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Development of an Airplane


Most people become fascinated with the flying object but few have an idea of how that object has been developed. The development of the airplane is not as recent as many people would think but dates back before World War one and in the times of the Wright brothers. As the technology grows, the development has grown with the manufacturers coming up with bigger and more comfortable aircraft.

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The airplane manufacturers have been facing major challenges in developing the aircraft and the challenges faced date back when the Wright brothers developed their first aircraft. The challenges have however been responded to by various industries such as the aluminum industry. Challenges such as establishing a stable and superior engine that could support the aircraft were witnessed during the early developments of the aircraft.

New technology has come up with the solution and more aircraft have been developed with super engines to support the aircraft. Besides the challenges, development of the aircraft has been associated with war and aircraft that are more modern have been developed to encompass the modern arms. The aircrafts played an important role during the two World Wars as will be discussed in the paper.

The paper will also discuss the various attempts by manufacturers of the aircraft to develop the airplanes, some of whom those attempts have failed and others have succeeded. Manufacturing of aircraft is not an easy and cheap task and therefore needs due consideration of certain factors and good timing. Manufacturers fail to consider these factors leading to the failed developments. The paper will discuss some of the important factors that an aircraft manufacturer needs to put into consideration.


Long-distance journeys have been made easier due to the existence of airplanes. Be it a business trip or a vacation, airplanes have made traveling less cumbersome and organized. Airplanes, apart from private-owned aircraft, are operated by airlines that have to be licensed and issued with an operating certificate. The airlines are important in the operation of the aircraft and provide a sense of security to the passengers.

The airplanes never cease to amaze people, many of whom are fascinated with the idea of flying in such a big and heavy structure. Most people wonder how such a heavy structure can gain such momentum to fly up in the clouds and how it came to being. This paper will attempt to answer the question by detailing how the aircraft has developed over the years and factors to consider when developing an aircraft.

History of Airplane Development

According to Faber (2005), the history of airplanes dates back to 1899 when two brothers started experimenting with gliders. Olive and Wilbur Wright slowly developed and adopted modern aeronautical engineering and they discovered the use of a wide tunnel that they constructed for analyzing lift and drag options for different wing designs. In 1902, field tests were done, invented wing warping, and added an internal combustion engine to the machine. The experiment bore fruits in 1903 when one of the brothers Orville Wright successfully took off with the flying machine and successfully landed the aircraft. The flight, which lasted in the air for only twelve seconds and covered a distance of one hundred and twenty feet, marked the most notable significant development in aviation history.

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The Wright brother however experienced problems in their airplane construction with the main obstacle acquiring an engine that was powerful enough to lift the airplane from the ground and maintain it in the air, while at the same one a light one. The other problem was maintaining the airplane’s stability while in the air. They found a solution to the same by constructing a big wing structure that was wire-braced. They could be operated by the pilot with the exception of the middle part that remained rigid. One of the tips was inclined to lift the wing while the other one was made at a certain angle to ensure that the wing banked. This made the aircraft maintain balance and turn by inclining the lift vector (Sinclair, 2004).

Other Historical Developments

The success saw many other pioneers attempt to develop the airplanes. Anderson (2002) argues that between the period of 1900 and 1910, there were claims by other inventors to have made short flights. In 1901 for example, one inventor from Connecticut, Gustave Whitehead claimed to have flown his powered engine aircraft for 800 meters. He further went on to claim that he made a second attempt in 1902 managing to fly 11 kilometers. There was however no evidence to the claims and they were refuted by many. In 1903, Richard Pearse made his aircraft that he flew a hundred meters through his plane fail as it did not have the speed required to work efficiently.

It was not until the 19th century that the first flight took off from the ground under the control of Bill Wittber and Harry Houdini in 1910. Bill was running aground test on Bleriot X1 when he found himself a few feet above the ground and he flew the aircraft a few meters before landing safely. The other flights that made history around the same time included the Vickers Vimy bomber by Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith, the Arctic flight flown by Sir Hubert Wilkins and Andy Thomas.

There was a further development in 1903 by Karl Jatho who developed Jatho and conducted a test flight in it which failed

Another great achievement was in 1908 that saw Henry Farman and John William Dunne develop a powerful machine that flew a distance of about one kilometer in their Grand Prix d’Aviation. It was however argued that there were longer flights that had been conducted before this particular flight but could not be backed, as there was no evidence to support the claims.

As years went by, inventors began developing aircraft that could carry an extra passenger and the first aircraft was developed in 1908 where Wilbur Wright flew an aircraft with Charlie Furnas as his passenger. Later in the same year, Therese Peltier marked history as the first woman to fly as a passenger alongside Leon Delagrange.

In the same year, the first plane crash occurred killing Thomas Selfridge during a test flight at Fort Myer.

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It was not until 1909 that the first Aviation award was given to pilot Louis Bleriot when he covered the longest distance in his Bleriot X1 that lasted for more than thirty minutes in the air. The same year saw the first daring woman, Raymonde de Laroche fly alone and be given a pilot’s license.

World War Airplanes Development

The invention of airplanes by Wright brothers saw creation of more powerful aircraft that managed to go longer distances. Many improvements were done to the airplanes, for example, the glider and the steering. It was however not until 1911 during World War 1 when aircraft were developed for military purposes especially in the Italian-Turkish War. The Italians made a discovery that they could use the aircrafts to bomb the enemies in any direction. The use of military aircrafts was adopted throughout the Balkan wars thereby becoming the main war weapon to be used in World War 1 by both the Central and Allied powers (Fielding, 1999).

Before the actual war, aircraft were used to monitor the enemy’s positions by taking pictures of their hideouts and dropping bombs once in a while to flush them out. As the war intensified, sidearms were used to shoot at the enemy’s plane and within a short while, guns were mounted on the airplanes themselves such that the parties found themselves in full war while in the skies. The war aircrafts continued to be developed throughout the war period in order to combat any tactics used by the enemy such as increase of powerful aerodynamics, numerous designs that could last for a longer period and developed machine guns mounted on the aircrafts. The pilots who were trained to fly and develop the plane acquired the skill that they improved upon their return home after the war.

World War II developed more powerful aircrafts that were mainly based on weapon delivery. The Heinkel He 178 was developed in 1939 in Germany followed by Me 262 in 1942 as operational fighter aircrafts. Other developments were done to include the cruise missile aircraft and the ballistic missile; all were meant to serve a particular purpose during the war.

The first war helicopter was developed during the Second World War when Focke Achgelis Fa 223, Flettner FI 282, and Sikorsky were produced to serve in the war (Cutler and Liber, 2005).

The Expansion Of Development Of Airplanes

As stated earlier, the development of airplanes become an acquired art by the pilots who had learned the skill during the war. Known pilots such as Charles Lindberg and Amelia Earhart made further development to the aircrafts hitting media headlines and attracting huge public interest. Other companies followed suit-creating competition in the airplane development market. This competition created the airline industry that becomes major source of transportation to both human passengers and freight from place to place at a certain fee.

Perhaps the main principle that has been applied in modern aircraft development is Bernoulli’s principle that has been applied to allow the airplane to leave the ground. The wings of most modern aircraft have been shaped in a certain position that allows free and faster air movement on the top side of the wing witch that creates lift. There are also several forces applied on the airplane that allows it to leave the ground and fly.

Thrust force gives the airplane the required velocity needed to generate lift that becomes the other force. The role of the propellers and engines is to create the thrust force. The lift force is created due to the fast air that travels on top of the plane’s wing that the bottom thereby generating lift. The thrust force depends on how heavy the aircraft is in order to generate the required lift. There is also an opposing force to thrust which is adjustable depending on the aircraft that is known as drag force. The gravity force is also a strong force that acts against the other forces supporting the aircraft.

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The wings of an aircraft can be compared to the wings of a bird that giving them the strength to fly and maintain stability. The propeller in the aircraft plays an important role in giving the aircraft the thrust force to the wing enabling the aircraft to leave the ground.

The speed of the aircraft depends on the jet engine and the face fan placed in frontage of the engine and it is made to be sucking air into the jet engine. The air pressure is then lifted by the compressor and fuel applied causing an electric spark to be ignited and flamed through the nozzle placed in the back thereby causing the forward thrust force (Donaldson, 2008).

Factors To Consider When Developing An Airplane

With the competing market for aircrafts, companies need to develop aircrafts in certain acceptable manner that will grab the attention of the user. According to Lombardo (1993), certain features should be put into consideration to place the airplane in the competing market. The desired features create a sense of trust to the user and the manufacturer attempting to develop the aircraft needs to adopt these common features.

If certain factors are ignored, then the particular aircraft can lose clientele in an instant to a competing aircraft. A good example was the case of Boeing 247 and DC-3. The Boeing was a fantastic plane but with a less sitting capacity and less comfortable as opposed to DC-3 and suddenly, the clientele shifted to DC-3 and Boeing 247 disappeared from the market. The manufacturer should therefore be very careful to put all acceptable features into consideration before introducing his aircraft to the competing market.

The most crucial feature that every customer needs to know is the safety of the aircraft. Whether the aircraft has the most powerful engine but does not guarantee safety fails the test automatically. Safety includes features such as the aircraft’s stability while in the air, its strength and control, the emergency features such as fire control and its fatigue rate. The manufacturers are busy with creating aircrafts with the most powerful engine to outdo each other in the market but in the meanwhile fail to consider the guaranteed safety of the aircraft once it takes off from the ground (Reithmair and Reithmair, 1999)

Once safety is guaranteed, the other important feature that appeals to the client is speed. The function of air travel is to reach one’s destination faster but safely to avoid fatigue. In addition to speed, the aircraft should be comfortable and comfort comes in several requirements such as the width of the seats and their arrangements, good customer service and entertainment facilities and ample and secure storage facility for the passenger’s luggage.

The ability to cover the range required should also be guaranteed. The design of the aircraft’s should be in such a way that they are able to cover the distance that the passengers wish to travel at the time. The poor ability of an aircraft to perform this role will face a strong opposition by customers and the most appropriate design should be one that can cover a distance between 700 to 1000 miles. Failure to consider this factor can be a major setback for the aircraft.

The other feature that should be considered is acceptability. The aircraft should be acceptable to the community and should veer from factors such as air pollution and noise that would cause unfavorable responses from the community. It should also be dependable and reliable. The manufacturer should therefore avail services such as technical services and training and make spare parts more accessible to reduce the complexity of the airplane.

Historical Airplane’s Development Failures and Successes

As discussed earlier, market timing is very important when introducing an aircraft in the market. A simple neglect of an important feature can render it to be unacceptable. Brandt (2004) gives examples of aircraft that were developed but failed to dominate the market. One such aircraft was the Douglas DC-4E that contained a triple vertical tail. It was developed to carry a capacity of not more than 40 passengers but by the time it was released to the market, the technology had grown, and it faced major setbacks. This was because it lacked efficient wing flaps to support the passengers, did not have enough power, and failed to comply with speed regulations. It was therefore phased out from the company.

Another aircraft that failed was the Constitution that was built in 1947 by Lockheed. This aircraft was very big with a double-deck and it was purchased by Pan American Airlines, which was notorious for purchasing the biggest airplanes at the time regardless of what the aircraft lacked. The problem was that it could not be accommodated by the technology at the time and had to be phased out.

There were however other historical whose developments that were a success. Boeing introduced a new model in the market in 1966, the B747. The plane had a capacity of 360 passengers with a division of mixed classes and though the profits of the aircraft did not increase rapidly as expected, it slowly picked up. Lockheed L-1011 and Douglas DC-10 were a success in the market.


The aircraft’s development has continued over the years with the 21st century being the period that the era of supersonic flights was ended, as they could not be used commercially. Further modern aircraft have been developed, for example, the first aircraft, Global Hawk flew nonstop and non-fuelled for a long distance in 2001, being the longest distance to be covered by an aircraft that was unmanned. It is for this reason that it can be argued that development of aircrafts is still going on and we are yet to be fascinated by the new models being worked on. Due to the current technology, aircraft safety, as discussed above should be the key feature to be put into consideration by the inventors in their bid to outdo each other in the aircraft’s developments.


Anderson, J. (2002). The Airplane: A History of its Technology. U.S.A: American Institute of Aeronautics.

Brandt, S. (2004). Introduction to Aeronautics. California: Cambridge University Press.

Cutler, J., and Liber, J. (2005). Understanding Aircraft Structures. London: Wiley-Blackwell.

Donaldson, B. (2008). Analysis of Aircraft Structures. California Cambridge University Press.

Faber, H. (2005). Airplane. New York: Marshall Cavendish.

Fielding, J. (1999). Introduction to Aircraft Design. California: Cambridge University.

Lombardo, D. (1993). Advanced Aircraft Systems. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional.

Reithmair, L., and Reithmair, W. (1999). Standard Aircraft handbook for Mechanics and Technicians. U.S.A: Cengage Brain.

Sinclair, J. (2004). The Airplane. London: Capstone Press.

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