Peter Kämpf
  • Member for 7 years, 9 months
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Why is the maximum speed of current fighter aircraft lower than those from the 1960's and 1970's?
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193 votes

Speed was life in air combat until the jet age. The pilots who became Air Force generals in the Fifties had learned their trade in the Thirties when speed was the most-desired quality in a fighter. ...

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Even after years of research, why are planes unable to keep passengers alive in case of a fiery crash?
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161 votes

Short answer The kinetic energy involved in a plane crash is inhumanely high. Slightly longer answer We can built bombs which will go through concrete roofs and ceilings of a bunker, counting the ...

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Why are military drones shaped so strangely?
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113 votes

The whale-shaped forward fuselage covers a parabolic antenna for a high-bandwidth datalink. The operators want to receive the reconnaissance data in real time, and by giving the antenna the best place ...

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Can a passenger jet be towed to safety if it breaks down in midair?
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108 votes

Towing is quite feasible, and even landing while in tow is possible - I've done it myself in gliders. The hard part is catching up with the stricken plane. To stay with Keegan's Boeing 777: It most ...

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Why do fighter jets still have guns/cannons?
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101 votes

The idea that missiles will be all a fighter aircraft needs was prevalent in the late Fifties. The McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II carried initially only missiles, but at the start of the Vietnam war ...

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How can this aircraft be stable/maneuverable?
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97 votes

What strikes me is a lack of a surface that creates a force to counteract the moment generated by the distance between the wing's lift and the gravity force. You are not alone. Believe it or not, ...

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Why do aircraft models end their life as freighters?
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93 votes

Passenger operations are overwhelmingly scheduled whereas cargo is on demand and thus less easy to plan. The upside: A cargo plane crew will fly quite diverse routes. The downside: Capacity ...

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Why does it take so long to develop modern military jets?
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92 votes

First of all, it took at least five years even back then, but your observation is absolutely correct. You would need to go back one more decade to find a frontline fighter that was designed within ...

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Are the guns on a fighter jet fixed or can they be aimed?
84 votes

They are fixed, and many attempts were made over the years to have an aiming capability - and all failed. That should tell you something. The earliest aereal combats used indeed handguns which were ...

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Why does the B-52 take off without rotating?
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82 votes

The reason was to give the bombs the place close to the center of gravity. Wing sweep (for high cruise Mach numbers) in combination with a high aspect ratio of the wing (for low induced drag) made it ...

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Why does an aircraft leave a white smoke trail?
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75 votes

Actually, there are three types of trails an aircraft can leave in the sky: 1. Condensation of water vapor in the exhaust gas and/or the wake This needs the very cold, very dry air at higher ...

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Can a passenger realistically replace suddenly incapacitated pilots?
75 votes

I guess this is a secret dream of many of you here: You sit on a scheduled flight, and hear in the PA system: "Both our pilots just passed out. Any volunteers to take over their duties?" Won't happen....

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Why is the Tu-95 so efficient despite having propellers that spin faster than the speed of sound?
72 votes

Yes, propellers have problems at high speed, but if done right, they still have an advantage over turbofans at speeds up to Mach 0.8. Look at the inner engine gondolas of the Tu-95: They are elongated ...

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Why do solar planes have many small propellers instead of fewer large ones?
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71 votes

Because they are very lightweight and fragile. Therefore, thrust and propulsion mass must be distributed over span - a single, large propeller and motor would put too much force into the structure ...

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Why do airplanes have rounded windows?
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71 votes

A pressurized fuselage needs rounded corners at all cut-outs to avoid the accumulation of stress in corners. If the corners were not rounded, the fuselage skin would need to be locally reinforced, or ...

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Is there an aviation career where I would help design an entire aircraft and its systems?
69 votes

You were born 100 years too late. In order to be an improvement over existing designs, airplanes become ever more complex and every detail is optimised over years and years. The days when someone like ...

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Why does the F-117 Nighthawk look different than other stealth planes?
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69 votes

Initial work on Radar Cross Section (RCS) reduction concentrated on absorbers and had started in Germany late in WW II. The Americans were not interested at the time, but British scientists documented ...

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Is it dangerous for a supersonic aircraft to fly at exactly Mach 1?
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66 votes

Make sure to read this answer to understand what is special about Mach 1. Pilots regularly report that, approaching Mach 1, the airplane is shaken by oscillating shocks (they don't use that term, ...

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Why are aircraft tires not pre-spun prior to landing to preserve them?
66 votes

This has been researched over the years, but it seems that the solutions did not find wide application. The oldest I could find is from 1941 (see page 112 in the September 1941 issue of Popular ...

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Aircraft Emergency Evacuation slide inflation system: Why is a mixture of CO2 & N2 used instead of pure N2?
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66 votes

Let me first give some background information on the art of inflating an evacuation slide. There are two ways to fill them: Expand gas from a high-pressure bottle: This will cool the gas as it ...

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Can you fly an airplane at a 90° roll angle without losing altitude?
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62 votes

It depends. As always. If thrust is high enough, why not? Knife edge flight is a regular part of aerobatic performances, and the fuselage is producing almost* all the needed lift. This requires ...

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What is a 'deep stall' and how can pilots recover from it?
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60 votes

A deep stall or a super stall is a condition where the wake of the wing impinges on the tail surface and renders it almost ineffective. The wing is fully stalled, so the airflow on its upper surface ...

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Why do airplanes lift up their nose to climb?
59 votes

A climbing aircraft needs less aerodynamic lift than in horizontal flight, not more. Now I have your attention, I hope. The reason is quite simple: Lift equals weight, and just because the pilot ...

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How to build a 2 mile long runway on a 1 mile square island?
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59 votes

Anyone who has ever flown at Zar (EPZR) in Poland knows how much a runway slope can reduce the needed field length. For aircraft which need a 2 miles long level runway, a 1 mile long one with a 15% ...

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Why does supersonic flight detach airflow from a wing?
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57 votes

Flow separation happens when the pressure gradient of the airflow along the flow path becomes too steep. In subsonic flow, the oncoming air is first decelerated ahead of the wing, then swiftly ...

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Why are traditional knobs not replaced by touchscreens in cockpits?
57 votes

Adding to the absolutely correct answer of @Mach1: Flicking a switch gives clear haptic and audible feedback. Compare that to a touchscreen where you can never be sure if your intention has been ...

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Why would a helicopter climb in a spiral?
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57 votes

A helicopter will achieve its best climb rate at a moderate forward speed. Climbing in a spiral helps to have forward speed in what is essentially a vertical climb. In a hover all the airflow which ...

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Why are airplanes riveted and not screwed?
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55 votes

Rivets need to press the two parts together AND to transmit shear. The pressure results in friction which is responsible for a considerable part of the load transmitted between two riveted panels. In ...

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Is there a good reason why modern airliners can't have conventional landing gears (vs. tricycle landing gears)?
55 votes

Short answer: Yes. Not one, but several. A taildragger configuration for modern airliners comes with several disadvantages: Visibility during taxiing is much worse. Visibility while taxiing is a ...

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Why were the speed records set by seaplanes in the early thirties?
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55 votes

The answer: Fixed-pitch propellers. Until the 1930s propellers were fixed pitch only. From Wikipedia: The first practical controllable-pitch propeller for aircraft was introduced in 1932. French ...

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