"Radical and fundamental progress in Aeronautics is achievable. In fact, much of the work has already been done and is in the Public Domain. It is simply time to apply it.

It is widely acknowledged that there is a malaise in the Aerospace Industry as described in Aviation Week's series of articles "Aerospace in Crisis". This malaise will lead to increasing stagnation and decline if this direction is not changed. The industry has become in many way conservative and risk averse.

It is also an acknowledged problem that engineering graduates increasingly see little to interest them in aerospace and are attracted instead to the apparently more exciting IT industry. ("Brain Drain Threatens Aerospace Vitality, AW&ST, 24/7/00). Indeed, the decline in students studying for science and engineering degrees in the western world is a problem for all industries. The age profile of aerospace engineers continues to grow older, particularly in the United States. Within 10 years, many experienced engineers will have retired and there will be nobody to replace them. Instead, one can see design work being subcontracted by major US aerospace firms to inexperienced new design centres in Europe, Japan or Russia. This will break up the central cores of knowledge that still exist on how to design and build a commercial airliner: instead, we see a shift to centres that specialise in a particular sub-system.

The front cover of Flight International, 31st August 2004 proclaimed:

"Nimrod finally flies. Boost for troubled project as BAE's mighty hunter takes to the skies".

The front cover photograph depicts an unpainted Nimrod MRA4 taking off.

Inside, Flight reported that:

"The first prototype of BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4 aircraft had its debut flight last week ... more than a year after the next-generation aircraft was scheduled to enter service under a 1996 contract. The UK originally planned to acquire 21 MRA4s remanufactured from Nimrod MR2s .... the RAF announced it plans to cut its already reduced commitment for 18 aircraft to around 12".

"A restructuring of the programme has identified March 2009 as the new entry into service target for the type depending on the outcome and timing of a production decision".

The Nimrod is a derivative of the Comet airliner that first flew on the 27th July 1949. The Comet was the first commercial jet airliner ever to fly, ushering in the Jet Age.

55 years later, the RAF is still using the same basic Comet airframe design for its latest reconnaissance aircraft - which will not enter service till 60 years after the airframe first flew and 13 years after the upgrade contract.

While there have been incremental improvements in subsonic aerodynamic design since the 1950s, notably the supercritical wing, the basic design philosophy has remained unchanged. This is not for want of improved design concepts.

In the Supersonic field, there is no denying that progress has completely stagnated, with still no successor to Concorde flying 35 years after its first flight.

Why has there been so little progress since the 1960s?

Is it true that we have already reached the limits of the physically possible and therefore future progress will only ever be incremental and marginal?

Or are we merely being myopic, trapped by our preconceived ideas dating back to the 1830s? Is radical progress not still achievable leading to a quantum jump in our aeronautical capabilities if we are willing to take risks again?

The answer is yes - radical and fundamental progress is achievable. In fact, much of the work has already been done and is in the public domain. It is simply time to apply it.

MIR is carrying out research to apply these already known technologies in the following areas:

  1. Next Generation Supersonic Aircraft Design
  2. The Lifting Body Aircraft
  3. Applications of the Coanda Effect
  4. Advanced Propulsion Systems
  5. New Computational Wave Modelling tools to replace CFD.

Copyright 2005 Meridian International Research
Last updated 18/11/05