Case Analysis- Aircraft Performance:
Challenges and Opportunities in Aircraft Manufacturing
Post-World War II
Gerald W. McGowan
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
to World War II aviation design sat stagnant with only piston-driven aircraft
as the sole means of flight. However, the
aircraft manufacturing industry saw major changes in design and performance
post-World War II with the introduction of the jet aircraft. This was due, in part, to technologies designed
by the Germans toward the end of the war.
With these new technologies came challenges in production, but also opportunities
not seen before in aviation, and research and development. This impacted both
military application and civil aviation.
The jet engine forced a shift in manufacturing, design, and speed of
aircraft employed in multiple facets of aviation performance. (Bright, 2003-2010)
the end of the war aircraft manufactures struggled to put the new technologies
into production. A major contributing
factor hinged on the government, which was the aircraft industry’s primary
customer, and was in the process of reducing their forces post war. This left the manufactures trying to sell to
the civilian industry. With the
government selling their surplus of military aircraft to civilian business, the
aviation manufacturers did not have the capital to design and build these
modern aircraft. (Guttman, 1998) There was hope for business in the form of
the Army Air Force still being in the market for a bomber that could deploy
around the world. The Navy, however, had
little to no interest because they had not had to deal with enemy jet fighters
during the war, nor were the current carriers able to accommodate these
aircraft that required higher landing speeds.
In 1947 opportunities arose when the Joint Congressional Aviation Policy
Board approved an air-nuclear-deterrent strategy. This combined with the kick off of the Korean
War brought way for the manufacturing of long range bombers and aerial tankers. (Bright,
This development led to additional progress in aviation performance after World
jet aircraft were designed with the same airframes as those used in
piston-driven aircraft. This brought to
light issues in design that were not a problem for the older piston
aircraft. Stronger structures utilizing
aluminum and other light weight metals were needed to support the amount of
stress on the airframe produced by the jets.
Wing design changed from a straight wing to a wing that swept back. This wing design was great for fast moving
aircraft but was less stable during slower flight. (Guttman,
1998) In order to compensate for this higher speed,
additional design developments were needed- but it came at a cost.
speed improved the aspect of post-war aircraft performance, as these modern
jets were lighter and reduced the dry weight of the aircraft, improvements called
for funding in both parts and fuel. As a
comparison, in the mid-50s a piston driven DC-7 cost approximately $2 million
while the new DC-8 would cost $5 million, but the benefits were noticed long
term. Because the DC-8 was lighter,
faster, and the engines had a longer life the cost per unit was actually 43%
less than its predecessors. (Bright, 2003-2010)
In 2012 these same benefits can be seen in the general aviation
market. Today’s turbine engines are more
expensive to maintain, however, they have a longer time between overhaul (TBO)
by as much as 75%. This is aided by less
internal moving parts making them more reliable. All this technology is not without its
downsides. These engines require jet
fuel which is more costly per gallon and weighs more than the traditional
avgas. Where weight savings were made
using lighter materials some of that gain is lost by the 13% heavier fuel. Several
airfields have started to only sell jet fuel.
This is primarily due to environmental considerations. (Cox, 2012) However, the benefits outweigh the costs in
components and energy source.
developments made during World War II continue to be utilized in the design of modern
aircraft performance. Jet aircraft are
the primary source of all major air carrier fleets. Their ability to fly higher, farther, faster,
and safer was key to the survival of an industry that almost went bankrupt due
to the higher production cost in the early 50s.
Because of those attributes, designers have been able to increase the
load capacity as well. The consistent
purchasing of new technology by the government during war time continue today
to refine and encourage the development of aircraft that outperform those of
the competition. (Guttman, 1998)
Bright, D. C. (2003-2010). THE AEROSPACE INDUSTRY
SINCE WORLD WAR II: A BRIEF HISTORY. Retrieved from The Jet Makers:
Cox, B. (2012, June 19). Turbines vs. Pistons.
Retrieved from Plane & Pilot:
Guttman, J. (1998, September 23). Defining the Jet.
Retrieved from Historynet: