Article ID: CBB709933101

The Green Airliner That Never Was: Aerodynamic Theory, Fuel-Efficiency and the Role of the British State in Aviation Technology in the Mid-Twentieth Century (2020)


Two aerodynamic concepts theorized in the early twentieth century – laminar-flow control and flying wings – offer the potential for more efficient aircraft. However, despite compelling advantages on paper and optimistic predictions, the fuel-saving benefits of these technologies have not yet been fully realized. This paper documents British work on these concepts, with a particular focus on laminar-flow control. Faced with an increasingly difficult funding context and a lack of a clear military rationale, these potentially significant advances in aircraft efficiency were stymied by a catch-22: the government was only prepared to provide financial support for the development of an operational prototype if operational performance had already been demonstrated. This case also highlights the challenges faced in the commercial uptake of radical aviation technologies, even when they appear to offer greater efficiency and environmental benefits.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Book Bloor, David; (2011)
The Enigma of the Aerofoil: Rival Theories in Aerodynamics, 1909--1930 (/isis/citation/CBB001221125/)

Book E. van der Vleuten; P. Högselius; A. Hommels; A. Kaijser; Erik van der Vleuten; (2013)
The Making of Europe's Critical Infrastructure: Common Connections and Shared Vulnerabilities (/isis/citation/CBB085424881/)

Book Sean Seyer; (2021)
Sovereign Skies: The Origins of American Civil Aviation Policy (/isis/citation/CBB651045978/)

Thesis Van Vleck, Jenifer Leigh; (2009)
No Distant Places: Aviation and the Global American Century (/isis/citation/CBB001561108/)

Book Chandra D. Bhimull; (2017)
Empire in the Air: airline travel and the African diaspora (/isis/citation/CBB875010001/)

Article Nicholas Stanley-Price; (December 2018)
Flying to the Emirates: The end of British Overseas Airways Corporation’s service to Dubai and Sharjah in 1947 (/isis/citation/CBB033433895/)

Book Taylor Simon; (2016)
The Fall and Rise of Nuclear Power in Britain: A History (/isis/citation/CBB171510819/)

Essay Review Schatzberg, Eric; (2013)
Why Airplanes Fly: The Strong Programme and the Theory of Lift (/isis/citation/CBB001500272/)

Book Ludvigsen, Karl E.; (2008)
Ferdinand Porsche, Genesis of Genius: Road, Racing, and Aviation Innovation, 1900 to 1933 (/isis/citation/CBB001230672/)

Book Millard, Douglas; (2001)
Black Arrow Rocket: A History of a Satellite Launch Vehicle and Its Engines (/isis/citation/CBB000101576/)

Article Hamilton, Kelly; (2001)
Some Philosophical Consequences of Wittgenstein's Aeronautical Research (/isis/citation/CBB000101027/)

Book Crotty, David; (2010)
A Flying Life: John Duigan and the First Australian Aeroplane (/isis/citation/CBB001033783/)

Book Malcolm Fife; (2015)
British Airship Bases of the Twentieth Century (/isis/citation/CBB247985789/)

Book Nina Baker; (2020)
Adventures in aeronautical design : the life of Hilda M. Lyon (/isis/citation/CBB031814968/)

Authors & Contributors
Kharuk, Andriy
Vleuten, Erik van der
Hamilton, Kelly Ann
Millard, Douglas
Eckert, Michael
Hashimoto, Takehiko
Research in the History of Technology
Perspectives on Science
Technology and Culture
Historia Scientiarum: International Journal of the History of Science Society of Japan
Metascience: An International Review Journal for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science
The Journal of Transport History
Science Museum
Museum of Victoria
University of Chicago Press
Bentley Publishers
Yale University
Crampton-Moorhouse Publishing
Aeronautics; aviation
Aviation, commercial
Aircraft; airplanes
Aircraft industry
Wittgenstein, Ludwig
Bairstow, Leonard
Duigan, John Robertson
Porsche, Ferdinand
Hilda M. Lyon
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
21st century
Great Britain
United States
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC)
Great Britain. Royal Air Force
Federal Aviation Administration
British Airways

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment