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Old Posted Dec 15, 2016, 6:11 PM
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The Jetliner: still the same basic form after 6 decades

so man's first powered machine to take to the skies was this ungainly contraption from the early 20th century. certainly not a looker, but she proved the concept of powered flight, which is all that mattered

Wright Flyer, first flight 1903

source: http://www.wright-brothers.org/Infor...s/Flyer_II.htm



then, a mere 54 years later, aircraft designers had hit upon the winning formula for the world's first commercially successful and fully modern jetliner, the boeing 707. it's all there: a long thin circular fuselage, a single large swept-back wing with slats and flaps and podded jet engines slung underneath, a single large vertical stabilizer with horizontal stabilizers at the base, fully retractable tricycle landing gear, etc.

Boeing 707, first flight 1957

source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_707



and then 52 years after the 707, we have the latest and greatest with the boeing 787, and while it is packed with a whole host of new technology that the 707's designers could have only ever dreamed of, from a basic overall form perspective, little appears to have changed.

Boeing 787, first flight 2009


source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_787_Dreamliner




we often talk about how fast our world changes, but some designs get the formula so correct from the beginning that there seems little to be gained by going back and reinventing the wheel.

in our lifetime, will the jetliner ever evolve into anything substantively different from this basic form, or is this it?
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Last edited by Steely Dan; Dec 16, 2016 at 5:46 AM.
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  #2  
Old Posted Dec 15, 2016, 6:16 PM
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I don't know--- the ability for modern aircraft to fly non-stop between any two points in the world and for aircraft to fly much quieter and more efficiently seems like a major improvement.
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  #3  
Old Posted Dec 15, 2016, 6:25 PM
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^ i'm not arguing that there haven't been significant performance improvements, i'm talking about the generally static nature of the overall FORM of modern jetliners over the past 60 years.
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Old Posted Dec 15, 2016, 6:41 PM
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In case you'd forget, both British-French cooperation and the Soviet Union managed to achieve something slightly different and twice faster a long time ago already.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupolev_Tu-144


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concorde

These were developed in the 60s and turned fully operational in the mid 70s.
Concorde was so great that the US merely banned it from their airspace.
LOL, God bless 'murika, baby!.. and no one else, huh.
Oops, anyone grumpy at me right now?
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  #5  
Old Posted Dec 15, 2016, 6:53 PM
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^ and both designs, despite massive government subsidies to prop them up, eventually flopped.

the successful jetliners being built today (737, 747, 767, 777, 787, A380, A350, A330, A320) all FAR more resemble the 707 than they do the concorde.
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Last edited by Steely Dan; Dec 15, 2016 at 7:28 PM.
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Old Posted Dec 15, 2016, 7:03 PM
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I disagree. Can't tell about the Russian thing, but Concorde obviously left an engineering record here in Western Europe that might be recycled when demand for that kind of airliners makes their development more feasible. It's still some interesting starting point to work on, not a loss of money.
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  #7  
Old Posted Dec 15, 2016, 7:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Steely Dan View Post
^ and both designs, despite massive government subsidies to prop them up, eventually flopped.
Yup. Too loud and guzzled fuel were too much to offset it's faster flight time. Not enough mega-rich passengers to keep it afloat.
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  #8  
Old Posted Dec 18, 2016, 6:26 AM
LouisVanDerWright LouisVanDerWright is offline
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Originally Posted by mousquet View Post
In case you'd forget, both British-French cooperation and the Soviet Union managed to achieve something slightly different and twice faster a long time ago already.

These were developed in the 60s and turned fully operational in the mid 70s.
Concorde was so great that the US merely banned it from their airspace.
LOL, God bless 'murika, baby!.. and no one else, huh.
Oops, anyone grumpy at me right now?
Oh yeah because the Concorde was such elite and unique technology that the Americans couldn't touch it:


lockheedmartin.com

The Concorde was an awesome thing, but let's not be delusional about it's superiority or practicality as a business venture. The Concorde failed because it was a terribly inefficient business with a very limited market. The 707 design has more or less been regurgitated for half a century because it is the most efficient format for reliably hauling the most passengers with the least fuel.

This is like the same reasoning as people saying "oh America has fallen behind because they aren't building as many supertalls as China or the middle East" when really it's just economics. The buildings going up in those places are mostly regurgitations of technology that was already demonstrated here 50-100 years ago and the majority of them are designed and engineered by American firms. The jetliner retains it form for business reasons just as the skyscraper in American cities like Chicago is often 30-40 floors and 300-400' for residential towers and 35-50 floors and 600-700' tall for office. Those are the most efficient programs for towers, sure the occasional supertall is profitable simply for cache and novelty, but it's not a good standard business model. Same goes for airplanes, sure a supersonic jet is great for spying or ferrying around super rich people, but the best model was perfected by the 707 and hasn't reallly changed since.

Last edited by LouisVanDerWright; Dec 18, 2016 at 6:38 AM.
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  #9  
Old Posted Dec 15, 2016, 6:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steely Dan View Post
in our lifetime, will the jetliner ever evolve into anything substantively different from this basic form, or is this it?
The airliner form is very efficient for what it does, and produces a very stable flight pattern.

Barring substantial new innovations in lift or propulsion, we're basically locked into a combination of airfoil wings and jet engines for air travel. Faster/supersonic engines are possible, but the technology (or at least the declassified tech) uses so much energy that it's not cost-effective for commercial air travel. Concorde only worked financially (barely) by charging astronomical rates to globe-trotting elites, connecting elite cities, with huge taxpayer contributions.

Plus, the sonic booms are generally not acceptable over populated areas except for defense reasons, which is why Concorde was only used for NY-London and NY-Paris flights, and only broke the sound barrier whilst over open water. For this reason, only a small fraction of air routes are feasible for supersonic travel.

Likewise, the airfoil is the only technology we have that's realistically capable of generating lift. It's possible that a flying wing design may eventually be developed for commercial travel, but it would take billions in R&D to produce a stable and cost-effective airliner, and you'd have to develop a whole new infrastructure both to maintain it and to accommodate it at airports.
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Old Posted Dec 16, 2016, 4:20 AM
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...For this reason, only a small fraction of air routes are feasible for supersonic travel...
obviously i agree about the sonic boom thing... but aren't a huge number of the world's most lucrative routes over water? basically the entire east coast of north america to nearly all of europe, and the entire west coast of north america to most of asia...

the real issue is the cost of fuel and the inefficiency of flight at such high speeds, i think.
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Old Posted Jan 25, 2017, 4:37 AM
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obviously i agree about the sonic boom thing... but aren't a huge number of the world's most lucrative routes over water? basically the entire east coast of north america to nearly all of europe, and the entire west coast of north america to most of asia...

the real issue is the cost of fuel and the inefficiency of flight at such high speeds, i think.
Actually no, because of great circle routes. Chicago to Hong Kong routes are over WI, Canada, Russia and China. Coming back, fly over Taiwan, Japan, Alaska.

The amount of time where the plane could go supersonic isn't worth the cost.
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  #12  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2017, 1:50 AM
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Actually no, because of great circle routes. Chicago to Hong Kong routes are over WI, Canada, Russia and China. Coming back, fly over Taiwan, Japan, Alaska.

The amount of time where the plane could go supersonic isn't worth the cost.
A lot of the land that these great circle routes fly over is very sparsely populated (Northern Canada, Alaska, and Siberia) and there wouldn't really be any issues with sonic booms either.
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Old Posted Dec 15, 2016, 8:15 PM
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Real transportation innovation is few and far between. Trains, cars, and planes are decades old and only improve marginally.
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  #14  
Old Posted Dec 15, 2016, 8:19 PM
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There's a valid reason why the Wright Brothers are credited being the first at controlled flight. Today's airfoils (wings) are less than 5% more efficient than their canvas and wood wings. Most of the advances in flight over the last 100 years has been advancemnets in lighter and stronger materials, and advancements in electronics.
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Old Posted Dec 15, 2016, 11:29 PM
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The additional fuel and structure required to exceed the speed of sound has made ~550mph the 'sweet spot' for commercial aviation. Not to mention the sonic boom restricting supersonic speeds to just over the oceans. I agree though, it's a bit frustrating that we haven't engineered our way around these problems. It is certainly possible - it's just nobody who can do it (Boeing, Airbus) want to bet their entire company on it, since it would easily cost over $30 billion. It would be cheaper to send humans to Mars.
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Old Posted Dec 16, 2016, 5:00 AM
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All forms of transportation improvements in speed has been slow. On the ground, in the air, and in space.
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  #17  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2016, 6:20 AM
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All forms of transportation improvements in speed has been slow. On the ground, in the air, and in space.
We are living the The Great Stagnation.
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Old Posted Dec 16, 2016, 6:41 AM
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I'm old enough to remember the SST from the early 70s which Boeing just could not do and then laid-off a few thousand in Seattle and Wichita..
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Old Posted Dec 16, 2016, 1:28 PM
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I don't think we are giving enough credit to the amazing advancements in design and technology of modern jetliners like the 787. The emphasis has been on reliability, operating costs, safety, and fuel efficiency because these are the things that are driven by consumer demands. There were were enough demand for supersonic trans-ocean flights they would be happening.


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  #20  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2016, 4:25 PM
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I don't think we are giving enough credit to the amazing advancements in design and technology of modern jetliners like the 787.
i'm fully aware that the guts of a 787 are an entirely different universe of modern technological wizardry compared to a 707, but as i have stressed now a couple of times, this thread is about the similarity in the overall form of modern jetliners over the past 6 decades. yes, other arrangements were tried (and abandoned) over the years (the concord, trijets, "T" tails, etc.), but all modern full-size jetliners that are being built today still follow the same basic overall form first laid out by the 707 back in the 1950s.

noting this isn't so much a criticism of contemporary aviation engineering as it is a testament to how freaking far the 707's designers knocked the ball out of the park when they first conceived the aircraft so many decades ago. i stand in awe of the 707.
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