Our Readers Write:
A textbook case of why we should be flying in
Burnelli designed planes:
This week I spent time exploring your Burnelli
WebSite which is truly fantastic. The site is extremely informative
and well-written. I have shared this with many people in New York,
all of whom are fascinated by the story of Burnelli and his
incredible aircraft designs. I think I should start in New York
chapter of the Burnelli conspiracy.
Of course, I found story of Burnelli to be even more
compelling given the recent crash in Arkansas. This seems to be a
textbook case of why we should be flying Burnelli design planes. It
is a tragedy the simple accidents such as an airplane crashing into
light pole should cause loss of life. Something is wrong with this
[Ed.-- As incredible as it may seem, there still are
people out there who don't see the simplicity and the genius of Mr.
Burnelli and are obstinate enough to continue denying that Mr.
Burnelli was right all along.]
[This is the aircrash response to one of our readers - it
includes his original comments in Courier Font.]
###Dear Mr. Rok
With respect to your email, here are the answers. Since
most of your concerns were related to statements made by Dr.
Cantilli, we contacted him and asked him if he had any comments. He
was kind enough to take the time to address your concerns. You'll
find his answers below marked with *** before and after his remarks.
Our comments are preceded and end with ###. Anything
unmarked are your comments.
Hi, i've just read the following on your site: "In other words,
if you total distances traveled by airplanes around airports, bus
and intercity buses and trains are safer than flying commercial
aircraft and if you total annual deaths due to transportation,
subways are safer than flying. So much for the myth of
I believe you're making the facts sound well for what you want to
***I believe you are ignoring the facts presented to you.
As I'll show below.***
A few words about myself first - i am a student of aviation at
Warsaw Institute of Technology, i've recently had a lecture on
"Safety in technology" by prof. Tadeusz Szopa, quite a good
specialist and well known in this branch. I'm taking the data from
his book's new edition, soon to be published :).
It is true that there are many more car accidents than airplane
accidents, when we divide the number of them by number of citizens
in a country. To be more specific - in Poland, 1994, there were 0.2
casualties per million citizens in air transport, and 178 on the
roads. This makes 8 people dead in air crashes, and 6764 in car
accidents, in a year.
But what a person takes into account thinking about security, is
his personal risk of loosing life.
***We don't believe people in general do think of their
personal risk of losing their lives. If so, why do so many cross
streets under dangerous circumstances? They are more apprehensive in
- they are not driving
- the plane is high up in the air and when it falls
So let's take a look at it. According to a recent US study, there
is a 0.29E-6/hour probability of loosing your life when riding a car
as a passenger, compared to 0.30E-6 in an airplane,
***You seem to be making my case, if I understand your
It is a lot when you take a look at a train (0.05E-6) and a bus
(0.03E-6), but all the transportation-related risks are surprisingly
way lower than the risk everyone of us has to cope with - the chance
of loosing life due to a disease (cardial, lounge cancer, flu,
whatever), whis is equal to 1.00E-6/hour. What is worse - you ride a
car for two hours a day, fly an airplane 20 hours a year, but you're
subjected to a disease-related death for 24 hours a day.
***What does disease have to do with transportation
Back to the topic - flying an airplane is per hour as dangerous
as riding a car.
***I don't understand the point being made here. I don't
understand what "a 0.29E-6/hour probability of losing your life"
means but you say above the airplane ride is o.30E-6 and the car
ride 0.29E-6, which makes the airplane ride more dangerous, no?***
But that is not all. You said that most accidents happen while
approaching an airport or on takeoff, compared to much safer
cruising period, and therefore counting accidents per mile is
incorrect. Remember what a passenger is interested in - he/she want
to get safely to his/her destination, and that distance is counted
***No relationship between the two
If we follow this path, we should say that counting car accidents
per mile is incorrect too, since it is much more probable that you
would have an accident on crossroads, than on a highway. So why not
count car accident risk in "per crossroads" or "per hour of bad
reasonable; one should do that if one is comparing
safety records of modes. See below, where I tell you about the
work done at Polytechnic University on this subject in 1979. But you
didn't research the topic before making your pronouncements, did
Finally, let's go back to the "per-mile" airplane accidents rate.
What a passenger is interested in is to be safely moved from one
place to another. All the risks should be counted compared to the
benefits - just like you justify the risk of crossing a road next to
your house by the benefit of bringing food from the grocery store
and being able to eat it. So, if we take an example of a journey
from Warsaw to Paris, which is ca. 2000 kilometers, we can cover
this distance by car in 20 hours, or by airplane - in 2 hours. To be
more accurate, let's say that it takes one hour by car to get to the
airport, and one hour to go back from it at destination. And let's
assume that the per-hour risk in both cases is equal to 0.30E-6, no
matter if you are the passenger or the driver. This works in favor
for the cars, so we can stay with it. The risk of losing your life
on the car trip is 20h*0.3E-6, so 6 people in a milion travelling
will die. On the airplane it is (2h+1h+1h)*0.3E-6, 1.2 people will
loose their lifes. Which is better?
***Again, I do not understand your notation "20h*0.3E-6,"
but you cannot be saying that the common traveler (not a university
student studying "aviation at Warsaw Institute of Technology")
really thinks of his risk in numerical or even non-numerical terms
when either driving his car or flying in an aircraft. And he
certainly does not make comparisons.
The bases of my statements relative to the use of
different rates measuring transportation safety are to be found in
"Transportation Safety Index Applicable to All Modes," "Changing
Baseline in Transportation Safety: An Assessment of Some Key
Factors," and "Applicability of Behavior Theory to Transportation,"
in TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM SAFETY & PROJECT ANALYSIS,
Transportation Research Record 709., Transportation Research Board,
National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, 1979.
What may also be of interest to you is "Behavioral
Analysis of Verbal Interaction Between Pilots and Air Traffic
Controllers," in AVIATION FORECASTING, PLANNING AND OPERATIONS,
Transportation Research Record 732, Transportation Research Board,
National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, 1979.***
And finally, to the topic of your site. You say that
crash-worthiness would work so miraculously, that it could
significiantly lower the number of casualties in plane accidents. I
tried to recall as many air crashes and accidents as i could type in
3 minutes - lets look how many could different if the plane was able
to take a ground hit and let people out.
- 1976 accident in Canaries (two 747s)
- 1979 DC-10 in Chicago
- 1981 accident in Warsaw (il-62m in Kabacki Woods)
- 1997 TWA 800 crash near New York
- Flight 1501 in southern USA two or three weeks ago
- 1997 a 747 and a cargo colliding over India
- 1993(?) 747 running into a residential building in Amsterdam
- 1987 Lockerbie 747
- 747 accident in Japan where a non-steerable a/c was flown for
almost an hour until it hit a mountain, killin 585 people (no idea
what year was that in). (time's up).
In my opinion, having a crash-resistant airplane would help in
two cases out of 9. That is Flight 1501 (a plane rolling off the
runway) and 1993 Amsterdam crash, perhaps (this was a high speed
impact, don't think many could survive). My short poll is not
representative, but i think it shows the proportion pretty
***You really haven't read my entire article or seen the
entire website, have you? You force me to repeat material which is
available to you.***
That is Flight 1501 ..... but i think it shows the proportion
***It is my opinion that Burnelli-Type airplanes in all
these cases (even the non-accident Lockerbie disaster) would have
saved most of the lives lost.***
1976 accident in Canaries (two 747s)
***1) Because the entire plane is lifting surface the
structure of a Burnelli is so much stronger than the conventional
2)Because the fuel is only in the outer wings in a
Burnelli and the engines are not on the fuel-tank structure the fire
would not have been as immediate or all-enveloping or consuming.
1979 DC-10 in Chicago
***That DC-10 like all conventional planes went down.
- A Burnelli takes off and rises essentially level,
"Like an elevator" according to one test pilot
- A Burnelli was the first plane to prove it could
continue to climb on takeoff at the same rate with one engine as
with two, and to land safely;
- the greater width of the Burnelli and placement of
engines permit more redundancy and more widely separated redundant
control lines, not side by side.***
- 1981 accident ..... Woods)
- 1997 TWA 800 crash near New York.
***Whether electrical malfunction or missile, the center
fuel tank was where the disaster started. Since a Burnelli would not
have such a tank, this particular incident could not have happened.
***Let me repeat: more lift means:
- Flight 1501 ...... 1997
- a 747 ..... 1993(?)
- 747 1987 Lockerbie 747
- 747 accident in Japan ..... killin 585 people (no idea what
year was that in).
- Less power (and fuel) needed to take off
- Shorter takeoff and landing runway length
- Lower landing and takeoff speeds
- Ability to glide when engines fail
- Ability to carry greater loads meaning building strong
fuselage around occupants and more redundancy, and stronger seat
connections and non-flammable materials and on and on . . . . .
- Ability to have fuel separated from both occupants and
engines and landing gear . If you give this serious thought you
will see why my conclusion is the same: 85 percent of those people
would not have died.***
First, the point about fuel.
I don't see the benefit of a flying body against a conventional
structure. Your point that in a conventional a/c the fuel is stored
under the passengers and close to the engines is a simple result of
the choice made when locating the engines under wings.
***Fuel under the passengers is not fuel in the wings, it
is fuel in the fuselage. Locating the engines under the wings is
more than a "Simple result of the choice made," for the conventional
plane it is a necessity--the fuselage structurally is weaker than
the wings, which must carry the fuel, the fuselage, and the
There were many a/c in the history that had engines placed
side-by-side on the tail, but this design was eventually dropped by
all major manufactures. Reason? Fail-proofness.
***Are engines on the wings fail-proof?***
Economy forces a/c designers to lower the number of engines,
eventually reaching 2 in 777. They won't go any lower, because one
can fail with quite a high probability at this moment of technology
development. Why not side-by-side? In most cases the engine failure
either is caused by or leads to the disintegration of the turbine,
with winglets being spread around at very high speed. I know at
least two cases where the passengers would survive, if only the
remaining engines weren't broken by the winglets from the failing
turbine. Of course, there are no "pure" benefits. Engines mounted on
wings create momentum in yaw axis, so whenever one fails it is more
difficilt to keep the a/c flying where we want it to, and it forces
the designers to make larger rudder surfaces (which hits economy
through increased drag).
***Suffice it for me to say that the modern conventional
plane is a series of adjustments made in design choices, to make as
much money as possible at the expense of the passengers and crew.
Please read all of my article. You are making arguments built on
very little knowledge.***
Second, the gear collapse case. You wrote:
>Unlike it's conventional "counterpart," the
>Burnelli designed airplane, in the case of a
>crash or landing-gear collapse, will be riding
>down the runway on a flat fuselage. The fuel is
>safely stored in the wings. During a crash
>landing, the engines, at the back of the aircraft, < DIV > >don't get ripped off the
and < /DIV > < DIV >
cause a fire. < /DIV
This works only if the crash is caused by a gear-up landing. If
the gear collapses because of extensive vertical speed, the wings
would collapse too and hit the ground anyway.
***Rather labored reasoning. Burnelli had designed a
plane in the 1930s which could jettison its wings in such a case.***
More problems. The real difference between a flying body (like
the one shown at
http://www.aircrash.org/burnelli/images/cmpcht_d.jpg), and a
conventional passenger jet
(http://www.aircrash.org/burnelli/images/cmpcht_b.jpg) isn't so big.
***Wrong. It's very big. And that is hardly a scientific
statement you make.***
What you show on the picture is a delta-wing plane,
***Wrong. Not a delta-wing plane.***
with canards, compared to classic steering surfaces configuration
in a wide-body jet. If we take the irrelevant differences out
***Wrong. Big difference between Burnelli and
difference between a Burnelli and a wide-body is clearly demonstrated on the web-site. Furthermore,
Lifting-body aircraft can have a variety of
different wings depending on the mission role as is shown on
can be used with delta+canards, as well as a flying body can be
used with plain swept wings) they surprisingly don't differ much!
What we have is a rectangular shape in pitch/yaw surface, and plain
wing shaped in yaw/roll surface body, compared to a tube. The
rectangular shape has some disbenefits - just like durability
problems, larger weight of structure needed to hold it in place,
larger induced drag, and so on. Planes evolve by technology, results
being counted by more money or better performance (meaning more
money anyway), not by politics. The perfect example (noted by you
anyway) is F-15 and, even better, F-22 - being an evolution of the
body to give greater lift, but actually coming from the fact that
engines had to be places near rotation axis, to give better roll
Finally, the "How a Safer Airliner Might Look" example. I wonder
if anyone really gave this a serious thought. What is obvious to me
when i look at this project (although i'm specializing in avionics,
not structural design) is:
- the engines are located side by side, meaning the risk of one
destroying the other the wings are so small and thin they won't
keep all the fuel needed
- the structure of main body will be heavy, having to hold a
- engines would be noisy
- large drag from thick airfoil on most of the lifting surface
***I don't think you have seen all parts of the website.
You throw out superficial statements based on little knowledge. What
you have a surfeit of is gall, what we call here in the U.S.
"chutzpah." Burnelli built nine planes on his principle, they were
all tested, they all flew, and your arguments are not
well-considered. Also the website shows a number of "planes of the
future" proposed by Boeing and Aerospatiale that look like the
Burnelli. Explain me that!***
People wouldn't like to fly this airplane, because: (except
for the fact that they wouldn't trust that it flies :) )BR>- most
passenger seats would be far away from emergency exits
passengers would sit far away from nearest windows (this is not a
small problem, Concorde initially was to be windowless, but
marketing people said "no way" :) )
***Now you are in the realm of psychology--or
I don't think it is a good idea to ask interior designers and
safety specialists to design an airplane. To me, it is just like
asking a car interior designer to make a faster car - they really do
not care about the engine, they don't even have to worry if it'll
***I don't think it's a good idea for students to assume
that their limited knowledge is of greater weight than the knowledge
of their professors in a subject, and that their puerile opinions
are of any interest at all.***
Have you managed to find at least one more scientific person
saying things like these? You keep on quoting prof. Cantilli, just
like if he was the only air safety expert in the
***Perhaps more significant is the fact that no
scientific person has taken exception to my statements since they
appeared in print in 1982. Have you managed to get the opinion of
one of your professors in this matter? I would expect that they have
enough sense not to offer opinions about this subject until they
have thoroughly researched it.***
> Michal Rok, [web-site address deleted]
> If brute force doesn't work, you ain't using
***Is this Mr. Rok's motto? It sounds like the motto of
the designers of conventional aircraft: Minimal wings providing
minimal lift, huge, weak fuselage providing no lift, and brute force
to get that thing up there. The trouble is, if something goes wrong
it comes down like a rock--not an airplane.***
***I give you a C-minus for your effort. As the great Yogi
named Berra put it, most succinctly, "It's deja vu all over
###Mr Rok, we have not solely relied on Dr. Cantilli for
his expert opinion but we publish much of what he has to say because
of his extensive background in the field of aircraft safety and the
fact that he is able to articulate his views in a common sense, down
to earth fashion. The web-site contains the remarks of many other
experts such as General Arnold, Dr. Alexander Klemin, Dr. Michael
Watter, Dr. Teichmann, and Mr. Jean Roche, the U.S.A.F. Chief of
Airplane Design for 43 years, not to mention retired Boeing Senior
Vice President Ken Luplow and many others.
As Dr. Cantilli said, you have obviously not carefully
viewed the complete web-site and we recommend that you do.
Furthermore, as your letter raised some interesting questions, we
have posted this email to our web-site, at www.aircrash.org/burnelli/readers.htm.
[Note to our readers: If you would
like to have questions answered please be specific and itemize your
questions in a relatively simple form, as opposed to above - we will
not bother Dr. Cantilli or anyone else regarding information
contained on the site.