Aesthetically "massaging" a general aviation aircraft -Help!

every time I see it I am simply astounded. 1937 and it was so beautiful. look what we have in the skies in 2010. I’m on an Aribus to Cincinnati as I type this… at least it has wireless!

Pretty much the problem with this project (and by extension the hobby I’ve been working on for the past several years) is that everything is pretty “fixed” on this…

What a load… constraints can be so… constraining.

So what is the identifying characteristic of this aircraft (aside from it’s appearance) that is going to make it desirable?

I flew RC aircraft for years. I especially enjoyed scale aircraft; researching the particulars of a given type or theater of action, color schemes, etc. I built the prerequisite Spitfire, the Me109f , Fokker DVII, a DeHavilland Mosquito (crashed on maiden flight) , etc. But the aircraft that turned out to be the most entertaining TO FLY (which is why one builds model aircraft) proved to be a 72" wing-span Fieseler Fi 156 Storch powered by an OS FS .90 4-stroke engine.

The Storch was originally built to be a STOL observation aircraft. My model incorporated the flaps, fixed slats, and working landing gear with about an inch and a half of stroke. I spent hours doing touch and goes. With all the laundry hung out you could nose that plane over into a 60° dive and have to apply throttle to get it to head for the ground … at the last moment you’d cut the power and all of that lift would yank the nose up for a 3-point landing. Or you could do a long, low approach, throttled back, just barely hanging on the prop and then cut the throttle and drop vertically to a spot on the ground (we used to win lots of “precision” landing contests); and if the wind direction was right you could over-fly the “X” on the ground and then slowly fly “backwards” using the throttle and hover over the “X” before cutting the throttle to drop onto it. Tons of fun. And I learned A LOT about flying from that one. My favorite model aircraft to fly.

Fieseler Fi156 Storch, (Stork) circa 1936

The point of this essay being … have you all thought of something other than a STD, out-of-the-box, run-of-the-mill, tractor aircraft? A personal STOL could be a niche filling winner. But you wouldn’t be the first. Or even the second…

You asked before about whether you need to do a lot of sketches or not, and I think when you’re faced with the problem you described you especially have to do a lot of sketches. Often you need to sketch for a while to flush out all the obvious ideas, after which you sometimes hit a wall thinking “that seems like everything there is to be done,” but on the other side of the wall are all the really original ideas. You just have to push through it. Sometimes drawing extremes helps (smallest, roundest, or goofy things like most Canadian. Flipping, inverting, etc. also), and forgetting a little about your constraints helps too. Remember, you can always reel it back in, and you’re not going to production with the sketch exactly as is so be a little free.

I’m glad to be getting so much discussion on this, it really helps to try and work things through.

So what is the identifying characteristic of this aircraft (aside from it’s appearance) that is going to make it desirable?

We’re going for extreme low cost, light aerobatics, digital flight system integration if possible, and really, the looks are what make it desirable. Aside from the Icon, there are no aircraft out there that specifically go for a designed, exciting look.

I guess, let me give a summary of the industry as it stands today, so hopefully all those constraining constraints make some sense :wink:

Basically, the common conception that aircraft are all fancy high tech wonders and that pilots are all rich Mc.Moneybags is quite wrong (mostly people who actually own aircraft are rich Mc.Moneybags :wink: - and not even that, there’s a homebuilt market that lets you build your own planes for about half the price, but that’s another market and not our target) - pretty much every general aviation aircraft flying today is based on technology that dates back to about 1946-1975. Right after WW2 there was a boom of aircraft design, which gave birth to iconic aircraft like the Cessna 150, however when the late 70s hit, there was a massive wave of legislation that killed off most companies and made it too expensive to develop many major developments - the best example is the engines. Those engines in Cessna 172s and the new Skycatcher still run on leaded gasoline and aren’t much better than really light tractor motors (which is why we have to use a big fat horizontal engine in the front - because there really isn’t much else out there that are in reliable numbers)- and most don’t have fuel injection which, thanks the legislation, takes another familiarization rating, which costs quite a bit of money…which brings me to the next point.
Aviation is literally starving to death - the median age of pilots has gone up about 5 years or something in the last two (don’t quote me on this, I don’t remember the exact numbers :slight_smile: ), and the number of pilots in the US with a license number is around 600,000 and has declining steadily (so has the number of student pilots per year - and this was BEFORE the recession). No one can afford to fly anymore (especially these days), and financially an aircraft NEVER makes sense - you’d have to fly really far and really often to justify what in some areas can be $300 a month for hangar fees (basically you’re paying the hangar boss $300 a month for you not to fl your plane). If you do fly a plane somewhere, you’re at the mercy of the weather - because a private license doesn’t certify you to fly in poor weather, you need an IFR ratng for that. Basically, 9/10 times it’s better to take your car.

Yet, and this is where it comes to what we’re doing. Despite all of this, all these problems, aircraft are basically sold as being either good training aircraft or good for touring/taking the family on that trip over the Adirondacks - of which most aircraft owners (pretty much all of whom are quite old and stuck in their ways; just try convincing a US pilot to ditch all of the steam gauges in his aircraft). So yea, basically aircraft are sold as products, compared to each other on a statistic level - this much top speed, this much horsepower, these features. It’s not like cars or motorcycles, where an ad campaign tells you about the “life” this car will give you. Because of this, aircraft are utilitarian in their design - 99% of them are the way they are because that’s what the mission goals stated.
Which, when it comes to this particular design, is where it all comes to a point. We’re not trying to sell the lightest, fastest, etc - we’re trying to sell the most exciting, to people who really don’t have much time other than to go up and goof around, then come down again - which is what the majority of renters and pilots do anyway. It’s rare that you do a cross country trek - like I said before, you’re at the mercy of the elements and it’s cheaper to take your car for most things. Most pilots just go up to enjoy flying, and that’s where we’re aiming.
So to accomplish this, we’re trying to design this plane to look racey, and be exciting to be around. Something that would actually fit in an ad selling the aircraft as a “lifestyle” product instead of just a tool - something that responds to the idea that all aircraft purchases are rationality masking an emotional attachment. It’s an attempt to revitalize aviation by shifting it’s focus to a younger, more active crowd.

I just remembered that I didn’t mention this, but it’s important - the Light Sport Aircraft class and Sport Pilot license class was introduced a few years back to remedy the problems of high cost and over legislation (it’s also the category we’d be under) . Unfortunately, all it ended up doing was bringing in new manufacturers, yes, but at the same price as before - partly because of the construction methods they’re using (we’d like to try a few new ones), but a lot because they simply could charge that much - the only people who actually buy aircraft can afford $150,000 for something that doesn’t go over 120 mph and is only meant to be flown in straight lines. As a comparison; a two seat, LSA aircraft that looks like this;

and can only do up to 120 mph starts (just starts) at $119,900 , whereas a Mustang GT500 which can spit out 155 mph and looks like this;


is only about $50,000 - now the prices are like that because of scale, but the point I’m trying to make is that if you’re trying to convince a potential aviation purchaser or better yet, student pilot, to buy an airplane or spend the money to learn to fly (which can cost upwards of $4,000 and you still can’t afford your own plane at the end), you’re going to be hard pressed to convince him to do that on something that never lives up to it’s purpose as a “practical” vehicle (the airplane, even if he is just renting), vs. the Mustang or other sports care that can do all that and more - it just can’t fly.
In the

Now on to brass tacks - why are things so “fixed”. Well, for instance, the wing - we have to keep costs down as much as possible - the prototype of this is going to be built with wood and sheet metal as I recall (or rag with a wood leading edge, unsure of which), which means a straight wing is the easiest to build; any taper means that all of the ribs have to be changed down the line and more precisely aligned with a more complicated spar (although there are some ways to get around these things, the taper introduces different flying qualities and more complicated aileron attachment joints).
Why’s the engine fixed in the front? Well, with a pusher engine, any significant change in the passenger weight requires rebalancing the center of gravity (with a lead weight or the battery, typically), to keep it within limits - this is why most pusher aircraft are tandem seating, one in front of the other, with the passenger sitting almost right on top of the CG - so that removing them doesn’t really affect much in terms of stability. Since we want a side by side seating arrangement (which is because no one’s significant other likes to stare at the back of their head for an hour), this meant that the engine has to go up front.
As for the engine itself, well I mentioned before that horizontally opposed engines are really the only ones available right now. There are a few inline ones, but they’re almost as wide as they are tall, to my knowledge, and more importantly, they’re all two strokes, which means they’re just one step above weedwhackers in most people’s eyes - bad for business.

Now, jumping to the REST of your post (sorry for the rant)…if you really are interested, there’s a very long and interesting discussion about this topic that I started at another forum I frequent, which you can find here;

STOL isn’t really what we’re aiming for, for the reasons above - the configuration could work, but they’re usually extremely slow (comparative to other aircraft of their horsepower and size), because all of that extra lift creates a lot of extra drag. But again, our objective is a different one - STOL’s like you said are a niche, and one that’s already served quite well by the people who are in it.


You asked before about whether you need to do a lot of sketches or not, and I think when you’re faced with the problem you described you especially have to do a lot of sketches. Often you need to sketch for a while to flush out all the obvious ideas, after which you sometimes hit a wall thinking “that seems like everything there is to be done,” but on the other side of the wall are all the really original ideas. You just have to push through it. Sometimes drawing extremes helps (smallest, roundest, or goofy things like most Canadian. Flipping, inverting, etc. also), and forgetting a little about your constraints helps too. Remember, you can always reel it back in, and you’re not going to production with the sketch exactly as is so be a little free.

Thanks, I think I’ve just been hitting that wall for so long that it’s really just put up an artificial block. I’ve just always found that deviating from the requirements ends up with something being unusable - in the end I think I just know too much about the engineering behind it all. :slight_smile:

But again, it’s what I’m trying now, so thanks :slight_smile:

Would it be possible to work an under-chin scoop around the landing gear? That could cut down the ‘snout’ effect of the intakes. Or blend the (straight) wings into the fuselage?

DVZ4; yea, both of those are possible - the blending might be more difficult because of the curvature required, but the snout is definitely a possibility; I’ll try both out, thank you :slight_smile:

@UnknownTarget- You were on to something with that last pair of sketches you posted, but it got clunky and inelegant in the 3D version. Just a hunch, but I think you might be blocking too much area behind the prop on those as well. That first sketch suggests some interesting undercut surface detail leading up to the tail, and the second hints at a cool scoop / cowling detail. The first cowling is not bad in sketch form either. Toss the 3D model and work some of these details out on paper. You’ve got a good looking airplane in there, just need to convince it to come out.

@LMO- I can’t let you post all those pushers without including the Adam A500:

I did the center windscreen pillar, and a bunch of other little stuff.

The original Rutan proof of concept prototype was prettier:

What a sweetie Scott. I 'm liking the minimal inlet “nostils” and how their shape is repeated in the aft cabin windows. I’m a bit surprised that it doesn’t incorporate winglets.

I suspect that those small(er) inlets have something to do with the higher airspeed that the A500 is capable of (compared to what UKT is working on) (?)

Start sketching, stop typing :sunglasses:

They added winglets later, but the first few prototypes didn’t have them. Not sure about the inlets, I didn’t do anything on engine installation (and I wasn’t there very long). I seem to remember there being some cooling issues though (maybe just on the rear engine?).

Oh I have been;

I’ve been obsessed with this - most of these are all just stuff I’ve done in class or while waiting for something to download during the last week. There’s some ideas in here that I like, like for instance I love this idea I came up with for the doors (not really shown, it’s in one of the sketches near the top), but this is only a third or maybe a half of what I’ve done, there’s even more I haven’t scanned if anyone’s interested. :slight_smile:

Get scannin!!! Let’s see it all… .

Nice lower right-hand corner sketch … shade and shadowing really adds a lot, don’t you think?

Thanks, and yea it really does :slight_smile:

Here are the rest; they’re less refined and were basically me trying to persuade some striking forms out of the project (the pen drawings), while the others are me working towards a more final version of the high wing, which is the shaded one that you’re referring to on the previous page. :slight_smile:

I’d look to nature, maybe fish or birds for some inspiration on proportions and shapes.

I’d look to nature, maybe fish or birds for some inspiration on proportions and shapes.

I’ve always associate sharks with the WWII Messerschmitt Me262 jet fighter.; the “triangular” cross-section in particular. I imagine that this form would translate to a high-wing version pretty well (it would have a rather large under-wing fillet though).

I was unaware of this eight year old “resurrection” project until this morning. The video provides great angles on this shape; the first aircraft shown is a two-seat trainer.

can’t believe I found this

Have you thought about collaborating with another designer? Perhaps local to you?

Not really, I enjoy the creative freedom that comes with doing it on my own, and not many designers are aware of the technical issues regarding aircraft design (the latter is more the reason; as you can imagine the mechanics dictate the form, and the mechanics are a pretty niche area of interest).

That being said, I’m going to applying to use this as independent study credit, so I’ll probably end up with a faculty advisor looking over my shoulder, which could be pretty useful and accomplish nearly the same thing.

EDIT: Just got it as an independent study - so in ten weeks I’m going to need a final version of this that I can show. That also means that I now have a real vested interest in making this look as good as possible as fast as possible, so I’ve started to petition that I get more control over the design. :slight_smile: I’ll post the results in a week or so.

I don’t know where you are exactly (where are you?), but there’s quite a few product designers working aerospace that would understand your challenges. I’ve met designers working for Cessna, Boeing, British Airways, BAE Systems, NASA, and others over the years… you have a great excuse to meet guys doing similar projects. I found a lot of the guys through LinkedIn

Surprised nobodies posted Colani’s crazy planes yet (only one is real)

I’m in Rochester NY. :slight_smile:
Those planes are crazy though, really cool…thanks for sharing. I love the second one, awesome. :slight_smile:

Further sketches from me, trying to move in a more expressive direction as advised by the teacher watching over me doing this

Liking this one, as does the guy I’m working with, thoughts?;

Now you’re starting “see” . Nice work UKT!!

Just curious… what size paper are you sketching on?