I originally asked a variant of this on Worldbuilding.SE, but they didn't seem to like it. So I apologize if it's out of place even here.
I ask, because I've been forming in my head an alternate history or two that would logically involve a completely fresh start to aviation; no Wright Brothers, no Otto Lilienthal -- the entire world looks slightly different on a political map.
Because the world is different, it would be lazy of me to just import elements of our timeline without understanding why things developed the way they did. Our world, in general, appears to have rolled with canard planes and later adopted the tailplane for just about every conceivable function for fixed-wing aircraft.
That alone seems to imply that the tailplane is the superior choice to any other design, but is it really? Or was it just a case of technological and economic inertia?
Since 'superior' can be subject to opinion, I'll try to narrow down some criteria:
- The design has comparable advantages in stability, lift production and maneuvering.
- The design has comparable economic advantages; it doesn't necessarily require more time and resources to build and maintain.
- The design does not (necessarily) incorporate concepts that require an advanced and well-developed understanding of fixed-wing aerodynamics. These would be among the early aircraft designs, or at least a short time into successful flight, so things like vortilons, fly-by-wire, etc. would not be present.
There are definitely plenty of wacky creations like Burt Rutan's Quickie, the V-173 and Miles M.39, but I'm sure there are good reasons none of them ever became popular...right?