Aircraft designers.

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Aug 21, 2006
In my castle....
How would be if we tried to make an all time Top 20 list of aircraft designers?
Who should be on it, why and on which spot?
Some things to consider:

Comparing designers is a difficult thing. Certain aircraft were a result of a handful of people building their prototype while companies like Boeing used thousands in the process. Also, what is a designer? Is he the one who draws the plane on paper? Is that the essence of the plane. What about technical possibilities? These designers may draw up whatever they want, if their company doesn't have the engine or the materials to build such an aircraft what does it say about the design? Italian aircraft were good but they lacked duraluminium and powerful engines. Once they got this, they transformed them into good fighters.
And what is a good plane? One which is a superkiller and carries lots of guns or bombs. Or one which is economical and easy to build and gets the job done?

Some considerations. I like the thread.

Though I think there already is a topic about it. I posted in it a month ago or so.
Kris has made some valid points. Perhaps you should keep it to the 30's to mid 40's in keeping with the forum. Also it will capture some civil designs.

But Kurt Tank has to be up their. Designed Flying boats, fighters, bombers, airliners, trainers etc,etc.
BigZ, which flying boats and which bombers did you have in mind?
I have two points of criticism on Tank. One, it took him a long time to get his fighter aircraft ready (though most delays were because of engine problems). Second, the Ta 154 was one of the worst German aircraft designs ever.

Many of the WWII designers also designed before and after WWII. Should we consider just these designs or their complete list of works? Which years do you have in mind 1930-45, 1935-45??
We had a thread similiar to this a while back.

For me the greatest were Messerschmitt, Tank (Focke Wulf), and Lockheed and not in any particular order. I think they all made great contributions to the world of aviation.
What about the guy who stuck split peas onto the spitfire prototype??!!?*
He must get a mention ;)

*To see what sort of effect rough rivets would have on the plane
BigZ, which flying boats and which bombers did you have in mind?
I have two points of criticism on Tank. One, it took him a long time to get his fighter aircraft ready (though most delays were because of engine problems). Second, the Ta 154 was one of the worst German aircraft designs ever.


The flying boats I was refering to where while he worked at Rohrbach. Tank was instrumentental in improvements to hull design and tapered wings. Ok the bombers perhaps were not his strongest point but do show the breadth of his designs. The 191 a bit too revolutionary and let down by systems and engines. The ta400, fw 238, fw 261 and 1000x1000x1000 all still on the drawing board.

Why do critise the the ta 154 from the design point of view? Although the range/visability was not as good as the 219 at least it wasnt underpowered. Also Sander called the 219 a "Mobelwagen"(furniture van) after comparing the handing to the 154. The main problems with the 154 was the hurried swap from the Tego-Film resin due to the bombing of the Goldmann factory to Kaurit resin which contained acid which actually ate the wood. Also workmanship was too faulty some cases. It would not catch the DH Mossie unless it had height advantage but it would have become an exceptional night fighter if the glue/quality problems could have been overcome.

The only other designer I can think of with the same breadth in designs is Fokker. Messerschmitt produced widespread designs but Willy was more company director than designer during most of WWII.
Rohrbach? That's totally unknown to me. Do you care to give some insight on that? Sounds interesting!

His bomber designs looked wonderful. Especially the 1000x1000x1000 is magnificent though I suspect it's especially remembered because of the interesting designation.

I think Erich should comment on the Ta 154 because I'd just be repeating his words. Apparently the Ta 154 was difficult to fly, was tail heavy and had structural problems unrelated to the glue. I recently found out that that typical Resin glue story is overestimated. Looking back I wonder why I ever believed it: why wouldn't they be able to produce a glue after they repair the factory? The Germans managed to restart all production of bombed out factories but not of glue? And was there no reserve to build some more aircraft? And why weren't those Ta 154s which were produced, used? So now it seems that production wasn't stopped because of the glue bit but because the design had too many problems. Operational flight tests resulted in a negative advice. Only one pilot called Willi Glitz (awesome name!) was content with it. The other three pilots disliked it.

Fokker can also be criticized. IIRC he designed the Eindecker which was a horrible fighter but dominated because of its synchronized gun. He had very good designs later but the Dreidecker and the D-VII were designed by Reinhold Platz. After the war Fokker had more success but after some years his designs were conservative or even outdated. But as a manager he was probably unmatched. Dutch people have a feeling for business.

Kris I agree with your assement of Fokker( you could also include his downright criminal build quality during WWI). I was just refeering to the the breadth of his designs and not quality. I would be also be intrested in knowing more on the 154(perhaps a seperate thread?) as I thought the flight problems where mostly in relation to the 0 dehedral.

I will post a bit more on Tank's early years later. But did you know he also worked for Willy M? It was while here that his ideas on structral design ideas conflicted with Willy's and he left for FW.

This is what Erich wrote: Kris the Moskito besides being junk was bottom heavy due to it's stature on the airfield, look at the profile of the a/c when it sits, front now up and the fuselage down toward the tail, not very wise even with a spring loaded hydrallic undercarriage in my opinion.

I'll try to dig up some more later. But I think I already said most.
Despite risk of criticizing everyone's opinion ... I think these gentlemen were more managers/businessmen than aircraft designers.


And that's where you'd be wrong. Let's take Jack Northrop, for instance.
Starts as a teenager with the Lougheed brothers, is good on the drafting
board and with structures...His designs work, and airplanes sell. After
Lougheed goes belly up, he resurrects it in the late 20's as the Lockheed
Corporation with a handful of helpers. Jack is still driving the designs.
Lockheed is sold and Jack starts up another company that becomes
Northrop Aircraft, and his fingerprints are on every design. Naturally, as
your business grows and you have more employees and you build more
products, you become a manager and a businessman, too. But all these
guys were aircraft men from the ground up, and their hands were always
in there somewhere...
Renrich could you explain why these should be the best?

Not that am doubting their abilities just as an educational exercise.

Cheers Liam

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