sky thinking
blue-sky thinking

I’m all for a bit of blue-sky thinking, but is there a chink in the way that we think? As I mop up the drops of milk I’ve spilt on the breakfast table, it’s occurred to me that whilst we’ve designed spaceships capable of giving wealthy people the ride of their life, why can’t we design a milk carton that pours properly?

Take today’s airframe manufacturers for example. All manner of aircraft have been dreamt up throughout aviation’s history. Some have been marvels of modern engineering, such as the mould-breaking Concorde, whereas infamous flaws designed into others have led to certain aircraft acquiring derogatory nicknames that I won’t mention here.

Aircraft builders have generally flown a pretty well-worn flightpath over time by sticking to the fundamental design precepts of aerodynamics and lightweight construction. In its most basic form, a civil aircraft comprises a tubular fuselage, a pair of wings and a tail assembly, whilst the modern jet engine can be summed up in just four words: suck, squeeze, bang, blow. Recently, far more futuristic designs have been mooted, with attractive blended wing bodies and open rotor designs turning a few heads.     

However, environmental regulations such as noise and emissions, along with the airline operating costs per passenger per mile will forever dominate the demands that today’s designers of tomorrow’s civil aircraft will need to satisfy before they even leave the drawing board, let alone the runway.

Why try and reinvent the wheel? Perhaps we’re all expecting the next aircraft design to be literally ‘out of the blue’. Like it or not, turning dreams into schemes will always be shackled by the practicalities of the end customer’s wishes. If we’re thinking about a ‘first’ in aircraft design then think about profit first.

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