Letters to the Editor
"Fuel Tanks: A History of
note that this letter to the editor was sent on Jan 8, 2000
but has to date not been published. Why?]
January 8, 2001
The International Herald Tribune
Your article, "Fuel Tanks: A
History of Blown Tires" (IHT-January 6/7, 2001) asks more
questions than it answers. The most important one is:
Why has it taken 57 tirebursts over 21
years and a horrendous fatal crash to draw attention to the inherent
design flaws that exist in airliners?
The Concorde tragedy simply epitomizes
the problems of aircraft safety in more ways than one. The root of
the problem is ethics and morality; right above that level is
The common practice of attaching
landing gear and engines to fuel tank supporting structure, in
combination with excessively high take-off and landing speeds on
overstressed tires, is a perfect recipe for fiery disaster. The
Concorde is just the latest victim of these flaws.
The August 7, 2000 issue of Air
Safety Week does an excellent job of
highlighting the problem:
"Bursting airplane tires are like 'rubber bombs.' Under extreme
conditions of pressure and heat buildup, an exploding tire can
release the energy equivalent of 4-5 sticks of dynamite. The
potential for cascading, possibly catastrophic, damage to nearby
fuel tanks and engines is a well-recognized hazard. The fiery July
25 crash of an Air France Concorde has cast the issue of bursting
tires into chilling focus."
For more than six decades, man has
known how to vastly improve aircraft safety and has had the
technology to implement that improvement.
The hazards inherent in the
conventional airliners we fly in today were recognized by industry
and government alike in the mid 1930s. So was the superior lifting
body technology of the brilliant Texan, Vincent Justus Burnelli,
which eliminated the aforementioned conventional airliner flaws. In
fact, in 1939, the Dean of the Guggenheim School of Aeronautics, Dr.
Alexander Klemin, at New York University, with a group of
outstanding pilots and wind tunnel engineers from NYU and NACA, all
signed the following statement:
"We regard the Burnelli principle of
design as a valuable and fundamental contribution to the art of
aviation. Its application provides larger accommodations, more
comfort and greater pleasure in faster air travel. The
disposition of the power plants, logically inherent in the design,
enhances safety and reliability far beyond conventional
practice. The perseverance shown in
its successful development is the best in American tradition."
On September 19, 1939, General H. H. Arnold,
Chief of the U.S. Air Forces, highly recommended Burnelli planes to
the Secretary of War and, regarding Burnelli safety features,
"The [Burnelli] design
embodies extremely good factors of safety-- considerably higher
than the streamlined fuselage type." [emphasis added]
General Arnold ended his glowing Burnelli
opinion it is essential, in the interest of national defense, that
this procurement be authorized."
Despite Arnold's plea, no Burnelli
planes were purchased, and, because Burnelli's financial backer was
a staunch Republican foe of President Roosevelt, Burnelli and his
company were blackballed. This blackball has remained in force to
the present date. As a consequence, air travelers the world over
have been denied their God given right to fly in much safer
airliners embracing America's much superior Burnelli technology.
The problem facing us in aircraft
safety has been, and remains, the lack of honesty, integrity and
morality in many places of industry/government and the media. Their
repeated refusals to make the true state of affairs known to the
public continues unabated. Instead, they have made unethical,
immoral, self-interested decisions which are to blame for the air
safety situation we face today. But it is not limited to them alone.
Those who have known about the Burnelli blackballing and have chosen
to do nothing, because they believe that they are powerless, must
share the blame.
The Concorde tragedy was a reminder to
me of the political suppression of Burnelli lifting body design, and
that, in turn, makes one remember the words of Abraham Lincoln:
To sin by silence when we should protest
makes cowards of men.
And, also the words of Plato:
The penalty good men pay for
indifference to public affairs
is to be ruled by evil men.
Chalmers H. Goodlin, Honorary Fellow
The Society of Experimental Test Pilots
2615 Granada Boulevard
Coral Gables, Florida 33134
Appearance is all that counts
The July 26, 1999 issue of Aviation Week and Space
Technology had an interesting letter to the editor insofar as it
demonstrates that what takes place at the higher echelons of
management invariably trickles down whether good or bad.
"NO RESPECT FOR
With regard to your
editorial on the "Aerospace in Crisis" articles (AW&ST July 5,
p.66; June 21, p.63), I've read the letter Phil Condit of Boeing
sent to his troops and believe he is out of touch with his
workforce. This is particularly in light of the fact that within a
week of his epistle, one of his East Coast divisions sent out an
employee bulletin admitting to an unusually large attrition and
saying a "study" would be conducted to find out why.
I recently was a 20-year
Boeing employee. I left for pretty nearly all the reasons covered
in the article and recent letters. However, the biggest reason I
left was Boeing's lack of respect for technical/engineering
acumen. Engineers are no longer promoted or paid well based on
their technical contributions.
Appearance is all that
counts. If people can "sound" like they know what they are talking
about and agree with upper management, they are promoted and paid.
First-level engineering management is quickly becoming devoid of
technical talent. This situation is further exacerbated when the
manager begins to "bring up" people of his own ilk. My old boss
used to say the pendulum always swings back. I fear it will not
happen before I retire.
name withheld by request
It is refreshing to know
that at least one Boeing engineer recognizes the fallacy of yes-men
mentality in the production of safe aircraft.
[The following letter to the editor remains unpublished to date.]
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE
1 4143 9210
September 9, 1998
With regard to the
Swissair Flight 111, the TWA Flight 800 and the Valuejet Flight 592
crashes, it is strange that the National Transportation Safety
Board, the Federal Aviation Agency and the Flight Safety Foundation
remain mute on the possibility that these crashes could have
resulted from tire fires and/or tire blow-outs.
It is ironic that Swissair
was the first to experience a tire disaster in 1963 when their
Caravelle caught fire shortly after take-off at Zurich and crashed,
killing all on board. The record shows that, since then, many airline
disasters have occurred due to tire fires/explosions (see accompanying news reports). Is Swissair Flight 111
simply the latest example of this chain of egregious criminal
Fires rhyme with
[See also Sept
on Southern Air Boeing 747 ]
How about a safer aircraft?
The recent crash of a commuter aircraft in Georgia is the
final straw. I am sick of these aircraft crashing and killing
people, and of the excuse that by statistics "aircrash travel is
safer per mile," etc.
One crash is too many. The
pioneers of aviation demanded total excellence and would be appalled
at our "write-off" of someone's children, parents or spouse.
Aircraft are going to crash
as are cars, but we put airbags in cars, don't we? Why not make
aircraft more crashworthy? Manufacturers are not even doing
everything within current structurally unsound conventional designs.
This means little effort and risk but maximum profit.
FT. BRAGG, N.C.
Originally published as a "Letter to the Editor," AVIATION WEEK & SPACE TECHNOLOGY / September 18, 1995
Bring back Burnelli
take exception to some of the remarks about the Burnelli principle
of design in "Freighters for the real world" (July 22).
You said that Boeing and McDonnell Douglas have dropped the
lifting-fuselage containerized freighter, based on Burnelli principles,
"partly because of the severe induced-drag penalties of
such a layout." The false allegation of "severe induced-drag
penalties" is typical of almost 40 years of bad-mouthing
directed at the Burnelli design. It is also contradicted by the
following paragraph, which says that the 747F has a 35 per cent
payload fraction, the projected twin-tube conventional design
a 39 per cent fraction, and a flying-wing distributed-load freighter
a 50 per cent fraction. This last figure would appear to be consonant
with Burnelli qualities based upon my Aircraft Efficiency Formula,
which measures volume/floor area/ useful load and cruise speed
per horsepower or pound of thrust. For example, the last Burnelli
aircraft, the CBY-3, was built in Canada in 1946. As it was certificated
by the Canadian Department of Transport and had identical powerplants,
it can be readily compared with the de Haviland AC-1A. Both aircraft
were certificated at gross weights of 28,500lb. Using the total
horsepower value (2,900 h.p.) as a common denominator and referring
only to the Department of Defence flight-test reports, it is
possible to compare their efficiency:
Volume per h.p. (ft3)
Floor area per h.p. (in2)
load per h.p. (lbs)
speed per h.p. (kts)
This comparison suggests no such "severe induced drag
penalties," in spite of the fact that the CBY-3 had a fuselage
thickness ratio of some 21 per cent. Moreover, I flew the CBY-3,
as well as numerous contemporary conventional aircraft, and I
can flatly state that the claimed "drag penalties"
are pure propaganda. Simple extrapolation of the above qualities
to 707 and 747-sized Burnellis suggests fuselage thickness ratios
of 13 per cent and 10 per cent respectively. Given dorsal-mounted
powerplants for a clean leading edge, such designs could offer
truly revolutionary payload and performance. As a bonus, Burnelli
lifting-fuselage freighters would provide truck-bed-level loading
facilities, eliminating the need for the complicated and expensive
cargo-handling contraptions referred to in your article.
The conventional manufacturers have pulled out of the lifting-fuselage
containerised freighter, based on Burnelli principles, for the
- They do not own the Burnelli principle of design.
- Being large government contractors, they cannot afford to
embarrass the Department of Defence, the agency responsible for
the suppression of the Burnelli principle of design since 1941.
- Production of Burnelli-type aircraft would be an admission
that they have been building inferior and more costly airframes
for at least 30 years.
- These companies
naturally wish to maintain their market domination and produce as
many conventional aircraft as possible so as to maximize the
benefits from existing tooling, regardless of operator, consumer
and national interests.
asked: "Can the air cargo industry support a pure freighter that
will provide a return on investment for its manufacturer and its
operators?" The answer is definitely "yes," and the only logical
vehicle is a Burnelli. Along with lower construction costs and many
other important advantages, the 50 per cent payload fraction and
truck-bed-level facilities make the Burnelli freighter a
Burnelli was distressed by the practice of mounting powerplants,
landing gear and passenger seats immediately adjacent to the fuel
tanks, and by the ever-increasing take-off and landing speeds
necessitated by conventional tubular designs. He told me in the
early 1950s that safety and economics would ultimately force the air
transport industry to adopt his principle. Burnelli's time is now
CHALMERS H. GOODLIN
12a Cheyne Row,
This letter to
the editor appeared in FLIGHT International,
19 August 1978, p. 542