Are aircraft becoming too complicated? Aircraft and the aerospace sector itself has come a long way since the first flight conducted by the Wright brothers in 1902. Where we have seen huge advancements in technology and have produced some very memorable aircraft such as the heroic spitfire, the iconic Concorde, to the groundbreaking Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, and the ever-present Boeing 777 are just a few to mention. These aircraft all showed enormous steps in pushing the boundaries and capabilities of aircraft.
As technology is moving forward at a staggering rate, are aircraft manufactures forced to rush to implement new ideas that are not necessarily needed? With the recent news of the Boeing 737-max, was this one step too far? Reports are finding that Boeing sped up the process of the 737-Max so they could bring to market their new aircraft sooner to compete with the Airbus A320 Neo, this meant the introduction of a new automated system, MCAS system (Manoeuvring Characteristics Argumentation System) was still not implemented correctly, where pilots were not trained on the new system and any issues with the system were not ironed out before production.
The questions are being asked, was this system really needed. From our previous post-737-max, it details the reasons why the MCAS was implemented, but could there have been a better way. Introducing a new complex system to an aircraft takes a lot of refinement as well as training for pilots and engineers to understand. It is known that the aerospace industry is a vicious market but prematurely releasing a new update has proven fatal.
There is a feeling that the current commercial aircraft design that we have all become accustomed to has reached the height of their powers and making minor improvements is over complicating the once simple aircraft. Reports found that the pilots of Lion Air Flight 610 were engrossed in a tug-of-war with the 737’s automatic systems in the final minutes before the aircraft plunged into the ocean. This has never been seen before and shows that not all new technologies are fit for aircraft. On average there are over 100 buttons within the cockpit of an aircraft, some ranging over 350, displaying just how complicated aircraft are.
It can be argued pilots should know what each and every button does, but with the sheer amount of buttons, surely there are more opportunities for a technical failure. Maybe there is a need for a different design approach, which could improve other areas of an aircraft, there are many options that could be explored, the picture above demonstrates a design from being that moves away from the traditional design and explores other ideas. One project funded by KLM, named the “flying V”, takes a different approach to commercial aircraft design that we have become accustomed to (see image above). This new design promises 20% fuel savings compared to the Airbus A350
However, the safety of aircraft has vastly improved over the years, wherein the early 2000s there were on average 64 fatalities a year, this has significantly gone down to 15 in 2018. The figures for 2018 represent a rate of one fatal accident for every 3 million flights, said by To70. Furthermore, aircraft are becoming more and more efficient, especially with the complexity in the materials and composites used.
More light-weight but strong materials have been discovered, because of this, aircraft today have never been safer and more economical. On the other hand, there may not be a need to change the overall aircraft design after all. Minor tweaks seem to be improving the quality of aircraft, instead, a more vigorous testing program should be implemented by governing bodies to stop premature designs and software reaching production.
When looking at composite materials, here at Spires, we are able to give expert advice and suggestions on types of composite materials needed to improve any customers’ aircraft. This may be to improve lightness all the way through to improving the strength of the aircraft. Our specialists have been working with composites for many years, working on new and innovative projects that push the boundaries of engineering,
To talk to us more on design engineering projects please call in the USA: 001 612 638 2920 and UK: +44 1865 910296