QUOTE(AspiringPilot @ Sep 7 2006, 01:05 PM) [snapback]102844[/snapback]
What if Fuel Economy wasnt a limitation of the Aviation Industries. What would be different? Would the 747 have more engines? Could planes go faster ? Or could they fly higher than they do now.
I think your question is a very interesting and very timely inquiry in an aviation industry lodged between a rock and hard place in regards to petrol prices.
I also think that it is one that could be answered with a very emotional human factor as a main character, let me explain before you switch to the next post...
The question if I understand it right is really the following: Would we not try bigger, faster, higher, and further, if we did not have a Damocles sword, called fuel-economy, hanging above our heads?
Well I firmly believe so! We could turn towards the automobile industry for that, an industry very well tune to the demands of its customers, one that truly follows to rules of supply and demand. Back a few decades when petrol prices where lower (not necessarily low), the average consumer had only one thing in mind fulfill a want and a need. The need was obviously a necessity to have a vehicle to achieve transport and make the modern life a reality. The want (usually the semi useless part) was to fulfill the first with a greater level of comfort , style and perhaps answer to a human specific envy ( overachieve the neighbor socially, respond to a heavy dose of machoism, whatever tickles your fancy really...).
In those days the automobile industry, having an accute sense for all of the above mentioned, happily supplied four-wheeled, large gas guzzling metal bricks, which could easily accomodate the occupants of a freshly arrived boat people from the island of Haiti. Some models would also respond to targeted specific wants such as more power, more speed, etc...you get the picture.
The problem in a dynamic of higher gas prices is really that the consumer sees a large portion of the budget that he could allocate to the "Wants" portion disappear, he still "needs" the transportation aspect, largely because society has built itself around those machines; however, the "wants" portion takes a back seat ride because it becomes expensive. Today the automobile industry tries to answer to the public demand by having a product more fuel efficient, unfortunately for the consumer this product does not respond well to its "wants", overtime the consumer will eventually settle and forget those "wants" and accept the current state of affairs, there is nothing like the human mind when it comes to adapting, it is quite incredible.
But enough with this parallel, let's talk airplanes.
Based on the above the same principle will apply anywhere, the current fleet of airplanes available reflects a similar cycle. The question is not would a 747 have more engines, fly higher or faster, the question is really would the 747 even exist , would the parameters used for engineering an aircraft be the same? The answer to that question is NO!!!
An airline (the one that transports people) does not buy airplanes because they like the model, an airline buys airplanes because they are trying to sell tickets to humans, driven by emotions (wants and needs). Those passengers need
to be transported, but they want
to do it in style, with class, with comfort, they want get there faster, and bla bla bla.
Of course an airline can't accomodate all of the needs of the people, because if they try they become inefficient, that is largely due in part to Petroleum prices and the cost of metal.
A brilliant example to this madness is the turboprop airplane, it was a very economical way for airlines to close small gaps and be VERY profitable while responding to the needs
of the people; however the people did not find themselves fulfilled in their wants
by this mode of transportation. They think that is noisy, small, slow, dangerous and they peer through the window at an Embraer jet or a Canadair jet which looks a lot nicer. The airline that operates the jets might not make as high of a profit margin as the turbo operator, but it is bound to eventually win the people that are right now sitting in the turboprop.
Petrol is price inelastic, we all need
it we are willing to pay for it, whatever it costs, but in the process of it we are sacrificing our wants
and those are not as price inelastic as our basic needs
If tomorrow an airline starts to operate airplanes that promises us Paris-Shangai in 2 hours while we nap in the comfort of seats getting a foot massage and listening to soothing music without even hearing the humming of the engines, we would all want
in. But the reality is that no manufacturer would build such prouesse capable craft, because no operator would buy it, because the people would not pay for this high priced ticket, and this is all due to fuel economy .
This being said it is still my humble assessment of what I see and what I comprehend and while I step down from the soap box, I strongly invite other members to answer to the challenge of this very intelligent question. It so far has only received mockery and criticism which is reflective of the lack of thinking happening in the veins of this current society. It is not a question of science and air density but rather one of human proportions.