The industry is spending billions on maximising fuel efficiency and reducing other costs associated with the tube-with-wings model. When will novel designs like semi-dirigible and lifting body arrive, what's the delay, surely the industry will be forced into a corner before the latest batch of airliners are due for retirement?

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    $\begingroup$ So what's wrong with tube-with-wings? $\endgroup$ – user3528438 Jul 16 '19 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to aviation.SE! It isn't clear from your question why you think that current designs need to be replaced, or how manufacturers will be "forced" to rethink their approach. If you can give more specific background then you may get a better answer. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Jul 16 '19 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ Also related: Why are there no blended-wing passenger airplanes in operation? $\endgroup$ – fooot Jul 16 '19 at 20:59
  • $\begingroup$ Lifting body designs are better than... well, anything that is currently in service? Maybe we can put them into service right after the all-electric supersonic jet Musk was going on about. $\endgroup$ – AEhere supports Monica Jul 16 '19 at 21:04

In aviation there are simply configurations that work the best when working out all the compromises caused by competing and contradicting objectives, and these become timeless and continue for many decades until some completely new physics paradigm comes along to upset the apple cart.

So, the tube with wings is the most efficient way to do it, not from some optimized theoretical single minded objective standpoint, but from the real world need to balance this goal against that goal. You need to minimize frontal area, and to get the most people in the smallest frontal area, you have to arrange them lengthwise. But not too long, so at some point you have to make the tube wider instead of longer. A tube, low in drag, efficient structurally and easy to make, can't be beat.

The various radical approaches almost always fall short in key ways, which is the real reason you don't see them. That doesn't mean stopping experimentation, because some day someone will come up with a radical configuration that sets a new standard while managing to meet all sorts of secondary needs, and then everybody will start to copy that configuration.

I always like to point out the ultimate engineering sweet spot as the pinnacle of this sort of thing, and really, probably the originator of the "tube with wings" concept - the Douglas DC-3, the greatest engineered conveyance of modern times. This is a set of engineering compromises in such perfect balance, that eighty five years after it was designed, at the end of the second decade of the 21st century, they are still purchased and operated as working machines to earn a living for somebody, pretty much as they were originally built, as opposed to being operated for show or fun or as a museum piece. That's engineering perfection, the grandfather of all modern airliners, still making money for people, the original tube with wings.

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  • $\begingroup$ I share your enthusiasm for the DC-3 design. However, the fuselage was not a pure tube at the time, until the super constellation the fuselage was aerodynamically shaped. $\endgroup$ – Koyovis Jul 17 '19 at 3:04
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    $\begingroup$ Well it wasn't square or triangular. Close enough. The Connie had no straight lines at all so you wouldn't really call it tubular either. $\endgroup$ – John K Jul 17 '19 at 3:17
  • $\begingroup$ I'm the only one who read the last paragraph with an epic cinematic music playing in my head? $\endgroup$ – Quentin H Jul 17 '19 at 12:05
  • $\begingroup$ Rofl. That's the idea. It really is quite amazing isn't it. $\endgroup$ – John K Jul 17 '19 at 12:56

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