Aircraft and Automotive Design


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Over time, automotive and aircraft design has mainly been informed by innovation and continuous improvement or what is known in total quality management as Kaizen. In this text, I discuss some of the breakthroughs that have been witnessed in aircraft design over time.

Automotive and aircraft design: a brief comparison

According to Kundu (2010) throughout history, aircraft design has always been ahead in terms of advancement when compared to automotive design. This is more so as far as engine design is concerned. For instance, before their application to cars, aluminum alloys (high strength) had already been utilized for cars. Further, it can be noted that fuel injection was applied to aircraft engines way before it was applied to car engines. It can hence be said that in terms of advancement in design, aircraft design has always been far ahead of automotive design.

Automotive and aircraft design: the breakthroughs

When it comes to aircraft design, Raymer (2006) notes that it has evolved as a process over time to its current status and it continues evolving to incorporate new designs going forward. In the earlier times, we had pioneers of aircraft design relying on trial and error, hat is, experimental designs to determine what was more likely to work and what could not essentially work. In the modern day and age, aircraft design has become more rigorous and risks have been substantially brought down as the process of manufacturing an aircraft becomes more modernized.

The year 1901 became the year when the combustion engine (internal) propelled flying model was unveiled. This was a major breakthrough in aircraft design and the new development was essentially pioneered by the earlier aircraft models that were steam propelled. This new design also meant that aircrafts would have a longer flight that their earlier predecessors. Kundu (2010) also notes that 1914 was an especially significant year as far as the development of he autopilot is concerned. Earlier, the need to have an aircraft travel in a straight line without any aid from the pilot had been floated and Lawrence Sperry and his dad set out to design the first automatic gyro-stabilizer which informed the development of an autopilot which was the first of its kind in the marketplace.

It was however not until the year 1917 that a German professor, Hugo Junkers, developed an all-metal airplane that incorporated an aluminum alloy that was essentially lightweight into the aircraft design. This can be argued to have set stage for the 1925/1926 development of an engine that was lightweight. This according to Fielding (1999) revolutionized the aircraft design marketplace setting stage for the development of lanes that were fasted and bigger.

It is important to note that though the period ranging from 1901-1940 was informed by landmark innovations as far as aircraft designs are concerned, recent times have also seen developments in aircraft design but on a more modes scale.

When it comes to automotive design, Berger (2001) is of the opinion that innovation came to a turning point in the early 20s when there was some sort of saturation in the automobile marketplace. It is at about this time that automotive manufacturers began to incorporate creative designs into their models hence coming up with far reaching changes as far as automotive design is concerned. According to Erjavec (2005), the heath of General Motors sometimes in 1924 came up with a suggestion that to increase or raise the unit sales of automobiles, there was a great need to come up with new designs that would convince buyers to have replacements of their automotive each year. This was essentially a thought sourced from the bicycle industry.

When it comes to the major breakthroughs in the automobile design, it was not until 1828 that the first versions of electric motors were developed and as Berger (2001) noted the concept of the electric motor by a Hungarian inventor by the name Anyos Jedlik paved the way for the concept of the modern car.

However, when it comes to the internal combustion engine, Siegfred Marcus was the first in 1870 to develop an internal combustion engine that was liquid-fuelled. This was the first time a car was using gasoline as a propeller. Erjavec (2005) however noted that though Siegfred Marcus was the first to come up with that idea, German engineers most notably Karl Benz took internal combustion engines powered by gasoline and petrol to new commercial levels.

Automotive design however took a whole new turn with the incorporation of the first company to dedicate itself to automotive production in 1900. This company which is credited with the development of the four cylinder engine was known as Panhard et lavassor. The first decade of the 19’s saw major development as far as the design of automotives is concerned including but not in any way limited to development of dual engines as well as engine hybrids of gas/electric.


It is important to note that automotive and aircraft design continues to undergo many changes going forward. Indications show that future automotive and aircraft designs shall incorporate a number of components to make them more efficient, safer and more environmental friendly.


Erjavec, J. (2005). Automotive technology: a systems approach, Volume 2. Cengage Learning

Fielding, J.P. (1999). Introduction to aircraft design. Cambridge University Press

Kundu, A. (2010). Aircraft Design. Cambridge University Press

Berger, M.L. (2001). The automobile in American history and culture: a reference guide. Greenwood Publishing Group

Raymer, D.P. (2006). Aircraft design: a conceptual approach. American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics


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