March 1, 1991
Mr. R. Martin Johnson
3815 Weeburn Drive
Dallas, TX 75229
Dear Mr. Johnson:
Thank you for your letter. Vincent Burnelli is fortunate to
have attracted such loyal adherents.
I think Burnelli himself may have been sincere when he came
to the belief that he originated so many diverse ideas. We are
equally sincere in our belief that the material we publish reflects
accurately the judgments of history and of the best minds that
can be brought to bear.
Deriving lift from a flow field around a body of rotation predates
Burnelli by a considerable period--at least as far back as the
zeppelins, which are wingless and which produced dynamic lift.
Airships today are able to fly "heavy"--in conditions
of negative buoyancy--by performing rolling takeoffs. The envelope's
positive angle of attack creates the additional lift needed to
fly. And the Deltoid Pumpkin Seed--the hybrid aircraft prototype
described best in the book of the same name by John McPhee--was
flown successfully without any buoyant gas at all. The pilot was
John Olcott, currently the editor of BUSINESS & COMMERCIAL
Burnelli adherents have also appropriated the term "lifting
body" to describe Burnelli fuselage shapes and aircraft in
general. I can understand why you may want to do this, but it
The term "lifting body," as it emerged from a series
of experiments conducted by the Air Force and NASA with wingless
craft designed for hypersonic transatmospheric flight, derives
from a series of shapes that were simple modifications to missile
"nosecones," or re-entry vehicles. By modifying the
cone, a shape could be generated that allowed addition of control
surfaces and flight to a subsonic controlled landing on runways.
That development is clearly unrelated to any of Vincent Burnelli's
work, and continuing insistence that it is only reflects badly
on the proponents.
It is my understanding that the current Burnelli Company is
pursuing various claims through the office of the President of
the United States. I feel confident that any remaining issues
will be resolved through that effort. You may wish to join in
George C. Larson