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Customer: Project: Date: None Article 04/23/00
AEROSPACE DESIGN AND ENGINEERING
Bill Husa The American Heritage Dictionary’s definition of visionary is: “Characterized by vision or foresight”. The visionary is one who has the ability, and who takes the effort, to look far ahead over the horizon of current practice and technology, towards what might be. Because he deals with the new and the unique, he is often readily misunderstood, sometimes even considered eccentric. But he is in truth very practical, dedicated to turning “what might be” into “what is”. The visionary may not be immediately successful but his work turns wheels that drive his industry forward. Early aviation was fortunate to have a number of visionaries among its pioneers, individuals who saw in the airplane a great utility. Some of these innovators proved their notions feasible and moved aviation quickly forward. Others were perhaps too far sighted for their day and were met with indifference or even ridicule. There was a bond between those whose ideas came to be and those with dreams unrealized, a common vision for the future of aviation: That of safe, reliable, and even comfortable air transportation, something we now take for granted. Early aviation enthusiast Albert Lawson wrote in 1908: “There have been many dreamers and some cranks on the subject of flying machines during the past few years who have been held up to all sorts of public ridicule... Some of them are about to receive the reward successful dreamers get after they are dead, public applause.” In 1916 Bill Boeing said: “I’ve tried to make the men around me feel, as I do, that we are embarked as pioneers upon a new science and industry in which it behooves no one to dismiss any novel idea with the statement that ‘it can’t be done’”. Their words were prophecy, as the facets of aviation surged, advanced and grew to the highly technological industry it is today. All facets that is, except the private sector. Aviation has always been a different world to most people, a world they do not understand nor relate to, and for the most part are not all that tolerant of either. The brief efforts of the 30’s and 50’s to bring aviation to the average citizen floundered and almost as quickly as they came, faded into obscurity thus still and again leaving the airplane to the few enlightened. The unfortunate fact however is that since those early developments, the general aviation industry, specifically the sector which addresses small, private aircraft, has slipped into oblivion further still. The best example of aviation’s current status is at your local airport. Look at the flight line. If the airport has an FBO that is primarily into flight training it’s most likely that what meets your eye is a lineup of sometimes clean, usually well maintained trainer and utility aircraft which probably consist of a few Cessna 150’s and 152’s, a few 172’s, a couple of mid-range Pipers or Beechcrafts (depending on the local dealership), and maybe one or two higher performance aircraft. But lets take another look at that lineup. Boiling it all down, what you have there are airplanes with technology bases that reach back over fifty years, the designs of which haven’t changed significantly from the first models off the assembly line so long ago. The only thing that seems to change year to year is the price. If it was still in production today, a new Cessna 152 would run the buyer in excess of $90,000, a new 172 (recently revived) with minimum equipment will cost over $135,000. Who in his right mind wants to spend that kind of money for something with such marginal performance? These costs and the relatively low performance numbers of the low end certified production aircraft have driven the certified production market to virtually zero. Now some of you may accuse me of oversimplifying the problem; there are other factors which led to the decline in demand of the low end aircraft such as several economic slowdowns, fuel costs, the mild recession of a few
CONTRACT REPORT Customer: Project: Date: None Article 04/23/00 AEROSPACE DESIGN AND ENGINEERING years back. through some unfortunate occurrence. In order to be successful the new plane(s) would have to significantly surpass the standard configurations’ performance. A number of kit plane manufacturers have decided to address this problem by not addressing it. being self insured so to speak. the lack of affordable tie-downs at most airports. low cost. most light trainers are inadequate in the ability to provide the needed performance and handling experience. or those who can afford to hire someone to assemble the aircraft for them. Others ask about the reliability of kit manufacturers to establish and maintain quality procedures.000 for the kit. innovative. and the methods of manufacturing. and/or moving their manufacturing operations offshore. although the term ”simplified” is somewhat a misnomer. Either way. and anything which may affect profits and awards is aggressively blocked by insurance and lawyer lobbying efforts. Why not? Look at what you can buy in a car for that kind of money.in the neighborhood of $70. The low end trainers were excellent in their day but many feel that today’s pilots need more performance in their first aircraft. which unfortunately still keeps the idea of owning an airplane within the reach of a few skilled individuals. By owning a minimum number of assets and being employee owned (all profits are paid out at the end of the year). be easy to assemble (500 hours or less). Many I’ve talked to ask whether safety is compromised in reducing the requirements from Part 23 (these people have not studied enough of the new regulations).and to all this I say true . Most people agree that changes must be made to the system but the nature of the changes is still unclear.all the FAA has done is remove those sections which do not effect the small airplane. two and/or four place trainer and cross-country utility aircraft suitable for production in kit and certified form. there is considerable expense (not to mention time spent) before the first flight. The streamlined regulations are still Part 23 . been affected by the company’s product. the buyer still has to spend an inordinate amount of time assembling the kit. And still others (a bit conspiracy minded) are concerned that the simplified rules are only the first step in a plan to eventually regulate out all experimental category airplanes. and of course have a low purchase price . Visionary approaches are required to provide solutions to these and other related stumbling blocks. many are satisfactory for pilots that will never fly anything more challenging than a 210.000 for the assembled aircraft and around $20. The new regulations for certification of small planes are being greeted with enthusiastic response by many of the kit manufacturers. The majority of the experimental aircraft industry has been trying to address the issues of affordable and performance capable airplane ownership but although great inroads have been made. Looking at today’s light aircraft scheduled to be certified under the new simplified regulations and proposed for training purposes. and an airplane is a tinker toy compared to the complexity of most of today’s production automobiles. some concerns and grumblings are still heard. etc. Liability and insurance costs are areas of concern that have not been adequately addressed by the regulators and law makers.but much of the market’s decline can be directly attributed to very little bang for the buck. The amount of work required to certify the small trainer is still the same as under the old rules. the legal problems of liability. The low end aviation market needs new. liability costs. inexpensive to maintain. in general manufacturers are charged a fixed price for liability coverage 2 . But to be fair to the insurance companies. these companies have so far managed to minimize effects of a lawsuit-happy public who may have. But with the efforts of the FAA. The key to realizing these goals will be the rethinking of and finding new avenues for aircraft certification. but for the person interested in furthering his or her flying experience into something more advanced. procedures which today are sometimes being knowingly sidelined or ignored due to cost considerations. Certification problems are in some ways already being addressed . .I would guess that within the next five years the certification process for a small aircraft may be streamlined to the point that the costs of such a procedure will not affect the final price to the degree they affect it today.
Is this reasonable or realistic? Probably not. was selected. components. the costs and the time for manufacturing and assembly could be reduced significantly.For better cross-country use the range should exceed 800 miles. By this I mean using composites in the way they should be used. for the two place and 2.p. Range . parts count.h. if the industry approached aircraft production like Detroit approaches car production. not building a metal airplane out of fiber reinforced plastics. This part count reduction is possible today primarily with the use of composites. manufacturing (specifically costs of). But more about this later.Gross weight should come out at about 1. On the other hand.For economical operation while delivering required performance levels. Power . and assembly methods. all of which have to be tooled for and of course.900 lbs. and it should have some inherent float capability for post ditch safety. comfort. If the total parts count could be reduced to say.800 lbs. submitted to a Seattle area composite manufacturer back in 1984: Cruise Speed . to allow slow approach and landing speeds for safer low-time student operation.h. Climb . for the four place enough for the airplane to be able to carry ninety percentile people. goal was 1000. Structure . at least not in today’s economy. Flight Safety . The latter issue. This means if they produce only a small number of airframes per year. Also needs to be able to withstand a significant amount of energy in case of impact with an immovable object (such as the ground). assembled. A successful low end airplane should have features which will significantly surpass anything available today in terms of aesthetics. including material selection. a typical Cessna 150 has hundreds of basic airframe parts. The most likely solution to lowering aircraft prices will be a combination of tort reform and manufacturing optimization. Today’s practices of off-loading fuel or baggage to fill all seats was considered unacceptable. less than fifty. safety and operation.Rate of climb should be significantly greater than that of current trainers. As an example. Weight . Coupled with sufficient power. and composite fabrication methods. in other words. Further crash considerations require that no fuel is stored in nor has access to the cockpit area. can be addressed in a number of areas. the unit liability cost is quite high.Speed capability has to be significantly greater than that of current trainers and utility aircraft in order to be more in line with the advanced phases of a students’ eventual goals. not mass production. preferably better than 900 fpm. 180 m. thousands if you count the misc.For safer operation the airplane should have the capability for hands-off stall and spin recovery so in order not to test the energy absorbing structure. if the production numbers went up. Stall Speed . the liability costs associated with the purchase of each airframe would be quite small. and for good cross country applications.CONTRACT REPORT Customer: Project: Date: None Article 04/23/00 AEROSPACE DESIGN AND ENGINEERING per aircraft model.p.Should be as simple as possible with a minimum of parts. regardless of how many aircraft they produce. the resulting configuration should provide good short field and amphibious capabilities. the unit insurance costs would go down.Should be less than 55 m. laminate structural concepts. 3 . If the airplane is used for training it needs to have performance more in tune with the more advanced aircraft the pilots will be flying in future years. The following are some design goals that were used in a proposal for a light aircraft development. their baggage and full fuel. the engine should be at or above 160 horsepower. performance. bolts and rivets.
#4 . 54 m. The following is a brief description of the submitted configurations.p. one of which accumulated almost a hundred hours of flight time. It was designed as a more traditional configuration for those whose tastes in aircraft tend toward the norm. The design consisted of a fuselage with simple lines that seated two crew comfortably in a high visibility cockpit. however. The performance of this model was somewhat better than that of the other three and would therefore lend itself well to uses that require range and speed.The design should incorporate the highest visibility possible. Maximum sea level speed Cruise speed Stall speed Rate of climb Power Ceiling 205 m. (Further study has shown however that the sweep could be eliminated with refinement of various component positions.p. 4 . 175 m. A unique feature (especially for 1973) of the aircraft was the fact that the entire airframe was made out of premolded foam and fiberglass. based only on the general physical properties of the configurations considered. The configuration was a delta wing powered by a 180 hp Lycoming and a ducted propeller.100 fpm 160 hp 25. a baseline aircraft was chosen. The “V” tail was mounted on a boom which could either be part of the fuselage mold or a separate aluminum tube (molded configuration was eventually selected).h.The second airplane was a takeoff on the Lear-Fan or Mini-Imp configurations.) #1 . 1. #3 . the third concept was developed along more conventional lines. for entry into the two place trainer market in direct market competition with the Cessnas and Pipers. The fuselage width at the shoulders for this and the other concepts was forty eight inches so even ninety percentile people could fit in with ease.) #2 . bubble canopy (with roll-over protection) preferred. At the end all three vehicles and their tooling were cut up and scrapped. Out of the four concepts it was determined to be the easiest to manufacture and assemble. attractive for the simplicity of its lines. operational capabilities and aesthetics. Unfortunately in the mid 70’s the company suffered some financial setbacks which forced them to abandon the project.The first concept.Again a simple fuselage design. The preliminary analysis showed this fourth concept to have some major benefits but the performance numbers with anything less than the 180 hp were poor therefore the configuration was out of the running early in the evaluation. prior to the program’s cancelation three aircraft were built. (See accompanying sketches. These figures were of a preliminary nature. The following listing shows a generalized summary of the performance capabilities of the two place concepts.CONTRACT REPORT Customer: Project: Date: None Article 04/23/00 AEROSPACE DESIGN AND ENGINEERING Visibility . Based on analyses which considered performance.h.p.The fourth concept was based on an airplane developed in 1973 by the Rhor Corp. but they still showed a significant improvement in performance against current lines of certified trainer/utility aircraft. a high winged V-tailed pusher was unique due to its relatively easy conversion for amphibious operations. The aforementioned proposal resulted in four generic concept aircraft suitable for development in two and four seat configurations.000 ft.h. The wings swept forward primarily for positioning the allowable CG range near the seats and the baggage area. The “T” tail tractor configuration was similar in overall appearance to low wing trainers one sees today. utility.
It was designed around a larger engine and had full accomodations for 95 percentile adults The final tally of the proposal showed that the winning concept was #1. some important lessons were learned. Further work then continued in the design effort to define the systems.CONTRACT REPORT Customer: Project: Date: None Article 04/23/00 AEROSPACE DESIGN AND ENGINEERING The first configuration resembled a number of today’s ultralights. The project was eventually canceled since at the time the company’s marketing people decided that the firm’s niche was as a subcontractor rather than a prime airframe manufacturer. As a pusher. the structure and the performance envelope. The first and foremost was that if a manufacturer wants to build a low cost airplane in today’s The second could utilize a variety of engine options. Never the less. 5 . it could also be optimized aerodynamically more than the other configurations.
making the assembly procedures difficult. the efficiency of the structure suffers. but most importantly. delta wing general aviation airplanes have not been overly successful. The cost effectiveness of composite materials is still very low whereas the manufacture of structures from aluminum alloys is a well understood and comprehensively mastered technique. The same cannot be said for composites. they are built largely in the same way a metal airplane would be. “Piper’s engineers have been juggling with the design of this aircraft for almost four and a half years in order to find the best solutions. Good examples of this type of construction are many of the popular composite kits sold today. The airplane could have been developed as the pictured “T” tail or with a more conventional empennage. As soon as a company designs a composite airplane with metal thinking. The use of composites to lighten the fuselage was envisaged at one point but was rejected for three main reasons. locating the horizontal on the tailcone. Although pretty and relatively good performers. 6 . inaccurate and time consuming. The first of these was economic. it clearly demonstrates the attitude of those not intimately familiar with composite technology. A very unique shape with potential. it needs to be designed with composite structure concepts in mind. Relating to the Malibu. The following statement made by the chief designer of Piper aircraft is an extract from an “Interavia” magazine issue published in the first part of 1984. be they glass/epoxy or carbon fiber.CONTRACT REPORT Customer: Project: Date: None Article 04/23/00 AEROSPACE DESIGN AND ENGINEERING economy it most likely will have to consist of a combination of metal and laminate structures. “The second reason is the difficulty of producing structures capable of coping with high localized stress loads. empty weights for two place aircraft are as much as 200 pounds heavier than if the components were optimized for the materials and service conditions. sending the weight and costs beyond reasonable limits. Historically however. In many cases the The third concept was configured for those whose tastes are more conventional.
costs will stay reasonable. The main problems are education and economics. and although more and more people and organizations are willing to dedicate their projects to composites. As long as the program managers and others in leadership positions are ignorant to the benefits of composite technology and the techniques of its application. Companies like Glasair. the powerplant.CONTRACT REPORT Customer: Project: Date: None Article 04/23/00 AEROSPACE DESIGN AND ENGINEERING Such structures are difficult to design and can entail considerable weight penalties. The day of the large general aviation company is long past. Lancair. fabricating reasonably priced fighters or a commercial transport such as the 747 out of composites .” Although it includes some justifiable points. is to monitor the manufacturing process. today’s new and innovative developments are going to come from individuals and small establishments dedicated to aviation. performance and comfort required for this next generation of light aircraft. Now lets examine another major component of the airplane. Beware of those that offer their services then begin by putting their “design team” together. a secondary. the technol- 7 . but no less important consideration. we can make something better. quality. Actually I should say the lack of education. This is difficult to perform on completed parts. The costs involved in inspecting. We don’t need to copy or redesign the 150. Wheeler and the Cirrus have taken the correct steps toward this goal but have not advanced far enough beyond “metal thinking” to attain the design efficiencies. If an efficient and low cost structure was designed the airplane could become a reality in the very near future. The economics of today’s airframe producers are a little tougher to fight. The only solution for the manufacturer. does not have this economic problem. testing and repairing a metal airframe are definitely in the minor league compared with those involved in a plastic aircraft. Tolerances seem to differ from one part to the next. the progress is slow. part quality. not to mention the cost of redesigning the product(s). “The last and most problematic of the three reasons is that it is still difficult to predict the exact strength of a composite structure to a satisfactory degree of accuracy. and efficiency. an unfamiliarity that is. This type of individual is probably one who came from a large organization and is used to doing things on a grandiose scale. this person may have some level of expertise in component design but overall is not qualified to design a general aviation product. twelve years later. the statement reflects an unfamiliarity with the technology. Designing a small airplane shouldn’t take more than one or two people. The same concepts demonstrated in kit planes and the few certified production programs could be optimized and scaled down in order to produce small. This is an open invitation to take risks over quality and standards. If a company is set up to manufacture airframes by “tin bashing”. Making aircraft interiors and fighter skin panels is a start but it is not significant. still commonly encountered in the aerospace industry (specifically general aviation). As I mentioned earlier. the cost of converting to composites would be formidable. Its possible and it doesn’t need to cost billions. cutting the costs further still. If they are skilled enough they could possibly also be the ones building the first prototype. A start-up company producing a new design however. lightweight. If the development group is kept small and efficient. but well performing two place trainer and utility vehicles. it will be difficult for the industry to make any significant inroads. Making light airplanes as limited production kits is even a better start but the kind of advances I’m talking about are fabricating reasonably priced kit and certified aircraft on a regular and large scale basis. These risks do not exist if one sticks to a well known process such as ‘tin bashing’. Furthermore.that would be significant. Needs this be expensive? Of course not. is quality control. therefore. “Finally.
The ideal two place trainer powerplant would come in over 160 horsepower. the financial backing is open to risk due to liability problems.000. We are at a point where financial. but also has a personal interest in the product.000. The conventional investment industry. With outside funds the first can be airborne in as little as ten months. possibly four years.provided by GM representatives at the 1996 Seattle Auto Show). it is unlikely that any aviation products will be developed through conventional investment means. The technical visions and capabilities are here. have a low power to displacement ratio.000 rpm. 8 . Outside of this “angel” investor.500 each (prices approximate .500 rpm and 6. Either way the results are the same .000 miles (roughly equivalent to about 1000 aircraft hours) sells retail at just over $10. With the use of an efficient unducted fan (optimum for pusher configurations such as the one selected in the 1984 proposal) turning between 4.CONTRACT REPORT Customer: Project: Date: None Article 04/23/00 AEROSPACE DESIGN AND ENGINEERING ogy base of today’s general aviation airplanes reaches back over fifty years . The technologies exist today for this kind of development (engine and airframe) and yet little is happening. our industry needs a mechanism for introducing the aviation enthusiast with the necessary capital for investment. unless the partnership or corporation doing the venture is set up correctly. technical and legal support is required if the low end aircraft industry is to survive and grow. thus eliminating the need for a gearbox and making the installation lighter and of course more reliable. Government money is generally not available for this type of development and as for the private sector.p. a brand new GM Quad 4 engine. to the individual or small company that has the necessary technological skill and capability for the development. an investment in private aviation’s future. installed and cost around $5.000 retail. Why? Part of the reason is funding. weigh no more than 280 lbs. and are very expensive to purchase and maintain. If the new aircraft is to have a selling price of around $70.. and if maintained correctly capable of lasting over 150.h. they are heavy.000. An investment needs to be made to make this happen.000. In short. they just need to get from the drawing boards to the shop floors. In general. possibly for his own use. The ideal investment partner is the individual who not only has the necessary funds to put forth. As an example our company has a number of well developed designs which range in performance from about 180 m. yet without outside funding the first one may not be in the air for more than three.p. Compare this to a 320 cubic inch Lycoming which produces around 160 horsepower. The Lycomings and the Continentals (among others) that first came out so long ago are almost identical to the engines being produced today. capable of producing in its stock configuration over 170 horsepower (dependable 250 hp if boosted). propulsive efficiencies could stay well above seventy percent. it cannot have an engine that costs nearly $30. costing new close to $30. A distributor ordering in lots of 50 gets a price of less than $1. Furthermore. despite its recent funding of high risk start-ups. have poor specific fuel consumption. to more than 500 m.the private development of new aircraft is for the most part stagnant. is also generally not interested in aviation due to historically poor performance and a risky business climate. Just to provide a brief comparison of costs. it makes more sense to build a shopping center and start getting a return on investment in about a year than to develop an aircraft venture (assumed risky by many) which may not show a return for two years or more.the engine is no exception.h.
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