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2001 Closed threads from 2001 (read only)

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Old 22 September 2001, 07:21 AM   #1
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If we could transport a modern design team back to WWI, what could they do with the materials/engines/armament of that era? Are there any new ideas that could have overcome the limits that early aircraft designers faced? I am completely non-technical, but would some of our more knowledgeable members like to submit designs?
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Old 22 September 2001, 10:18 AM   #2
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Interesting question!

In my opinion they should be able to build something like an early ME 109 or an early Spitfire. The Computer technology of our time was not necessary in these aircraft as well as plastic making technologies.

I donīt know about the differences in aircraft fuel, but maybe they would be able to produce better fuel than in WW 2.

Please ask Mr. Spock of the USS Enterprise for further technical details...

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Old 22 September 2001, 01:13 PM   #3
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The modern design team biggest advantage would be their understanding of aerodynamics. Even in 1918 this was imperfectly understood, which led to a lot of experimentation with control surfaces and wing sections. Flaps would probably be top of the team's list. I should think self-sealing fuel tanks would be looked at too, although there would obviously be a weight penalty.

However, the hypothetical time-travelling designers would be stuck with the engines of the day which were all around 200 hp. This limited the all-up weight of a fighter to about 2000 lb if it was to have a useful performance. By comparison the Mark 'B' Bf109 had a weight of 4700 lb and 635 hp.
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Old 22 September 2001, 04:11 PM   #4
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Modern designers would have made a huge impact on aircraft and engine design. Anti-knock fuels would have made immense strides in horsepower, they would have raised the compression ratios from 5 to 6 to 1 to 9 to 10 to 1, better lubricants would have raised the rpm from 1800 to 2000 to 3000 rpm. Metalurgy would have provided better steels for engines and airframes. Aerodynamics would have improved the airframe designs and handling and maneuverability, differential ailerons and flaps, retractable undercarriages, you would have WW2 aircraft in WW1. wheel brakes, parachutes, O2 equipment. How about Jet aircraft!
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Old 22 September 2001, 04:55 PM   #5
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Let's limit the hypothetical designer(s) to only the same materials-structural, engines, guns, even fuels-that were available during 1914-18. Give a modern designer the same stuff that was in a Camel, Fokker, Albatros, or Spad. How different would the result be?
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Old 23 September 2001, 06:10 AM   #6
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On a slightly different track -
I have from, time to time, wondered what "I" could do if I was magicaly transported back in time.
And the answer I usualy come up with is - absolutely nothing!

"uhhhhh .... you know ONE wing works better"

OK so I have an active fantasy life *:

Technology builds on itself and after WW1 it seems that the advancements are more and more the products of specialist.
Dan san's post where he lists all the different fields which contributes to what makes a modern AC illustrates this point quite well.
But ... I guess sombody with knowledge of aerodynamics could make a difference.
but the question is - could they actualy implement this knowledge without other advancements in structural engineering, materials, metalurgy etc..

It's the simplicity of WW1 AC which I find so attractive. There's no smoke and mirrors about it, and anyone who takes the time to look can pretty easily figure out how these machines work, and how they were made.

This simplicity also makes it FAR easier to model "digitaly"
I've done some preliminary CAD work on a P51 and it's a vastly more complicated machine. And it's not just the number of parts, it's also the complexity of the surfaces. Just modeling a Merlin would probably take as long as an entire WW1 AC. The time that would be needed to model any ww2 or later AC down to the bolt level is almost inconcievable.

Oh but wouldn't it be cool *8)

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Old 24 September 2001, 05:15 AM   #7
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So we've got a modern design team, but WWI-era materials. Let's assume that our modern design team has books full of the proper equations and that they remember how to use a slide rule. Let's also assume that they know how to draft plans without using a computer.

What problems did WWI planes have that modern designers would understand?
  • Drag was a major problem. All those wires and inefficient aerodynamic shapes could probably be addressed.
  • Structural integrity -- the problems with Alb and Nieuport lower wings twisting off; the fabric coming off of the upper wings of Nieuport 28s, and even the problems with Dr.1 wings -- all of these things could be fixed by modern designers.
  • Overall airplane handling: the relatively thin airfoil sections of most WWI planes (excluding the Fokker planes) made for a high wing loading, which in turn led to relatively fast landing/stalling speeds, and poorer maneuverability. Flaps and trim tabs would be a great benefit for pilots flying those planes. Even the automatically deploying leading edge slats developed by the Brits (I think) and used by the Germans on the Me-108 might have been a possibility.

I don't think it would have been too hard for modern designers to produce a WWI plane that was faster, safer, more comfortable to fly, potentially more maneuverable, and more structurally sound.

As for overactive imaginations, well I have one too. I always wondered how effective a two or four barreled 4 gauge shotgun would be when mounted in the tail to take care of enemies on your six. As a pilot, you have somebody behind you getting closer and closer, you're jinking and trying to get out of his line of fire. All of a sudden, you see that he's right behind you. You pull a lever in the cockpit, and a thunderous roar is emitted from your tail. A ton of round pellets shred the bad guy on your tail. You live to fight another day.

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Old 24 September 2001, 11:14 AM   #8
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I think this time traveling engineering team would come up with something very similar to a Hawker Hurricane.
The Huricane is the product of an evolutionary design process. And I think it is considered the final and ultimate example of a traditional style of aircraft construction which can trace it's heritage back to WW1.

Even had a fabric covered fuse!

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Old 24 September 2001, 02:36 PM   #9
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The Breguet XIV has flaps.

Could you really make a Hurricane with under 200 hp of motor to power it? I doubt it. Any WW2-era monoplane fighter, it seems to me, weighs an awful lot for the powerplants of WW1.

I think that the weight restrictions imposed by the powerplants is the most limiting factor. How many pounds would even a relatively simple hand-operated retractable undercarriage strong enough to do the job add to the airframe? Would the increase in streamlining that resulted overcome the penalty imposed by the increased weight?

I am surprised that wheel pants were not thought of until well after the war. They add little weight but can increase top speed by 10-15 mph if memory serves. Cantilever construction and steel tube fuselages were already in place from Fokker and Junkers, among others. Junkers even had steel skinned aircraft.

Even today, wood is a remarkably good aircraft construction material; strong, flexible, inexpensive and light. You wouldn't be able to go out and get carbon fibre or other composite materials, don't forget.

I wonder if rather than sending back an aeronautical engineer, it wouldn't be more effective to send back in time an engineer with an understanding of modern powerplants? Give Fokker or Sopwiths a 500 hp engine and watch what they would come up with!
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Old 24 September 2001, 02:38 PM   #10
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Well... let me give you a few examples. How about a 5-place, 200+ MPH aircraft? Oh... that wasn't done in MODERN times, that was in 1939, the Beech Staggerwing.

Take a look at the HUGE variety of experimental aircraft available, MOST with "traditional" materials, although the very top performers are generally composite construction. There are some wood/tube/fabric designs approaching 300 MPH.

A Pitts S1/S2 or a Christian Eagle are both pretty much conventional materials available in WWI, in the same HP range, but would fly circles around a WWI aircraft. Not a huge payload, but would be deadly in the right hands...
Ever seen Sean D. Tucker in the 1-800-COLLECT biplane? That's a modified Pitts... they would positively have to train in something else first though- I've heard those airplanes referred to as a "hyperactive hummingbird on herion!" I certainly wouldn't want to just jump in one and go.

As for "1 wing is better..." Better for what? A biplane with 4 ailerons will roll faster. It would be difficult to make a monoplane strong enough and light enough to withstand the rigors of combat with WWI materials, without a LOT of external bracing, or being prohibitively heavy. Yes, there are a few... i.e. the D-VIII for example.

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