Date: 11 Feb 98 04:23:50 From: email@example.com (Stephen H. Westin) Organization: Program of Computer Graphics -- Cornell University
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My impression is that Richard Whitcomb, inventor of the supercritical airfoil, envisioned its use on transonic (transsonic?) airliners cruising at, say, Mach 0.95. This would reduce trip times significantly while avoiding sonic booms. Indeed, the official NASA/Dryden history at <http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/History/Publications/SP-4303/> states, "Whitcomb envisioned the ideal transonic transport as having both a supercritical wing and transonic area ruling-and, at a later date, winglets..." So why didn't it happen? I can think of a few reasons: 1. Area ruling would make it much harder to stretch or cut fuselage length for derivatives. The current paradigm of a tube with front and back caps seems ideal for this; the last airliner I can recall that violated this was the Constellation. 2. A transonic aircraft would use more fuel than a subsonic one, and folks are still loath to increase fuel consumption. 3. Traffic control could be a problem with airliners ranging from 0.8 Mach to 0.95 Mach sharing the same airways. 4. General conservatism: it's less risky to build a new plane that does the same thing as existing ones, just bigger or cheaper. -- -Stephen H. Westin Any information or opinions in this message are mine: they do not represent the position of Cornell University or any of its sponsors.