Aero dynamics in Aircraft


Well-Known Member
Oct 19, 2006
A conversation I was having at another forum about the new giant passenger plane, the A380, reminded me of your quest for funky new vehicles, especially military ones... and especially your tendency to want to combine two or more different things into one.

The main limiting factor to keep civilian passenger/cargo jets' sizes down is not the ability to make them fly, but the lack of airports with big enough runways and enough other infrastructure for maintenance/repair, fuelling, loading/unloading, and such. Otherwise, they seem to want to keep making them bigger. That creates a situation similar to one that existed around WWII, when the biggest planes were medium by today's standards but still had rather few places to land and take off from.

Back then, the answer was what they called "flying boats": big heavy planes that landed on water because their hulls were like boat hulls. Landing on the ocean or a large enough lake means there's no worry about landing/takeoff strip length, because the water gives you miles and miles more space than you need. So they could land pretty much anywhere with a body of water that was big enough, which was a lot less limiting than having to land at an airport that's big enough. They fell out of use because airports big enough to handle their wheeled counterparts were eventually built in more places. But that still isn't really the case for today's most gigantic plane, or for the next gigantic one they might want to make after it.

When I first thought of the idea of making the next giant airliner a flying boat (flying ship?), I pictured civilian planes "landing" at coastal airports, because the main use for the biggest planes is on transoceanic routes instead of over the continents anyway. But since then it's occured to me that the military services would be more interested in it than civilians, because such plane has a lot more potential "landing" sites than a wheeled one does, including some areas with no suitably large and "friendly" airports nearby.

Military services already use big heavy planes to move people and cargo around like civilian organizations, but also for some more military-specific purposes. A bomber is essentially a just cargo plane that drops is cargo in flight, and so is a plane that soldiers jump out of with parachutes. At least one type of cargo plane has had guns and missile launchers stuck in its cargo hold, making it a ground-attack plane capable of more narrowly picking its targets than a bomber but delivering more firepower to more targets than a fighter or smaller attack aircraft. Another, called AWACS, houses lots of fancy electronics and a technical crew in its cargo hold for surveillance, coordination of other forces in the area, intelligence gathering, and "electronic warfare". Some cargo planes have been known to fly slow and low to the ground with the rear ramp down, and let large packages slide out the back and onto the ground while the cargo plane went on by, providing remote troops in combat zones with supply loads up to and including trucks and tanks.

Essentially, anything you can do with a conventional cargo plane, you can do with a similar-sized "flying boat", except put it down on solid ground... and the giant A380-sized planes I'm thinking about would be so big that their cargo hold size gets comparable to that of an "amphibious assault ship". An AAS looks a bit like an aircraft carrier, but is too small for naval airplanes. It carries helicopters and hovercraft, and some trucks and other land vehicles, to be moved ashore for an attack to quickly establish a presence of military forces on the ground. It even opens up its internal hold by a ramp in the back like a cargo plane does. Even a very big plane might never be quite as big as a true AAS, but they might be able to carry similar stuff, so that one or two of them carrying the right stuff could do the job in a matter of hours instead of the days that an AAS might take to reach the site.

There are technical challenges, like the drag on the hull during landings and launches, the weight of water while it's in flight, the shape of a ship's hull being different from an ideal aerodynamic one, the potential for corrosion with exposure to salt water... but the basic concept works; it doesn't violate basic principles of physics like some other combo ideas do. So the challenges are essentially little details that can be tweaked with modern design and materials to make a concept that already works work better...


Well-Known Member
Oct 14, 2007
The armpit of California
Um, what is the job of your aircraft? The F-14A was replaced by the F-14D which came out after the F-15, F-16, and F-18. The reason, the planes all had different purposes and requirements. Sea landings on rough seas? How about vectored thrust? By the way, the F-16's wings most closely resemble shorter, stubbier F-14 wings in the foward position.


Science fiction fantasy
Nov 20, 2007
Bad quality and good price doesn't sell. A balance
If you want a sleek design you could use the SR71 black bird design. At least for the fighters. I wish I could provide you with a photo. Also vertical landing and take off I believe is feasible, at least for the smaller aircraft. Other designs are possible including a revised design of the X29. If you wanted you could use the X-Men's jet design. Harriers land vertically and take off in a very short distance. When they were testing the F35 it took off in less than 500 feet.
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Non Bio
Staff member
Jan 5, 2001
Way on Down South, London Town
I just visited the Imperial War Museum, aviation museum at Duxford, Cambridgeshire, UK today. Looking at some of the exhibits and photos I was struct by the idea that they may have been the inspiration for some famous Scifi spacecraft.

In particular, American Grumman Hellcats with their wings folded away on the deck of an aircraft carrier look very much like Darth Vader's Tie Fighter, and the Russian Mil Hind Helicopter looks very like the Firefly class ship Serenity.

They have a Blackbird there. They also have a B-52, Concorde, a Harrier, Spitfire Supermarines and well, practically everything.

Maybe a trip there might give you the inspiration you are looking for?


resident pedantissimo
Staff member
Aug 10, 2005
West Sussex
Can I use fusion power? I need a lot of energy for this one.

Our basic airframe is about two kilometres long, and quite narrow, but apart fro a rigid spine the rest of the body is articulated, expanding out into wings, or ultimately a hot air lifting body. The “runway is a set of linear accelerator coils running the length of the vessel (actually two sets of coils, one for the launch, one for deccelerating incoming craft – as long as these are totally under control and exactly on the correct axis, not, as might be the case with combat damage or a severe gale, in danger of endangering the carrier ship, in which case there is a net system deployed underneath, but using this can cause damage th the craft, and its crew.

The small craft are fuelled either chemically (probably a hydrocarbon) or from energy stored in a superconducting coil battery. Either way, they only have a few hours autonomy, and less if they’re required to take evasive action.
With the lift bags deployed, the mother craft’s fusion jets cab barely bring it up to 150 kM/hr., something a wheeled vehicle can maintain on a good driving surface) In ‘wing’ mode this goes up to 800, and in ‘everything folded down’ Mach 2.5, but can’t lauch auxilliary craft, or missiles. With all cabin space folded flat, everyone has to be strapped in combat positions, with the strike craft crew in their cockpits, in the dark.

The electro-magnetic acceleratot can also be used to launch missiles, though only along the main axis, starght forward or straight astern. Radiant energy weapons (Lasers or masers) and directable projectile weapons (turret-mounted railguns) are also available, but can’t be deployed in hypoersonic mode. Landing is done in ‘zeppelin” mode, and requires a considerable expanse of calm (but not necessarily deep) water. Since the thing can fly for several months without refuelling, this rarely becomes a problem.
Unfortunately both materials science and the development of fusion generators are a bit backward in producing the required components to build this, the ultimate variable geometry design.


Speaker to Cats
Jul 31, 2007
Stand-off distances...
You really, really do not want to put such a big, juicy target in harm's way. Remember Naval aircraft carriers must maintain a stand-off distance that allows their CAP and fleet screen to work...

Gets to point where you do not want crewed aircraft aboard, but only drones and cruise missiles. And dispersed between several much smaller, cheaper, affordable aircraft, perhaps Airbus derivatives...

Um, if you have a really big wing or blended-wing aircraft, the wing becomes the hull and you can take liberties with the internal lay-out.

Couple of issues--

How do you *launch* such a monster ?? Okay, it could probably take off at a surprisingly low speed, but then the design keeps it *firmly* sub-sonic. Besides, the shock-waves around any transonic aircraft are really terrible-- Getting to or from such a carrier would be appallingly dangerous, making a naval-carrier landing in bad weather feel like a quiet stroll in park. Check out issues of intake flow-splitters, aircraft munition dispensing etc etc...

Even at modest speeds, the vortices shed by a big aircraft force wide traffic separation at airports. Sadly, there have been accidents when such vortices were carried by cross-winds into other traffic's path.

And 'Clear Air Turbulence' would be a nightmare for navigation...

Fuelling-- Okay, big enough could be nuclear, probably with twin cores out on the 'wing-tips' for max safety. You would also have to consider replenishment. Takes a lot of stuff to feed crew, lots more to supply the aircraft. Above a certain size, you're talking daily Hercules landings...

Even US proposals for mid-air re-arming along with refuelling are very tentative...

Um, you want wondrous / weird / alternative aircraft lay-outs ?

For 3D models...
3D Meshes Research Database by INRIA GAMMA Group
For Burnelli layout...
Unreal Aircraft - Weird Wings - Canadian Car & Foundry lifting body designs
For background... | Reference for Aviation, Space, Design, and Engineering
For flying wings--'The Wing Is The Thing'
The Wing Is The Thing - Flying Wings and Tailless Aircraft

Um, may have been Murray Leinster's 1950s SciFi tales that used 'push pots' as zeroth stage of space launchers. Those were over-powered 'parasite' jets designed to provide vertical launch boost, then uncouple, peel away and fly back to skid landings. Think Starfighter crossed with SRB. If those seriously scary designs were replaced by 'Harrier' vectored thrust, they could offer a horizontal launch / land assist to a really big wing...

And, yes, check out 'Caspian Sea Monster'...

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