Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Aircraft & Speed

Last week article on Hyper sonic Realm by Aire turned few heads. The idea of a passenger aircraft travelling at Mach5+ (five or greater than the speed of sound) is indeed exhilarating.

Why isn't there a passenger aircraft like this? I mean, in a world of instant food, instant info, instant satisfaction...why isn't the aviation industry trying to design and build a super awesome passenger aircraft that can fly at Mach 5+?

This led me to think about the evolution of aircraft design and speed. 

At the beginning, all aviators trying to fly was focusing on the first step - Take Off. Everyone was trying to build something that can take off. Some succeeded only to find that there design did not consider cruise and landing phases, which unfortunately was learned the hard way. 

Anyway, Wright Brothers was not only famous for inventing the aircraft. Although George Cayley is the one who discovered Airfoil, Wright Brothers were the one who invented a system to control airplanes by manipulating the flow of air. And so at the beginning years of aviation everyone focused on taming wind to their wills. 

When we mastered the power of flight, the new focus was speed. This particular interest in speed was propelled due to World Wars. Speed was crucial in dogfights. Speed allowed to do manoeuvres in air to gain tactical advantage for the fighters.

Speed was a promising endeavor. Pushing the speed limit higher and higher became the sole focus of aviators. Designers made breakthrough in science and technology to gain higher speeds. Records were made, many milestones were achieved; many of the records are still celebrated to this day.

With the advancement in technology, it was being apparent that speed comes at a price. The price was fuel. Even though great advancement was made to reduce drag and increase weight to thrust ratio; it was clear to the aviators that fuel can increase speed to insane values.

In the 1970s and 80s when the availability of fuel was plenty, governments of countries sponsored companies to build aircraft that can fly faster and higher. The national security was at stake like always. Little did the mass public cared about environment, global warming and the depletion of natural resource. Once the money and stock exchange got affected by these; people began to notice.

By 1990s, a new array of focus based on saving the planet was planned. It became obvious that fuel cost a lot & made pollution. The only solution was to compromise speed and increase other features like bed and hot bath. 

This is the reason why you now see an aviation industry focused on creating aircraft that are more comfortable, luxurious and consume less fuel. They are so into comforting people that now we can adjust lights according to our mood in the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. There was no light adjustment in Concorde because, you know, nobody cared - they will reach the destination soon. 

Aviation is an industry that has to adopt to the new rules of the new world. The brilliant aviators working in this industry strive hard to fight the challenges head on. They do their best with the time they have.

Until next time.

This is Chan.

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