Half a century ago, Vincent Burnelli
designed a safety conscious "ugly- duckling" aircraft that soared
like a political albatross. Today, a new international school of aerodynamic
engineers consider its revival.
|Half a century ago, Vincent Burnelli designed a safety conscious "ugly-duckling"
aircraft that soared like a political albatross. Today, a new international
school of aerodynamic engineers consider its revival.
What may have been the last of its breed is cloistered in a Connecticut
museum, the victim--some contend-- of a process of unnatural selection.
The specimen isn't a dinosaur, but an airplane; one whose offspring could
revolutionize aviation and--just maybe save your life.
The CBY-3 was the last creation of Vincent Justus Burnelli, a maverick
aeronautical engineer from Texas. His wide, squat-looking airplane isn't
pretty. Yet it's precisely its ugly-duckling appearance which makes the
design so safe and efficient. Part of the reason has to do with "lift",
the aerodynamic principle which enables us to defy gravity. The more wing
surface, the greater the lift. Burnelli's genius lay in designing an airplane
whose fuselage itself contributes to flight: a "lifting body."
Conventional aircraft, especially today's jet transports, have long
cigar-shaped fuselages. They sacrifice lift for speed. Their cylindrical
designs produce something called "parasite drag," a phenomenon
constantly at war with lift.
Vincent Burnelli died in 1964. For some 18 years his plans gathered
dust. Then last spring, two men resurrected the company. They envision
an imaginative new passenger jet with radical design.