View Full Version : If we really had to...

15th Apr 2004, 15:46
It takes not far short of 10 years from the idea of a new airliner to operational capability, decades for military aircraft and many years even for piston singles. Certification, testing etc. etc. etc.

Imagine its war. With the martians (or some equally menacing foe). Money is no object. There is internation collaboration. Could we do the following within 12 months if we really had to? No time for certification, extended life cycles or perfect safety - its just got to be done.

Project 1. An aircraft is required to lift a payload of 400,000kg in the form of 200 1metre cubed boxes each weighing 2000kg over a range of 5000 nm, unload within 24 hours, return empty and complete the same mission 10 times.

Project 2. An interceptor is required to take off, climb to FL500, cruise at Mach 3.5 for 1000 nm and return to base (not necessarily where it took off. Again, 10 missions required.

Project 3. A payload of 16 people must be raised to FL500 in a pressurised environment, hover (by any means) in a geostationary position for 30 minutes and return safely. 10 missions required.

Ground Rules. Existing infrastructure to be used. All aircraft to be operated by a minimum of 2 crew whose safety will be an important, but not paramount, consideration. Assume limitless funding, international co-operation and some red hot project managers.

The planet's future depends on it.

Could we do it?

15th Apr 2004, 17:10
Are you buying or selling?

15th Apr 2004, 17:12
Could we do it?
Well, given that North American Aviation is now just a historical footnote on the Boeing website and that Dutch Kindelberger and Edgar Schmued are no longer around to run the program, I'd have my doubts...

PLEASE, somebody tell me that this allusion rang a bell...

:( Dave

16th Apr 2004, 04:18
You can do anything in a year with unlimited funding and no need to meet regulations, keendog. Its the funding and the certification that cause all the problems.

You'd have no problem finding people to fly the results. After all, they had people lining up begging to be the first man to have a rocket strapped to his arse and be fired on a ballistic trajectory.

Later in their lives people willing to do things like that get elected to the Senate ...
... the organization which ensures that no-one gets the funding to follow in their footsteps.

16th Apr 2004, 04:55
It was just for this short-circuiting need that the Skonk Works and similar design/prototyping models were set up ....

Genghis the Engineer
16th Apr 2004, 08:35
Ah, thank you gents for reminding me why I left the "heavy metal" aircraft industry.

Down here in the weeds, working on single and 2-seat light aircraft, we routinely design build and certify new light aircraft types within a year, usually with tiny teams. It's not easy, and the people achieving this are very very good at their jobs - but equally importantly they are still working in an environment where it's possible.

The key points to success in this sort of venture are:-

- Having somebody very competent, who understands the whole design build and approve process, in charge.

- Re-using as many existing bits as you can get away with, and never using a new engine in a new airframe.

- A team no bigger than it needs to be.

- Avoid committee decisions. If there's a chief designer - that's what he is. If there's a chief stressman, he has final say and also decides what extra investigation is needed - nobody can overrule them (but they need to be good enough).

- Agree the certification basis with "the authority" (whoever it is) as you go along, never after something has been designed.

So yes, it is possible and there are people who are good enough to do it, even in the UK (to name names: Ivan Shaw, Bill Brooks, Mike Whittaker all have done it).

But, the first casualty of the alien invasion would have to be the "avoid all risks, regardless of the escalating cost" management structure of companies like BAE. Also we need to avoid too-narrow specialists. Ivan, Bill and Mike are all very competent pilots as well as being designers - certainly none are just stressmen, pilots, aerodynamicists or what have you. So, if you read their biographies were most of the pioneers at the companies doing this sort of rapid development in the 1930s.

If you want to see how to do it, read this book (http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1842322915/ref=sr_aps_books_1_1/026-2649044-8303610) , written by Neville Shute, who truly understood the process, on some very big aircraft.


Genghis the Engineer
16th Apr 2004, 11:35
Paxboy just posted a very witty repost to my post, which then vanished whilst I was attempting to respond with an equally witty reply. So, I've deleted my witty reply, but may repost it later.


Had enough work, off flying.

Young Paul
16th Apr 2004, 16:17

I wanted to leave the reply at that, but the board doesn't allow posts of less than fifteen characters. The reason for this reaction is the deletion of my previous post, which was longer than fifteen characters.

I'm sorry if it caused offence/was deemed too trivial/breached the t's and c's in some other way. I realise that moderators are busy and volunteer their time etc, but it would be nice to know the reason for the deletion. I spent some time writing what I thought was a witty response - which other people have done in this thread without being censored.

Genghis the Engineer
16th Apr 2004, 18:22
I didn't see anything from you, unless you are also paxboy?

Paxboy's post seemed to me witty, intelligent and totally inoffensive. The only person who could possibly have had fun poked at in it was me, and I took no offence and made no complaint.

Is there a gremlin in the works I ask myself?


N.B. Add one to my previous post. The government must be prohibited from changing either the specification or safety standard, unless requested by the designer, until it is approved. Any changes then belong on the Mk.2 version.

17th Apr 2004, 01:55
A couple of posts refer to censorship.

Stable and I are not overly sensitive and will let things go for quite a bit before stepping in .. except for

(a) outright nastiness, etc ... has no place in this sort of forum

(b) things which might cause the Ivory Tower legal embarrassment - and, even then, we often will copy the thread to the admin forum for assessment and comment first.

In any case, we will do the poster the courtesy of indicating that something has been amended - I would be very surprised if either of us saw a need to delete a post in toto, even if we deleted all or most of the text within it.

Other possibilities which come to mind are

(a) the original poster went back to edit the post and, inadvertently, deleted it him/herself

(b) something done in another forum may have impacted on the poster's posts here ?? .. shades of chemtrails ....

(c) one of the admins further up the food chain deleted your post ... I think this is very unlikely in the absence of advice to Stable and I.

(d) just one of those occasional computer glitches .. ain't no computer or complex program is perfect .... hands up all those glass/FMS cockpit guys and gals who HAVEN'T heard the statement in flight ... "what the (expletive) is it doing now ?" (I think I see NO hands in the audience ...)

In respect of "trivial" posts (whatever that might mean) .. no, we don't have either any interest in, or spare time for, doing the Chief Editor thing ... In any case, sometimes it is a very simple post which triggers a very interesting string of posts in a thread.

If Stable or I see the need to haul somebody over the coals, we will do it up front and will make it clear to the readership that we have done so. Maybe we won't get it right all the time but we try to do our best while being reasonable and fair.

Young Paul
17th Apr 2004, 10:58
Well, that's kind of nice to know, I guess. Sorry if I'm overly sensitive - but I had what I thought was a reasonable post deleted before - I was beginning to wonder if my name was in lights somewhere. Just a shame to have lost the post .......

Sorry, this is now completely off-thread. If this one disappears after having been seen by moderators, I won't mind!