Aircraft Design Trivia: Beautiful and Diverse Despite Limitations


Top Gun: Maverick

Maverick is back! Who can wait for the movie to start? I have yet to watch it, though. “Top Gun” was released in 1986. It was when I was only eight years old, and so, I think I watched it on video. Even so, it was impressive enough to affect my life. I know the movie has no substance at all but just made F14 Tomcat appear appealing. That is one of the reasons why I started my career from Japan Air Self-defense Force, not as a pilot, though.

Aircraft can fly only when their designs are correct

I like aircraft, especially fighter aircraft above all because they are the embodiment of rationality. If designs are wrong, they can’t fly. Interestingly, from this point of view, the design variety of airplanes is likely to become less, but it is not actually. Indeed, they may look similar to people with little interest, but some airplanes win kudos for their designs, others don’t. Let me give you some examples.

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Eurofighter Typhoon VS Dassault Rafale

The most familiar example of fighter aircraft would be Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale. Both were developed in Euro countries: the former in UK, Germany, Italy, and Spain; the latter in France. Their requested specifications are similar, and they naturally look similar, but Rafale is evaluated higher in design. To be more precise, the design of Typhoon is always severely criticized, though it debuted a little later. Personally, I agree to the general evaluation but don’t know what makes such a big difference in design evaluation between them.

Boeing 747 VS Airbus A380

Another one is Boeing 747 and Airbus A380. If you’re above 30 years old, I believe you surely know 747. It’s a “Jumbo Jet.” I really like it, especially the arched top for the upper deck and the bulge shape at the wing root. On the other hand, you may not be able to tell which airplane A380 is because it’s too plain in design. It was developed to break the dominance of 747. Accordingly, their requested specifications are similar, but they are different in design evaluation, the same as the case of Typhoon and Rafale. I’m not blaming it all on the design, but it’s true that A380 doesn’t seem to penetrate the market very well even after the retirement of 747.

Chairs are so simple. The basic structure is composed of a backrest, seat, and four legs. That’s all. It’s almost impossible to create something new or different. Sometimes, we are discouraged by thinking that way, but I always feel hope for the future when thinking about airplanes. Their designs can be differentiated from each other as written above, with the constraints strictly determined by physical laws and even with almost the same requested specifications.

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Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.