Have you ever noticed how similar modern day aircraft are to one another? How about modern day fighter planes, commercial airliners and private aircraft? Have you ever considered why this is; well you are not alone. After much thought on this subject and ever searching for the latest concept, design or radical departure from the norm; I too have pondered this. Let me share with you some thoughts.
After World War II, Nazi Germany fell and that left some of the most advanced aerospace engineers of the day, jobless and very valuable to the allied forces and their future mission to remain strong through superior technology. World War II taught us that he who controls the sky with air superiority in fact controls the battles field, now the battlespace. Regarding German’s most brilliant designers in WWII, it is their designs we used well after the war as we forged ahead and pushed the envelope and through the sound barrier. When the technologically advanced Nazi machine fell the scientists split up and half of them came here and half went to the USSR.
These scientists and aerospace engineers continued in their pursuits and we ended up with much of their work and designs, which built much of what were flying around for years to come and they shaped our next generation of aircraft and many of our space craft, surely we improved on these designs, as we had scientists of our own, who were also forced to advance due to the war.
Later during the cold war the USSR and the USA both advanced their designs and often these aircraft performed similarly and even looked the same. At times this was due to spying, but at other times is was due to these scientists had worked together before and their protégés of each had similar understanding of aerodynamics and what had worked in the past.
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Later we upgraded our knowledge and performance through better use of materials and we had better with all the computer modeling, software and knowledge through trial and error, but still it seems that we did not advance as far as we should have. In fact if you think about it; the cold war really about our Germans VS. their Germans? Von Braun and crew came from here from Nazi Germany and some of his legacy goes on to this day. This is because many of his protégés and their designs influenced the next generation and their thinking. One might even compare some of the over all designs of Nazi Germany with the latest “x-planes.”
In fact if one really looks at these things they see many designs coming out of Bert Rutan’s Scaled Composite endeavors, which show that he too is a studier of the WWII German works of Heinkel, Dornier, Voss, Horten, Folke-wulf, to a large degree although an innovator as well in his own right. Lucky for our present period and brilliant aerospace engineers like Rutan we have the advantages of the latest materials. Indeed innovators like Rutan have the trial and error experience of 5 lifetimes due to his aggressive quest and intent to innovate at that high level. He has proved that Free Enterprise beats the bullshit of bureaucracy every time.
Likewise when looking at Phantom Works, Skunk Works, etc, I keep seeing similarities to the designs of Nazi Germany, some even of aircraft that we captured drawings of but that the Germans never built. Now one could say as one recent aerospace engineer told me that the Germans did not Mach 3 aircraft, space shuttles, microlights, jumbos, fully-automated continental defense interceptors, Mach 2 radar and IR missile armed fighters, supersonic personal jets, etc.. Indeed he is correct in this observation, but clearly the would have at their rates of innovation. Additionally we are even employing the same techniques to push innovators here in the United States over the edge with our contests like Nazi Germany did back then and we did with Lindbergh. Of course it makes sense to do what works. We see the “X-Prize” and private space flight and DARPA in the their Challenge to innovators to build autonomous ground vehicles is proof of this.
The reason aircraft look so similar is that humans do what works and certain designs work better than others just like certain tactics to propel innovation such as prizes and contest work. You see this is why I believe that most all aircraft designs are so similar. Think on this, or better yet come up with a completely new flying machine, which is completely different than all the rest.