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  •  I think this is only ostensibly the case: (2+ / 0-)
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    Powell, wader
    They build what the airlines will buy.
    Boeing or Airbus alone have more than enough resources to shift the state of the industry to the point that airlines would purchase a significantly more advanced aircraft - exactly what happened in previous generations with the transition from turboprops to mid-altitude jets.  The reason they don't is simply that it involves a major up-front investment without the market being guaranteed in advance.  

    They're so bloated and ossified that they can't do anything unless they know for an absolute fact - or as close to it as possible - what will come of it before they even do it.  Real progress is impossible in such a state.  They're just reiterating the same aircraft over and over with incremental adjustments.

    We fly around at .80 mach because that's where the fuel economy is.
    There are other economies at higher speeds and altitudes, but you have to make a leap in capability that requires major investment and doesn't allow incremental steps toward it to be profitable.  The fact that Boeing poured so much time and money into the 787 - an incremental improvement on technicals like fuel economy - and still screwed it up proves that this approach is ultimately irrational.
    If you're going to cruise at faster speeds you need to take skin temperature into account. That's why the SR-71 was made from titanium. Even if you've got the thrust to go that fast it becomes a materials problem.
    Great point.  And the fixed cost of such a developmental program with much less certain returns is why they would rather blow billions screwing up a Baroque incremental evolution than pursuing fundamental capability advances with potentially explosive benefits.  They're incapable of taking risks, and the ironic result is that they become less and less able to do anything at all, even modest things.
    It would probably be better just to get out of the atmosphere altogether. Build something that goes suborbital and you can get to anywhere on the planet in 90 minutes.
    Point-to-point suborbital may eventually augment or replace intercontinental air travel, but the problem is that the amount of energy involved is not that much less than going full orbital (since a transcontinental arc is a major fraction of the Earth's circumference), so progress on that front will likely proceed in tandem with progress on space launch costs.  However, a stratospheric air-breathing system would probably end up being more efficient at some point.  I'm glad so much effort is going into space development, but it's sad that aviation has turned into a dinosaur.

    Ask me if I'm afraid. I say, "Of course not. I'm a fool, and fools never die."

    by Troubadour on Sat Mar 09, 2013 at 02:36:41 PM PST

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    •  I would think (7+ / 0-)

      that if it were economical to cruise at very high mach numbers the military would want it.

      They care about efficiency, albeit for different reasons than the airlines. More efficiency means greater range and/or weapons load.

      Keep in mind that the original 707 came out of Boeing's work on bombers and tankers for the Air Force. Most of what they learned about building large jets came from the
      B-47.  The 707 came from the same prototype that the KC-135 was developed from.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sat Mar 09, 2013 at 03:21:44 PM PST

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      •  The military does want it. (2+ / 0-)
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        Powell, wader

        The have been - very, very, very slowly - developing hypersonic technology with the X-51.  Ironically, it's Boeing doing the contracting, but I'm not going to hold my breath that they would ever try to use what they develop commercially these days, because as we've noted airlines wouldn't commit up-front to buying radically advanced aircraft and Boeing refuses to invest its own resources in changing the market.

        Ask me if I'm afraid. I say, "Of course not. I'm a fool, and fools never die."

        by Troubadour on Sat Mar 09, 2013 at 04:22:49 PM PST

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