How will Aircraft be Made in the Future?

At the end of the second world war, cars and aircraft were manufactured in almost the same way; a slow moving production line where skilled workers more or less assembled the vehicles by hand. Since then the automotive industry has become far more automated and has scaled enormously. Robotic production lines produce millions of cars every year. Comparing the two assembly line photos below, taken more than 50 years apart, it can be seem that during this time the aerospace world has barely changed. Even with the planned rates of 50-60 per month for the Airbus A320 family and Boeing 737 family, Continue Reading

Why Aren’t Planes Made from Steel?

Steel is a wonderful metal that has become ubiquitous in the modern world. Ships, trains and cars are made from steel, yet the vast majority of aircraft are built from aluminium, although carbon fibre is becoming more popular and wood was used extensively through to the end of the Second World War. Is there Anything Wrong with Aluminium? Although not inherently unsuitable for building aircraft, aluminium does have a long list of disadvantages as a building material compared to steel. It is: More expensive More susceptible to corrosion Difficult to weld More susceptible to fatigue Quicker to melt Not as strong Continue Reading

The Airbus Widebody Fuselage Cross-Section

Although the Airbus A300 is no longer in production, part of it lives on. The original fuselage cross-section of the A300 has been used on a further 13 Airbus aircraft across 3 different aircraft families, ranging in length from 47m (155ft) all the way up to 75m (246ft). As of today 2427 aircraft using the same A300 cross-section have been delivered, even though only 561 A300s were constructed. This year the same cross-section will have enjoyed 42 years of uninterrupted production, and a backlog of 363 orders for the A330neo will ensure production past 2020 at least. A perfectly circular Continue Reading

Why We Will Never See a Solar-Powered Airliner

The recent adventures of Solar Impulse II almost completing a round-the-world flight (1st of August 2016 update: Congratulations to the Solar Impulse team, they have completed their circumnavigation!) have shown that solar-powered aircraft are undeniably possible. In an ever-changing world where aviation is under increasing pressure on both cost and environmental grounds to reduce fuel consumption, is it just a matter of time then until we see a completely solar-powered passenger aircraft? Let’s have a look at the numbers. Can we put Solar Panels on Everything? Aircraft use a huge amount of energy to fly, and the energy is stored very densely Continue Reading

Why are Helicopters so Slow?

Helicopters are undeniably slow compared to aeroplanes. There is no pure helicopter that flies faster than 400km/h (250mph), yet aeroplanes have been going much faster for a long time, and even some trains and cars can go faster. The Short Skyvan, a propeller driven aircraft with fixed landing gear nicknamed “The Shed” by pilots, has about the same top speed as the world’s fastest pure helicopter. What do helicopters do differently? Helicopters have rotors instead of wings. This one difference leads to big changes because, unlike an aeroplane wing, a helicopter rotor has parts moving at different speeds even when it is hovering Continue Reading