Why can’t we build a new airplane?


Spill and I were mulling it over the other day, talking about the CH-53K and the F/A-18E/F, versus the MV-22 and the F-35. 

Today, virtually all successful aviation acquisition programs are evolutions of existing aircraft, while every new airframe is a developmental hell.

Off the top of my head, I can’t really think of any successful, well managed new airframes (that is, started on a fresh sheet of paper) since the Teen Series fighters, and the H-60 family of helicopters.

What say you?

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Why can’t we build a new airplane?

  1. Every new plane is Developmental Hell. P&W didn’t have enough engines for either the F-14 or the F-15, and had both services were having to ferry powerplants back to the factory to claim airframes upon delivery at the start of their service life. F/A-18s had landing gear issues that cost lives. Vipers had the same with the FBW bus runs.

    It’s the price of doing business.

    The flip side of this is that I see people bitching about aircraft not having the most up to date systems as soon as they hit the street. Example of this from just a day ago was someone complaining about the F-22 not having EOS. So? It was intended to have IRST, and IRST is being worked on in the 3.2 update. Specification cutoffs happen. They must happen, else one can never get into full rate production.

    Otherwise, you become the F-35.

  2. Krag

    One aspect I’ve read but don’t really have an opinon on, is that the best and brightest engineering minds no longer go into aerospace. The draw of “consumer electronics” (ie crap no one actually needs) pulls in the top guys with the cool factor and good money.

    As I said, I don’t own the argument, but it does make sense. Anyone old-timers in the aerospace industry have any input on the current crop of newcomers?

    • The problem of aerospace is employment instability. I’ve known Aerospace types who have found themselves on the street 3 times in 10 years. They made more than I did as a civil, when they had a job, but I was working and living better while they were wondering where their next job was going to be. An uncle worked for Boeing back in the 60s and found himself on the street when the SST went away. He was never able to get back into aerospace and ended up in Saudi Arabia working fro Aramco instead.

      Frankly, I would not recommend any smart young man go into Aerospace unless he is employed by the Military or NASA.

  3. Esli

    I don’t know why, but I miss going to an airshow and seeing: A4, A6, A7, AV8, A10, RF101, F104, F105, F106, F4, F5, F14, F15, F16, C130, C141, C5, etc all in the same summer. (Been a few years…).

    • Don’t forget an M901 ITV.

    • Esli

      Whole different vein there. I remember seeing M60A2s when I went to elementary school in Germany. I always liked them, but they were kind of a failure.

    • someoldguy

      The M60A2 at least had the advantage of not leaving the ground when firing the 152mm as a gun instead of a missile launcher. But the Sheridan proved more useful.