London-based Chalmers Goodlin is the President of the Burnelli Company. He first met Burnelli in the late '40s. Goodlin, a former test pilot, had just flown the Bell X-1 and felt that "hot" supersonic craft exemplified the problem of parasite drag: the bulk of the total thrust was used to overcome this drag to achieve the rocket plane's objective.
Goodlin believed there was a better way to fly: Burnelli's way. The two met and became life-long associates.Goodlin and Burnelli's nephew, Dallas Swan, have controlling interest in the Burnelli Company which dates back to 1929, and which owns all patents and proprietary rights of the Burnelli design. They are courting European and Japanese manufacturers in their effort to launch a modern passenger jet prototype. "More and more of the traveling public realize we have to have a more efficient and safer plane."
Traditional passenger jets, despite a sophisticated (and often complicated) array of lift-enhancing devices like flaps and slats, require long runways. Takeoffs and landings, the most critical periods of any flight, are high-speed affairs which can tax the limits of the machine and pilot. Margins for error are often microscopic.
In the wake of a DC-8 accident in Denver, the Air Line Pilots Association wrote the FAA asking that more work be done to lower critical takeoff and landing speeds: "This Association conducts evaluations of new airline aircraft and, in this regard, we have had the opportunity of doing some design and flight evaluation of an airplane which approaches the flying wing concept. We refer to the Burnelli transport. We were favorably impressed with its design features which permit slow flight with high gross weight considering the low horse power. The design for this airplane also permits considerable in-flight inspection of the control systems, power plants and landing gear. The advantage of this is obvious from a safety standpoint." ALPA asked the FAA to consider an updated version of the Burnelli.
Years later, FAA spokesman Dennis Feldman says his agency hasn't tested the Burnelli concept. "We certificate new aircraft to see that they meet certain criteria as far as performance is concerned." Encouraging aircraft manufacturers to look into the Burnelli design 'is not our function," he says.
Are things different internationally? Keith Sharer is a top official with the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal: "ICAO does not make pronouncements on any particular design or equipment. Rather, we establish broad airworthiness and performance criteria which need to met by any particular design. It's up to the authorities in the individual states (nations) to determine whether a particular idea, or scheme or design meets their criteria."