If the modern airliner (Boeing/Airbus) was redesigned from scratch today without any need for "backward compatibility", would it look functionally different from the current design? And if so, what would be different?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What do you mean by backward compatibility? $\endgroup$ – Michael Hall Jan 31 at 4:15
  • $\begingroup$ It's more so a programming term, but meaning the newly designed airliner wouldn't have to be adapted/fitted to any sort of current technology or processes, like airport runway lengths, airport gates, hangar fittings, fuel/electrical connections, etc; starting with a completely fresh slate. $\endgroup$ – Coldblackice Jan 31 at 20:29

You'll only get opinions here, but from 40 years in the business, my opinion is not much. Airplanes are a balance of compromises and after much trial and error, dead ends, and false starts, a combination hits a sweet spot in the balancing act and that becomes a near universal configuration. When someone deviates, it MAY create a new configuration paradigm, but most of the time the reasons the universal configuration works so well are revealed, or rediscovered, by deficiencies in the attempt to strike out on a new path.

And here we are, still building airplanes along the lines of the granddaddy of them all for this particular configuration, the B-47, 73 years later. Virtually all of the improvements that have followed are related to engines, materials and electronics.

Interestingly, you have a kind of mirror image of the same thing in the bizjet world. There, the tail mounted twin with fuselage hugging the ground is the design config sweet spot.

  • $\begingroup$ Although, it will be interesting to see if the front mounted canard will have much of an impact on biz jets compared to the rear mounted, negative lift horizontal stabilizer. $\endgroup$ – Dean F. Jan 31 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ Been done. Nearly bankrupted Beechcraft. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beechcraft_Starship $\endgroup$ – John K Jan 31 at 18:59
  • $\begingroup$ I’ve seen one of these many times at KADS. I’m not sure if it’s based there. I will get the tail number next time I see it. It is a shame that the market timing was off. I like the concept of the canard. $\endgroup$ – Dean F. Jan 31 at 19:13
  • $\begingroup$ The problem was it was overweight, expensive, and the theoretical performance benefit wasn't there so what was the point. The Piaggio is more successful at this, although it's not a pure canard, but more of a hybrid. The Piaggio's secret is a carefully profiled forward fuselage that achieves laminar flow for a lot of its length. $\endgroup$ – John K Jan 31 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ I’ll have to see if I’m mistaking the plane at KADS for a Piaggio. $\endgroup$ – Dean F. Jan 31 at 19:20

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.