Look at the Learjet, Embraer and Boeing noses which are kinda pointy - drag efficiency aside, how do they come to the final design of the nose?

I’m talking from an aesthetic point of view - how do they design them to be aestheticly pleasing as they are?

By hand, CAD software or other? I don’t think it’s random guesswork I produce what looks good and what doesn’t - do my question is: how do they make them noses?

I don’t think in the early days of the 737 they had advance mesh modeling like we do now!

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    $\begingroup$ They didn't have advanced mesh modelling, but they did have a physics book, wind tunnels and a lot of experience. Experience was very valuable, perhaps even more than it is now. $\endgroup$
    – Mast
    Oct 9, 2019 at 9:33
  • $\begingroup$ Of course 'mesh modeling', no matter how advanced, would not come into play here. Parametrical modeling would be used where the surfaces are described by mathematical equations. Meshes are only created as an approximation of the actual surface, and used for simplicity's sake in areas such as CFD, RCS prediction, and of course visualization. $\endgroup$
    – Glen Yates
    Oct 9, 2019 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ A fascinating thing is that, I believe for new ideas on supersonic aircraft (to counter the boomy thing), a really REALLY long point is called for. Cool ! $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Oct 9, 2019 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Fattie supersonic flight is a very different regime with very different conditions as opposed to typical commercial cruise at ~M0.85. The pointed nose serves a purpose beyond the "usual" aerodynamic functions of a rounded commercial nose cone, owing to managing shockwaves in supersonic flight. $\endgroup$
    – verandaguy
    Oct 9, 2019 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ related: aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/12915/… $\endgroup$
    – llama
    Oct 9, 2019 at 17:19

3 Answers 3


Aesthetics are by far and away the last thing aircraft designers are optimising for. A better question might be, why do aerodynamically-efficient designs look pleasing, but that would likely be an art or psychology question and off-topic here.

Since aircraft could travel at appreciable speeds, designs have focused primarily on drag reduction. Smooth curves and teardrop shapes on the leading parts of shapes help with this. Before 3D fluid modelling software, this kind of design would be achieved using a combination of fluid dynamics computations done by hand, wind tunnel modelling, and likely a bit of intuition.

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    $\begingroup$ If aircraft designers aren't optimizing for aesthetics, why do Airbus noses look different from Boeing noses? (more rounded vs more pointy) - shouldn't they have arrived at the same "most aerodynamic" shape? $\endgroup$
    – Skyler
    Oct 9, 2019 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ "why do aerodynamically-efficient designs look pleasing?" Probably because we associate sharp looking objects as threatening and painful to touch, and smooth looking objects as inviting and pleasant to touch. $\endgroup$
    – 16807
    Oct 9, 2019 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Skyler you'll notice that in newer ground-up designs (like the 787 and A350), the design elements tend to converge: smoother noses overall, highly raked wing-tip devices, etc.. Historical differences stemmed from the age of parent designs (737s are ~50 years old as a family vs A320 which is about 30) which were informed by both available materials (steel/alum vs composite/carbon etc.), simulation methods (wooden models vs CFD), and available production methods and logistics (local generalized vs global specialized assembly). $\endgroup$
    – verandaguy
    Oct 9, 2019 at 14:43
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    $\begingroup$ I'll also refer to @JohnK's comment about component integration including windshields to back up the point about available materials and production processes. $\endgroup$
    – verandaguy
    Oct 9, 2019 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ Something that is true of both aircraft and sailcraft: they are designed almost complete without regard to esthetics and end up being the most beautiful items ever manufactured. $\endgroup$ Oct 10, 2019 at 21:43

It's mostly because of one of the most attractive things about aviation (shared with the marine world to a large degree). Form and function, aerodynamic necessity and aesthetics tend to coincide. Aerodynamically efficient shapes also tend to be the most artistically pleasing shapes. Airplanes that fly well tend to look good.

Beyond that, you have the need to fit the radar antenna of whatever weather radar system you want to use, while achieving an efficient curvature and fineness ratio appropriate to the airplane's speed range.

Then you have to integrate the windshields into this. Flat windshields are way cheaper than curved ones, but are more draggy. And, going back to my original point, the curved ones just look way better. But 50 years ago a multi-laminate curved windshield that could handle 8 psi pressure differential would cost a fortune, so all the early airliners had flat windscreens and side panels.

It's a lot cheaper to make complicate curved windshields today so you see them pretty much on all new designs.

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    $\begingroup$ When painted properly, even a Skyvan can look nice, no matter the nose. $\endgroup$
    – PerlDuck
    Oct 9, 2019 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ Good point, but I don't think the Skyvan is an ugly airplane in the first place. More like utilitarian, but still with various pleasing forms in key places. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Oct 9, 2019 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ This is exactly correct. Race cars and aircraft look good because they are purposeful. $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Oct 9, 2019 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ A quote from my father, who flew with the RAF back in the 1950s and 1960s. "If it looks right, it flies right." A few examples of this are the Supermarine Spitfire, the De Havilland Mosquito, the Hawker Hunter and the English Electric Lightning. All of which are really nice planes to look at, and very well behaved in the air. This does NOT however mean that not attractive is bad: I will cite the A10 Thunderbolt as a counter example. So ugly it's called the Warthog, but pilots that fly it really are in love with it - it's just a great plane to fly. $\endgroup$
    – dgnuff
    Oct 10, 2019 at 1:03
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    $\begingroup$ @dgnuff: if a skyvan qualifies as "not ugly", then an A10 is nothing short of gorgeous. $\endgroup$ Oct 10, 2019 at 23:52

The shape will be driven almost purely by functional concerns.

How are those functional concerns tkane into account? It's not aircraft noses specifically, but the paper "Geometric Programming for Aircraft Design Optimization" explains how geometric programming, a form of convex optimization, can be used to efficiently extract optimal shapes and trade-off curves for aircraft wings.

CVXPY, an open-source optimization framework in Python, now has the capability to manipulate geometric programs. This makes it easy to experiment with such designs yourself.

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    $\begingroup$ Can you include the main points of the paper here instead of just linking to it? $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    Oct 9, 2019 at 16:56

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