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kitplane01
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Is innovation declining?

Sun Oct 03, 2021 3:31 am

Outside of space and rockets ... is innovation in aerospace declining?

Don't compare with 1940-1945 ... that's unfair. But how about compared to the 1990s or the 2000s?

On the military side ...
Drones have existed for more than 20 years. Drones are no longer innovative.
But the MQ-25 is a new application of drone tech, but a small program.
Hypersonic missiles have been in development forever .. and are still being developed.
Outside of China there are no significant new military aircraft in this whole decade. Not one!
The B-21 will change that eventually.
The Su-57 doesn't count until they can build ten operational aircraft

On the civilian side
Electric things that can hover might some day be important. Development is making progress.
There is two new significant airliners in the last 10 years.
The A350 is doing fine.
The A220 is losing money.
The 777X will come along soon, and probably lose money.
There are lots of new business jets, and they look like the old business jets.

Rockets
SpaceX is amazing! This is real innovation!
Clusters of 100's of satellites are also new
Satellites now have laser links
 
N1120A
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Sun Oct 03, 2021 9:47 am

I'm not sure most people realize just how revolutionary the 787 and A350 are. The A220 is also an incredible leap in that area of the market, but trade war garbage, the break down in supply chain due to COVID and the strip down of Bombardier has hurt the program.
 
flipdewaf
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Sun Oct 03, 2021 10:23 am

I working the field of innovation (albeit in a different but larger industry) and spend significant time understanding what innovation is and what we do to achieve it and I had a very long answer prepared here however I think it’s pretty simple.

Innovation (as I would define it) is not declining, it is increasing. I think that we see the innovation happening faster than the launch cycle of aircraft and so the individual innovations are captured less as step changes but as small pieces, marginal gains, that make up the changes we expect as time marches on.

The innovation we see in the space market is because of change in the market that allows more, already established, technologies to be applied. The innovation is the link and not the technology.

Fred


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 
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Starlionblue
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Sun Oct 03, 2021 10:24 am

Agreed with N1120A. The 787 and A350 may look similar to the previous generation on the outside, but there is massive innovation under the skin.

SpaceX is indeed innovating massively, but the aircraft equivalent is creating the DC-3 after the Ford Trimotor, or the 707 after the war. A very different stage of technology evolution.
 
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fr8mech
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Sun Oct 03, 2021 2:30 pm

"The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end." ~ Henry Ellsworth, Patent Office Commissioner, 1843

Just because a new aircraft looks like old aircraft doesn’t mean it’s not innovative, it just means the physical appearance and outward design hasn’t changed.

As stated, the innovation is in the avionics bay and the flight deck and the integration of the 2 with the rest of the aircraft.
 
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kitplane01
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Mon Oct 04, 2021 3:53 am

flipdewaf wrote:
I working the field of innovation (albeit in a different but larger industry) and spend significant time understanding what innovation is and what we do to achieve it and I had a very long answer prepared here however I think it’s pretty simple.

Innovation (as I would define it) is not declining, it is increasing. I think that we see the innovation happening faster than the launch cycle of aircraft and so the individual innovations are captured less as step changes but as small pieces, marginal gains, that make up the changes we expect as time marches on.

The innovation we see in the space market is because of change in the market that allows more, already established, technologies to be applied. The innovation is the link and not the technology.

Fred


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk


That's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure it's clear to me.

Suppose I have a new idea for the air conditioner, or landing gear, or whatever. It would seem I have to wait until the next aircraft launch to use my idea. No one is re-doing the 787/A350 landing gear or air conditioners! Which would mean the next plane would have lots of new innovations, and be kind of revolutionary. But we're not really seeing any new plane launches to put these ideas into.

Or am I missing something?
 
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kitplane01
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Mon Oct 04, 2021 4:02 am

Starlionblue wrote:
Agreed with N1120A. The 787 and A350 may look similar to the previous generation on the outside, but there is massive innovation under the skin.


No one outside of China is developing a new commercial airliner now. The 787/A350 was launched in 2004/2006. That's a long time ago.

I understood that the A350/787 was about 15%-20% more economical than the A330/777. And that at least half that was the engines. So even if the A350/787 are very different than the A330/777, can the improvement really be more than about 10% (plus another 10% from the engines, give or take)?

Suppose 1%/year improvement in airframes, and 1%/year improvement in engines is the current innovation rate. What *was* the innovation rate? How much better was the 767/777 than the DC-10/A340. And was it not the case that airframes were developed more often back then?
 
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Starlionblue
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Mon Oct 04, 2021 4:53 am

kitplane01 wrote:
Starlionblue wrote:
Agreed with N1120A. The 787 and A350 may look similar to the previous generation on the outside, but there is massive innovation under the skin.


No one outside of China is developing a new commercial airliner now. The 787/A350 was launched in 2004/2006. That's a long time ago.

I understood that the A350/787 was about 15%-20% more economical than the A330/777. And that at least half that was the engines. So even if the A350/787 are very different than the A330/777, can the improvement really be more than about 10% (plus another 10% from the engines, give or take)?

Suppose 1%/year improvement in airframes, and 1%/year improvement in engines is the current innovation rate. What *was* the innovation rate? How much better was the 767/777 than the DC-10/A340. And was it not the case that airframes were developed more often back then?


Let's start by ordering the aircraft generations correctly.
- 747/DC-10/L1011/A300
- 757/767/A320
- 777/A330/A340
- 787/A350
Of course, the aircraft within a generation didn't all appear the same year, but it is a reasonable approximation.


Engines are a big thing in efficiency gain. We are now seeing geared turbofans on the newer narrowbodies. That development might extend to widebodies.

Again, there is massive innovation under the skin. Looking at A350 vs A330/A340, you have self-contained hydraulic actuators, allowing the deletion of the third hydraulic system, improved flight deck ergonomics, BTV, improved aerodynamics, airport navigation function, integrated EFB, distributed computer processing and networking with automated redundancy and hot backup, simplified hydraulics, more robust air data system redundancy. But there are also little things, like moving the probes forward so they don't risk getting dinged by cargo loaders and airstairs.

Also, consider that the 787 and A350 that were launched are not the same as the aircraft being produced today. Lots of improvements are made to an airliner over its production life. Avionics upgrades are common, but also things like the deletion of the sideslip angle probes on the A350, higher gross weights, and so forth.

Are we seeing diminishing returns? Time will tell, but I don't think innovation is really declining. It just isn't very apparent from the outside.
 
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kitplane01
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Mon Oct 04, 2021 2:48 pm

Starlionblue wrote:
kitplane01 wrote:
Starlionblue wrote:
Agreed with N1120A. The 787 and A350 may look similar to the previous generation on the outside, but there is massive innovation under the skin.


No one outside of China is developing a new commercial airliner now. The 787/A350 was launched in 2004/2006. That's a long time ago.

I understood that the A350/787 was about 15%-20% more economical than the A330/777. And that at least half that was the engines. So even if the A350/787 are very different than the A330/777, can the improvement really be more than about 10% (plus another 10% from the engines, give or take)?

Suppose 1%/year improvement in airframes, and 1%/year improvement in engines is the current innovation rate. What *was* the innovation rate? How much better was the 767/777 than the DC-10/A340. And was it not the case that airframes were developed more often back then?


Let's start by ordering the aircraft generations correctly.
- 747/DC-10/L1011/A300
- 757/767/A320
- 777/A330/A340
- 787/A350
Of course, the aircraft within a generation didn't all appear the same year, but it is a reasonable approximation.


Engines are a big thing in efficiency gain. We are now seeing geared turbofans on the newer narrowbodies. That development might extend to widebodies.

Again, there is massive innovation under the skin. Looking at A350 vs A330/A340, you have self-contained hydraulic actuators, allowing the deletion of the third hydraulic system, improved flight deck ergonomics, BTV, improved aerodynamics, airport navigation function, integrated EFB, distributed computer processing and networking with automated redundancy and hot backup, simplified hydraulics, more robust air data system redundancy. But there are also little things, like moving the probes forward so they don't risk getting dinged by cargo loaders and airstairs.

Also, consider that the 787 and A350 that were launched are not the same as the aircraft being produced today. Lots of improvements are made to an airliner over its production life. Avionics upgrades are common, but also things like the deletion of the sideslip angle probes on the A350, higher gross weights, and so forth.

Are we seeing diminishing returns? Time will tell, but I don't think innovation is really declining. It just isn't very apparent from the outside.


I think (but I'm not sure) that time is telling.

Next year, after the 777x enters operation, there will be *no* new large commercial aircraft under development. When was the last time that was true?
 
FGITD
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Mon Oct 04, 2021 3:25 pm

That’s a bit of an outdated mentality on innovation though, just because there’s no publicly known widebody under development doesn’t mean there’s no innovation. It’s not the 50s anymore, it’s not as if the Boeing engineers sit down and bang out a quick aircraft design over lunch and within 2 years it’s in service.

The next aircraft are certainly under development. But at the moment, they might be doing something as “simple” as testing out new composite surface designs, hydraulic systems, and all manner of things, as Starlionblue laid out. Then when the time comes, those ideas are applied to the new aircraft or even added to those currently in production. For example-Boeing didn’t start trying to develop composite parts the same day they announced the 7E7

I’ma simple ground employee, but even I can tell the difference between one of my company’s new 787s vs one delivered a few years ago. Very minor and basic changes from our perspective, but clear that they’re still working on it.
 
LH707330
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Mon Oct 04, 2021 4:34 pm

kitplane01 wrote:
Starlionblue wrote:
kitplane01 wrote:

No one outside of China is developing a new commercial airliner now. The 787/A350 was launched in 2004/2006. That's a long time ago.

I understood that the A350/787 was about 15%-20% more economical than the A330/777. And that at least half that was the engines. So even if the A350/787 are very different than the A330/777, can the improvement really be more than about 10% (plus another 10% from the engines, give or take)?

Suppose 1%/year improvement in airframes, and 1%/year improvement in engines is the current innovation rate. What *was* the innovation rate? How much better was the 767/777 than the DC-10/A340. And was it not the case that airframes were developed more often back then?


Let's start by ordering the aircraft generations correctly.
- 747/DC-10/L1011/A300
- 757/767/A320
- 777/A330/A340
- 787/A350
Of course, the aircraft within a generation didn't all appear the same year, but it is a reasonable approximation.


Engines are a big thing in efficiency gain. We are now seeing geared turbofans on the newer narrowbodies. That development might extend to widebodies.

Again, there is massive innovation under the skin. Looking at A350 vs A330/A340, you have self-contained hydraulic actuators, allowing the deletion of the third hydraulic system, improved flight deck ergonomics, BTV, improved aerodynamics, airport navigation function, integrated EFB, distributed computer processing and networking with automated redundancy and hot backup, simplified hydraulics, more robust air data system redundancy. But there are also little things, like moving the probes forward so they don't risk getting dinged by cargo loaders and airstairs.

Also, consider that the 787 and A350 that were launched are not the same as the aircraft being produced today. Lots of improvements are made to an airliner over its production life. Avionics upgrades are common, but also things like the deletion of the sideslip angle probes on the A350, higher gross weights, and so forth.

Are we seeing diminishing returns? Time will tell, but I don't think innovation is really declining. It just isn't very apparent from the outside.


I think (but I'm not sure) that time is telling.

Next year, after the 777x enters operation, there will be *no* new large commercial aircraft under development. When was the last time that was true?

As others have mentioned, there's ongoing R&D for all manner of things that can find their way into different types. Depending on how you define "under development," there were a couple of gaps that I can think of:

[Edit: totally forgot about the A300, that eliminates the 1971-1975 hole...]
1981-1985: gap between 767 and A330/340, some work on derivatives (763, 743, 744, MD11).
1995-1999: gap between 777 EIS and full-bore A380 development, more derivatives.

We can squabble about how mature a concept has to be for it to be "under development," or to what extent something like the A340-500/600 was a derivative, but there were definitely periods where the development of widebodies lulled.

As far as disruptive innovation goes, I think we'll see a few things shift:
1. As BEV gets better, the costs will enable more regional P2P flying using secondary airports.
2. If fuel costs go up due to pressure to reduce CO2 emissions, I think we may see open rotor or big turboprops for short flights. The time penalty on shorter segments is pretty trivial, and there's a price/time elasticity curve that will shift if fuel costs do.
 
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kitplane01
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Mon Oct 04, 2021 5:05 pm

FGITD wrote:
That’s a bit of an outdated mentality on innovation though, just because there’s no publicly known widebody under development doesn’t mean there’s no innovation. It’s not the 50s anymore, it’s not as if the Boeing engineers sit down and bang out a quick aircraft design over lunch and within 2 years it’s in service.

The next aircraft are certainly under development. But at the moment, they might be doing something as “simple” as testing out new composite surface designs, hydraulic systems, and all manner of things, as Starlionblue laid out. Then when the time comes, those ideas are applied to the new aircraft or even added to those currently in production. For example-Boeing didn’t start trying to develop composite parts the same day they announced the 7E7

I’ma simple ground employee, but even I can tell the difference between one of my company’s new 787s vs one delivered a few years ago. Very minor and basic changes from our perspective, but clear that they’re still working on it.


It's not an outdated mentality!

In the 1950s Boeing could "bang out quick aircraft design .. and within 2 years it's in service" and it was an improvement over what came before. Now we fly upgraded versions of 30 year old designs. New designs take 10 years to get into service. We are clearly innovating more slowly than the 1950s. I wonder if we're innovating more slowly than the 1990s or 2000. Certainly there were more large civil aircraft being developed in those decades.

Of course there are incremental and subsystem improvements. My fear is not that innovation has gone to 0. It's that innovation has slowed, not stopped.
 
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kitplane01
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Mon Oct 04, 2021 5:11 pm

LH707330 wrote:
[Edit: totally forgot about the A300, that eliminates the 1971-1975 hole...]
1981-1985: gap between 767 and A330/340, some work on derivatives (763, 743, 744, MD11).
1995-1999: gap between 777 EIS and full-bore A380 development, more derivatives.


Love new data. Didn't know the actual dates. Thanks.

The A220 entered service in 2016. Unless the re-engined 777x counts as a "new plane" we are in a gap 50% longer than any of those. Isn't the 777X something like (total guess) 80% the same as the 777. It's not a "new plane" like the A220/A350/787!

(I know I earlier wrote that the 777x counted as a new plane ... I'm doubting as I think more.)
 
LH707330
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Mon Oct 04, 2021 5:37 pm

kitplane01 wrote:
LH707330 wrote:
[Edit: totally forgot about the A300, that eliminates the 1971-1975 hole...]
1981-1985: gap between 767 and A330/340, some work on derivatives (763, 743, 744, MD11).
1995-1999: gap between 777 EIS and full-bore A380 development, more derivatives.


Love new data. Didn't know the actual dates. Thanks.

The A220 entered service in 2016. Unless the re-engined 777x counts as a "new plane" we are in a gap 50% longer than any of those. Isn't the 777X something like (total guess) 80% the same as the 777. It's not a "new plane" like the A220/A350/787!

(I know I earlier wrote that the 777x counted as a new plane ... I'm doubting as I think more.)

I think much of it depends on what's considered "new." The 777-9 has new wings, gear, engines, and tail feathers. Those are the expensive things to develop. Arguably, that's a similar change to the creation of the A330/340 from an A310: new wing, engines, stabilizers on a stretched A310 fuselage and tailfin. I think development budget, assuming a well-run project, is probably a better proxy for "newness."

Given the number of parts in the fuselage, the 777-9 may have a high part count commonality with earlier versions, but the development costs were likely around 50+% of a clean sheet design.

I think your observation of the decelerating pace of new designs (however we define that) is a reflection of the fact that the lower-hanging fruit have been picked, and now the OEMs need to reach farther up to grab the next set. Engineering and regulatory standards have also improved (MCAS excepted), so what may have taken 2 years in 1960 now may take 3 or 4 because there are more tests to run based on lessons learned from accidents in the 1960s to now to show that something has, say, 9 9s reliability/safety today versus 7 9s back in 1960.
 
FGITD
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Mon Oct 04, 2021 7:49 pm

LH707330 wrote:
…….what may have taken 2 years in 1960 now may take 3 or 4 because there are more tests to run based on lessons learned from accidents in the 1960s to now to show that something has, say, 9 9s reliability/safety today versus 7 9s back in 1960.


Another facet of modern innovation is exactly that, the safety and reliability. Back then you build a prototype and it crashes, so you build another one and give it another shot. These days the prototype crashes and the program most likely goes down with it.

I think we all have a specific definition of what constitutes innovation, and it differs from user to user and eras.

Things like subtypes or updates for longer range, better efficiency, more pax etc don’t count as innovative in 2021. But building an entirely new aircraft to achieve those same goals does/did count for past aircraft.

Take for example the Dc-4, Dc-6 and dc-7. These days they’d most likely be part of the same family. In effect all they did was stretch, pressurize, and add power/range to each iteration. So a lot of innovation by Douglas.

But for whatever reason doing those same things to the 737, 321, or 777 doesn’t count?
 
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PITingres
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Mon Oct 04, 2021 9:19 pm

kitplane01 wrote:
In the 1950s Boeing could "bang out quick aircraft design .. and within 2 years it's in service" and it was an improvement over what came before. Now we fly upgraded versions of 30 year old designs. New designs take 10 years to get into service. We are clearly innovating more slowly than the 1950s.


Your last sentence doesn't follow, unless you insist that "innovation" only counts when it's an all new, big-picture design. I think that's a fallacy. 30-year-old designs are flying because all the easy improvements have been made, and what's left is detail improvements on the inside. There's a LOT going on at that level.

New designs came relatively quickly right up through the 80's, sure. That's because the industry was relatively immature; there were big gaps in size and range to fill, and engine technology moved forward enough to go from 3 and 4 engines to 2 across the board. We won't see that level of change again, unless it might be in wing/body materials and/or construction techniques. That's maturity, not lack of innovation.
 
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kitplane01
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Mon Oct 04, 2021 9:53 pm

PITingres wrote:
kitplane01 wrote:
In the 1950s Boeing could "bang out quick aircraft design .. and within 2 years it's in service" and it was an improvement over what came before. Now we fly upgraded versions of 30 year old designs. New designs take 10 years to get into service. We are clearly innovating more slowly than the 1950s.


Your last sentence doesn't follow, unless you insist that "innovation" only counts when it's an all new, big-picture design. I think that's a fallacy. 30-year-old designs are flying because all the easy improvements have been made, and what's left is detail improvements on the inside. There's a LOT going on at that level.


FGITD wrote:
Another facet of modern innovation is exactly that, the safety and reliability. Back then you build a prototype and it crashes, so you build another one and give it another shot. These days the prototype crashes and the program most likely goes down with it.

I think we all have a specific definition of what constitutes innovation, and it differs from user to user and eras.


Here's a possible measure of innovation: cost per seat-mile. The trend in cost/seat-mile has been going down like it should. But given some constant fuel price, has the trend been leveling off? If in the 1990s were we getting 2% cheaper per year, and in the 2020s we were getting 1% cheaper per year, that would be a significant decrease in success at innovation. I don't know the right numbers; does anyone know them?

If you want to add a safety component .. sure. But has the safety of modern airliners really increased from the 1990s to today? And if so, I would wonder how much of that is better operating procedures (which totally counts).

PITingres wrote:
New designs came relatively quickly right up through the 80's, sure. That's because the industry was relatively immature; there were big gaps in size and range to fill, and engine technology moved forward enough to go from 3 and 4 engines to 2 across the board. We won't see that level of change again, unless it might be in wing/body materials and/or construction techniques. That's maturity, not lack of innovation.


That maturity *is* the cause of some of the lack of innovation. We've solved the easy problems and the hard problems are hard so we make less progress (as measured by some metric like cost/seat-mile).
Last edited by kitplane01 on Mon Oct 04, 2021 9:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
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kitplane01
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Mon Oct 04, 2021 9:53 pm

LH707330 wrote:
kitplane01 wrote:

(I know I earlier wrote that the 777x counted as a new plane ... I'm doubting as I think more.)

I think much of it depends on what's considered "new." The 777-9 has new wings, gear, engines, and tail feathers. Those are the expensive things to develop.


I had forgotten the 777X had a new wing .. probably it should count. Intelligent people might differ though.
 
SteelChair
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Tue Oct 05, 2021 2:42 am

Yes. Its been static for years. NASA greatly reduced funding for subsonic research years ago because it was felt that there was little more to learn. There used to be a guy that posted here whose screen name was "1989bestyear" or some such. His argument was that innovation had basically been static since then.

There has been continued slow improvement in engines. Over the long term, fuel consumption decreases at about 0.5-0.75% per year.

There has been some innovation in electronics. RNP RNAV/GPS based approaches are rolling out at a glacial rate. Also, systems like airplane health management/predictive maintenance are making improvements. And the weather radars are much better, with sub-functions like predictive windshear. But I consider these ancillary.

There has been no "Elon Musk" style innovation in decades.
 
GalaxyFlyer
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Tue Oct 05, 2021 3:04 am

Looking at my Jepps, I’d say RNAV (GPS) are rolling out pretty fast.
 
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PITingres
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Tue Oct 05, 2021 11:27 am

kitplane01 wrote:
That maturity *is* the cause of some of the lack of innovation. We've solved the easy problems and the hard problems are hard so we make less progress (as measured by some metric like cost/seat-mile).


If you're going to define innovation that way, then of course it's declining, because the laws of physics prevent indefinite optimization. There's a point beyond which you can't reduce a metric like cost/seat-mile because there's no possible better way that doesn't cost more (especially when you include R&D, retooling, production, and certification cost, as you must).

You've defined the terms of your argument such that your argument is necessarily true. I'm not real sure what value you expected to get out of a discussion on those terms.
 
SteelChair
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Tue Oct 05, 2021 12:50 pm

GalaxyFlyer wrote:
Looking at my Jepps, I’d say RNAV (GPS) are rolling out pretty fast.


Nearly 20 years ago, the FAA was publishing visions of space based approaches with minimums down to CAT III equivalents on hundreds of runway ends. Most of the approaches out there today have minima higher than Cat I. Richard Anderson 10 years ago was refusing to upgrade his fleet because there was no benefit.

And let's not even talk about the illusory benefits of RNP and RVSM. "Congestion" is as bad as ever given the number of AFP's on weather days. (Reduced traffic due to covid has helped.)
Last edited by SteelChair on Tue Oct 05, 2021 12:54 pm, edited 3 times in total.
 
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BubbleFrog
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Tue Oct 05, 2021 12:51 pm

I think a lot of people tend to associate "innovation" with "revolutionary" or at least "disruptive".

As an innovation economist, I'd argue that innovation is not necessarily to be measured in absolutes. A lot of incremental innovation is just as "innovative" as giant leaps here and there, because it testifies to a sustained pace, albeit in maybe smaller steps in absolute terms.

And while I agree that the 787 / 350 are rather big steps ahead, they are at the same time resulting from sustained more incremental innovation, which made the big step possible to begin with.

So, to answer the OP's question -- I don't think innovation is declining or slowing down. Like flipdewaf, I think it is actually increasing -- or rather, changing its shape once again.
 
GalaxyFlyer
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Tue Oct 05, 2021 1:02 pm

SteelChair wrote:
GalaxyFlyer wrote:
Looking at my Jepps, I’d say RNAV (GPS) are rolling out pretty fast.


Nearly 20 years ago, the FAA was publishing visions of space based approaches with minimums down to CAT III equivalents on hundreds of runway ends. Most of the approaches out there today have minima higher than Cat I. Richard Anderson 10 years ago was refusing to upgrade his fleet because there was no benefit.

And let's not even talk about the illusory benefits of RNP and RVSM. "Congestion" is as bad as ever given the number of AFP's on weather days. (Reduced traffic due to covid has helped.)


It’s the FAA, that’s a pretty timeline, but in GA Bizjets, lots of RNAV and LPV approaches to many airports that only had a VOR circling 10 years ago. Big improvement. The major hubs have lots of CAT III ILSs, so the need isn’t there.
 
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kitplane01
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Tue Oct 05, 2021 5:32 pm

PITingres wrote:
kitplane01 wrote:
That maturity *is* the cause of some of the lack of innovation. We've solved the easy problems and the hard problems are hard so we make less progress (as measured by some metric like cost/seat-mile).


If you're going to define innovation that way, then of course it's declining, because the laws of physics prevent indefinite optimization. There's a point beyond which you can't reduce a metric like cost/seat-mile because there's no possible better way that doesn't cost more (especially when you include R&D, retooling, production, and certification cost, as you must).

You've defined the terms of your argument such that your argument is necessarily true. I'm not real sure what value you expected to get out of a discussion on those terms.


Consider rockets: They have hard physics constraints too. Innovation seemed stuck at the 1980s level for decades, with few new models and some improvements to components. And then SpaceX, which is a revolution.

There could be a revolution in large civil aerospace. Certainly there are studies by serious people for things like large wing-body aircraft, electric aircraft, very high aspect ratio wings like Sugar(tm), etc.

Maybe it truly cannot get significantly better, but that's not obvious.
 
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kitplane01
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Tue Oct 05, 2021 5:34 pm

BubbleFrog wrote:
I think a lot of people tend to associate "innovation" with "revolutionary" or at least "disruptive".

As an innovation economist, I'd argue that innovation is not necessarily to be measured in absolutes. A lot of incremental innovation is just as "innovative" as giant leaps here and there, because it testifies to a sustained pace, albeit in maybe smaller steps in absolute terms.

And while I agree that the 787 / 350 are rather big steps ahead, they are at the same time resulting from sustained more incremental innovation, which made the big step possible to begin with.

So, to answer the OP's question -- I don't think innovation is declining or slowing down. Like flipdewaf, I think it is actually increasing -- or rather, changing its shape once again.


Question: What's your metric? Or even an informal metric?

(Tone is hard on the internet. This is an actual question and not a sarcastic one.)
 
Exeiowa
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Tue Oct 05, 2021 6:25 pm

I think the biggest effect on innovation is that it takes more resources to make smaller incremental improvements than in the past. We have probably all heard about Moore's Law with the number of transistor doubling on a chip every 18 months or whatever the time period is, but I was told by people in the industry the cost of setting up manufacture goes up 4 times for the same jump in additional capability. So that is a clear cap on the speed of innovation the ability to build facilities based on available capital.

Also there is often a development followed by a period when people learn how to use something new.

As for space tech, private companies were long building the actual equipment for space programs, it was just a great cash cow for the likes of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, who had no incentive to do it cheaper or better than specified. I would fully expect that the more recent movers in to these fields started by getting a lot of their human talent from those existing companies and letting them loose rather than using them to maximize profit from locked in contracts. A lot of innovation was already there it just had not been exploited.
 
N1120A
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Wed Oct 06, 2021 4:42 am

SteelChair wrote:
GalaxyFlyer wrote:
Looking at my Jepps, I’d say RNAV (GPS) are rolling out pretty fast.


Nearly 20 years ago, the FAA was publishing visions of space based approaches with minimums down to CAT III equivalents on hundreds of runway ends. Most of the approaches out there today have minima higher than Cat I. Richard Anderson 10 years ago was refusing to upgrade his fleet because there was no benefit.

And let's not even talk about the illusory benefits of RNP and RVSM. "Congestion" is as bad as ever given the number of AFP's on weather days. (Reduced traffic due to covid has helped.)


Airlines aren't the only ones who benefit from the deployment of GPS approaches. LPV has been a revolution in general aviation - both business and personal - CAT I minima to hundreds, if not thousands, of airports that had either nothing or a terrible VOR or NDB approach before. GPS based RNP AR approaches are such a huge deal to the airlines that they are regularly requested over even visual approaches because of the fuel savings. Now the airlines are just catching on, with the regional carriers leading the way with WAAS approach flying.
 
SteelChair
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Wed Oct 06, 2021 3:29 pm

N1120A wrote:
SteelChair wrote:
GalaxyFlyer wrote:
Looking at my Jepps, I’d say RNAV (GPS) are rolling out pretty fast.


Nearly 20 years ago, the FAA was publishing visions of space based approaches with minimums down to CAT III equivalents on hundreds of runway ends. Most of the approaches out there today have minima higher than Cat I. Richard Anderson 10 years ago was refusing to upgrade his fleet because there was no benefit.

And let's not even talk about the illusory benefits of RNP and RVSM. "Congestion" is as bad as ever given the number of AFP's on weather days. (Reduced traffic due to covid has helped.)


Airlines aren't the only ones who benefit from the deployment of GPS approaches. LPV has been a revolution in general aviation - both business and personal - CAT I minima to hundreds, if not thousands, of airports that had either nothing or a terrible VOR or NDB approach before. GPS based RNP AR approaches are such a huge deal to the airlines that they are regularly requested over even visual approaches because of the fuel savings. Now the airlines are just catching on, with the regional carriers leading the way with WAAS approach flying.


Agreed GA has been "ahead." Unlimited budgets by billionaires on their business jets really helps. Most airlines have only recently been approved on a few specific fleets to start using LPV minima. I'll stick by my assessment though, in that it's taking a very long time to roll out, but may eventually have benefit.

RVSM may have saved some gas, but did little to solve airborne congestion, apparently because processes and personnel didn't keep up at ATC. I'm speaking specifically about the US east of the Mississippi. I see enough RNP having the same effect.
 
GalaxyFlyer
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Wed Oct 06, 2021 4:12 pm

Has nothing to do with billionaires, GPS and LPV approaches benefitted every pilot in the GA world. Probably a bigger effect on the 172 pilot who doesn’t have circle in low ceilings and visibility. Mr. Big flew into airports with an ILS anyway, crew airline grade TCSS and TAWS, a HUD and training.
 
N1120A
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Wed Oct 06, 2021 6:29 pm

SteelChair wrote:
N1120A wrote:
SteelChair wrote:

Nearly 20 years ago, the FAA was publishing visions of space based approaches with minimums down to CAT III equivalents on hundreds of runway ends. Most of the approaches out there today have minima higher than Cat I. Richard Anderson 10 years ago was refusing to upgrade his fleet because there was no benefit.

And let's not even talk about the illusory benefits of RNP and RVSM. "Congestion" is as bad as ever given the number of AFP's on weather days. (Reduced traffic due to covid has helped.)


Airlines aren't the only ones who benefit from the deployment of GPS approaches. LPV has been a revolution in general aviation - both business and personal - CAT I minima to hundreds, if not thousands, of airports that had either nothing or a terrible VOR or NDB approach before. GPS based RNP AR approaches are such a huge deal to the airlines that they are regularly requested over even visual approaches because of the fuel savings. Now the airlines are just catching on, with the regional carriers leading the way with WAAS approach flying.


Agreed GA has been "ahead." Unlimited budgets by billionaires on their business jets really helps. Most airlines have only recently been approved on a few specific fleets to start using LPV minima. I'll stick by my assessment though, in that it's taking a very long time to roll out, but may eventually have benefit.

RVSM may have saved some gas, but did little to solve airborne congestion, apparently because processes and personnel didn't keep up at ATC. I'm speaking specifically about the US east of the Mississippi. I see enough RNP having the same effect.


Terminal congestion is only one factor and is more a factor of airport design than anything. You can only get so many airplanes on a given piece of pavement at any given time, and then you are limited by parking that has zero to do with the actual flying of the airplane. GPS-based RNAV, RNP and RVSM have all significantly benefited all of the stakeholders - including those of us who aren't billionaires who make use of the NAS frequently. Terminal redesigns have been significant in recent years, with each major terminal area seeing changes to SIDs and STARs that make things much more efficient.

Also, the airlines have started seeing the trickle down effects of WAAS, with airlines like Skywest using WAAS capable 175s to shoot LPV approaches to places like SUN, where before there were constant diversions
 
M564038
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Wed Oct 06, 2021 11:16 pm

To judge wether there has been innovation, you have to look at the 2 important drivers:
1/Economics(including emissions because fuel)
2/Safety

Both have been drastically bettered over the last decade .

A host of factors has been changing even though the shape of the aircraft had been the same for 60 years.

There might be unfortunate market forces and/or regulatory forces stifling innovation on that front: The basic shape of an airplane.
There might be huge gains, indeed, but under a duopoly where regulations makes making anything but barrels with wings and pod-mounted engines a gamble that would 100% break the duopolic balance one way or the other, it is impossible.

One would need some groundbreaking new power source to stirr things up enough to change that basic premise.
 
kalvado
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Thu Oct 07, 2021 2:02 pm

Got me thinking, what is the ruler we're applying? Let me try listing what happened since WWII and what is in the pipeline

Propulsion: Piston -> turbojet -> turbofan and turboprop. Maybe the biggest thing that happened since Wright brothers.
In the pipeline: ramjet, scramjet are the very distant future. Incremental improvements otherwise

Propulsion materials: A lot of development for high temperature turbines. Single crystal blades are a fascinating technology, IMHO. I don't know much about seals, but there must be a lot going on there
in the pipeline: machined ceramic. Anything else?

Construction materials: Composites, starting from treated wood and going up to CFRP. Al-Li. Ti castings. Carbon brakes
in the pipeline: more CFRP. Anything else?

Electronics: Lots of benefits from Moore law. Precise instrumentation, FBW, autopilot, improved navigation modes like GPS and RVSM. Improved control and prediction,
in the pipeline: pilotless. Optical airdata?

Aerodynamics: supercritical wing. Winglets.
in the pipeline: Folding wingtips. Boundary layer engineering.

I probably missed a lot of things, though. Feel free to fill the list.
 
ferren
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Thu Oct 07, 2021 5:07 pm

Aircraft industry is very slow now, because there is no competion. Two major rivals are both in a very safe position, they can really screw up something and be safe. Tube with wings is very old concept and we see that 90% “new” design can be only <10% better. In almost all industries this triggers search for new basic concepts, but it looks that is not in this. And yes, i have seen some “flying wing” or other “radical” concepts where every amateur fan can find a lot of issues that were not thought enough.
Military flying is the same. We pack old body with new computers and sensors and call it a new plane (improvements are from other industries).
It looks like this industry is frozen after the cold war end. maybe we will return to the moon, but I bet that the biggest difference will be in IT/computing technology, not related to flying ( as the majority of SpaceX wow technologies)
 
kalvado
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Thu Oct 07, 2021 6:12 pm

ferren wrote:
Aircraft industry is very slow now, because there is no competion. Two major rivals are both in a very safe position, they can really screw up something and be safe. Tube with wings is very old concept and we see that 90% “new” design can be only <10% better. In almost all industries this triggers search for new basic concepts, but it looks that is not in this. And yes, i have seen some “flying wing” or other “radical” concepts where every amateur fan can find a lot of issues that were not thought enough.
Military flying is the same. We pack old body with new computers and sensors and call it a new plane (improvements are from other industries).
It looks like this industry is frozen after the cold war end. maybe we will return to the moon, but I bet that the biggest difference will be in IT/computing technology, not related to flying ( as the majority of SpaceX wow technologies)

And most cars are still a box on 4 wheels. Like it was in medieval carriages. There is plenty of competition there, though.
 
ferren
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Thu Oct 07, 2021 6:27 pm

kalvado wrote:
ferren wrote:
Aircraft industry is very slow now, because there is no competion. Two major rivals are both in a very safe position, they can really screw up something and be safe. Tube with wings is very old concept and we see that 90% “new” design can be only <10% better. In almost all industries this triggers search for new basic concepts, but it looks that is not in this. And yes, i have seen some “flying wing” or other “radical” concepts where every amateur fan can find a lot of issues that were not thought enough.
Military flying is the same. We pack old body with new computers and sensors and call it a new plane (improvements are from other industries).
It looks like this industry is frozen after the cold war end. maybe we will return to the moon, but I bet that the biggest difference will be in IT/computing technology, not related to flying ( as the majority of SpaceX wow technologies)

And most cars are still a box on 4 wheels. Like it was in medieval carriages. There is plenty of competition there, though.


if you compare cars built 20 years ago, definitely average consumer will differentiate them visually, by performance, controlability, effectivity etc. Avareage consumer will differentiate planes by….IFE.

racing cars, for example formulas improve aerodynamics every year, with rules that almost limit creativity, still some surprise is visible every season.Every year you can find some tiny new aero component…
But, the physics is the same, right? That is most common argument why planes are almost the same….
 
kalvado
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Thu Oct 07, 2021 7:08 pm

ferren wrote:
kalvado wrote:
ferren wrote:
Aircraft industry is very slow now, because there is no competion. Two major rivals are both in a very safe position, they can really screw up something and be safe. Tube with wings is very old concept and we see that 90% “new” design can be only <10% better. In almost all industries this triggers search for new basic concepts, but it looks that is not in this. And yes, i have seen some “flying wing” or other “radical” concepts where every amateur fan can find a lot of issues that were not thought enough.
Military flying is the same. We pack old body with new computers and sensors and call it a new plane (improvements are from other industries).
It looks like this industry is frozen after the cold war end. maybe we will return to the moon, but I bet that the biggest difference will be in IT/computing technology, not related to flying ( as the majority of SpaceX wow technologies)

And most cars are still a box on 4 wheels. Like it was in medieval carriages. There is plenty of competition there, though.


if you compare cars built 20 years ago, definitely average consumer will differentiate them visually, by performance, controlability, effectivity etc. Avareage consumer will differentiate planes by….IFE.

racing cars, for example formulas improve aerodynamics every year, with rules that almost limit creativity, still some surprise is visible every season.Every year you can find some tiny new aero component…
But, the physics is the same, right? That is most common argument why planes are almost the same….

Compare these two:
https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/arti ... qp6ye.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrari_641

I would say they are as similar as 737 and 320.
Customer-grade cars are deliberately made to look recognizable, even if that hurts some numbers. Even then, it takes some familiarity with the market to distinguish - something average airline passenger doesn't have.

A lot of improvement is invisible to the naked eye. I heard a lot of gain for wheeled vehicles was achieved by studying aerodynamics of wheel well. Not by going to futuristic designs from old magazines - by barely noticeable tweaking.
An old, but very interesting paper by Boeing aerodynamics engineer who used his knowledge off-label in a very competitive field showing how small changes make a big difference:
http://www.gentrysailing.com/pdf-theory ... namics.pdf
A bit of advertising for that web site: Gentry was a fluid dynamics professional with broad interest in applications, from participation in X-1 project to working at Boeing to optimization of sailing yachts. I really enjoyed his explanations of aerodynamics!
 
mxaxai
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Thu Oct 07, 2021 7:57 pm

Starlionblue wrote:
Again, there is massive innovation under the skin. Looking at A350 vs A330/A340, you have self-contained hydraulic actuators, allowing the deletion of the third hydraulic system, improved flight deck ergonomics, BTV, improved aerodynamics, airport navigation function, integrated EFB, distributed computer processing and networking with automated redundancy and hot backup, simplified hydraulics, more robust air data system redundancy.

To expand on this.

The number of lines of code has increased nearly exponentially over the past decades. The A330 features just over 1 million LOC, the 787 is already well beyond 10 million LOC. The added software functionality contributes significantly to comfort, safety and efficiency, even if it's invisible from the outside. And it's fairly easy to add to existing models.
However, certification is becoming a problem. Software testing and software design requires research as well, even if it doesn't directly benefit the aircraft itself.

Large amounts of data are processed by modern aircraft. Up to 70 TB per hour for the A350. A major step to accomplish this was the introduction of ethernet-based systems on the A380 and 787. Newer aircraft such as the A350 introduced increasingly complex network topologies, again invisible from the outside (or even invisble to the pilots themselves).

Another field that's largely overlooked is manufacturing. Scaling up processes while reducing costs and maintaining quality is a huge area of research. Models such as the A321neo, the 787 or, on the military side, the F-35 wouldn't be as successful without it.
 
M564038
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Thu Oct 07, 2021 8:21 pm

But aerodynamics aren’t the only design-element with cars. Far from it. There are very few cars built with purely efficiency in mind.
The cars with the lowest drag coefficient does indeed look somewhat similar within its generation. Tesla model S and 3, Hyundai Ioniq etc.

ferren wrote:
kalvado wrote:
ferren wrote:
Aircraft industry is very slow now, because there is no competion. Two major rivals are both in a very safe position, they can really screw up something and be safe. Tube with wings is very old concept and we see that 90% “new” design can be only <10% better. In almost all industries this triggers search for new basic concepts, but it looks that is not in this. And yes, i have seen some “flying wing” or other “radical” concepts where every amateur fan can find a lot of issues that were not thought enough.
Military flying is the same. We pack old body with new computers and sensors and call it a new plane (improvements are from other industries).
It looks like this industry is frozen after the cold war end. maybe we will return to the moon, but I bet that the biggest difference will be in IT/computing technology, not related to flying ( as the majority of SpaceX wow technologies)

And most cars are still a box on 4 wheels. Like it was in medieval carriages. There is plenty of competition there, though.


if you compare cars built 20 years ago, definitely average consumer will differentiate them visually, by performance, controlability, effectivity etc. Avareage consumer will differentiate planes by….IFE.

racing cars, for example formulas improve aerodynamics every year, with rules that almost limit creativity, still some surprise is visible every season.Every year you can find some tiny new aero component…
But, the physics is the same, right? That is most common argument why planes are almost the same….
 
ferren
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Thu Oct 07, 2021 9:08 pm

M564038 wrote:
But aerodynamics aren’t the only design-element with cars. Far from it. There are very few cars built with purely efficiency in mind.
The cars with the lowest drag coefficient does indeed look somewhat similar within its generation. Tesla model S and 3, Hyundai Ioniq etc.


yes of course, i am mentioning aerodynamics because it is relevant to airplanes. But i provided example than in areas where aero is important( racing) improvements can be found every year.

Something fishy is when revolutionary designs of 350/797 as someone said almost 90% is new can improve performance/effectivity in less than 10%, mostly related to engines. Did we really found the final airplane design that only small gains are possible forever, or there is no push to really innovate?

I am working in software design of semi autonomous systems not related to aeronautics industry, but I bet that more significant changes to planes will come from my industry, not aeronautics itself.
As a joke, in old sci-fi movies you see fantastic flying machines with very vintage computers, it is exact opposite of current state, we have very old designs(with minor improvements) and absolutely futuristic computers :-)
 
flipdewaf
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Fri Oct 08, 2021 11:52 am

It seems to me that there is much comparison between where we see the innovation on a B2B space vs what we, as consumers see in the B2C space. If you look at the B2C offering from the airline industry you see the 'innovation' is very noticeable for the consumer, but then that's the point of it. As much as we like to think we, as consumers, are making rational choices over the things we put money to the reality is that they are by and large emotional choices that are, to a certain degree, status symbols and not financial choices. If you make a straight financial choice on which airline to fly on then ryanair is what you get... and I see no product innovation there since the 50s at the best.

Is the real cost effectiveness of cars changing faster than that of airliners? Is my productivity from an iphone 13 that much greater than when I used and iphone 7?

Fred
 
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kitplane01
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Sat Oct 09, 2021 6:12 am

M564038 wrote:
To judge wether there has been innovation, you have to look at the 2 important drivers:
1/Economics(including emissions because fuel)
2/Safety

Both have been drastically bettered over the last decade .


To be clear ... you think flying cost "drastically" more 10 years ago, and was "drastically" less safe? I'm curious why you think this.

I would think the more common view is that the safety of flying is about what it was 10 years ago, with only minor changes in the number and lethality of accidents. And that the cost of flying, assuming a constant fuel price, is maybe 10% better than 10 years ago.

For example, Boeing says the 737MAX might cost 15% less to fly than the 737NEO, but they have an incentive to not count the non-direct-flying-costs, and to maximize the number stated. No one thinks 15% is "drastic". And not even Boeing is willing to claim the 737MAX is "drastically" safer than the 737NEO. (Jokes not needed!)

I'm sure you can write about various technical improvements (and so could I), but I see very slow improvements in the results. Can you offer some evidence that the results are much better than 10 years ago?
Last edited by kitplane01 on Sat Oct 09, 2021 6:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
 
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kitplane01
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Sat Oct 09, 2021 6:16 am

mxaxai wrote:
Starlionblue wrote:
Again, there is massive innovation under the skin. Looking at A350 vs A330/A340, you have self-contained hydraulic actuators, allowing the deletion of the third hydraulic system, improved flight deck ergonomics, BTV, improved aerodynamics, airport navigation function, integrated EFB, distributed computer processing and networking with automated redundancy and hot backup, simplified hydraulics, more robust air data system redundancy.

To expand on this.

The number of lines of code has increased nearly exponentially over the past decades. The A330 features just over 1 million LOC, the 787 is already well beyond 10 million LOC. The added software functionality contributes significantly to comfort, safety and efficiency, even if it's invisible from the outside. And it's fairly easy to add to existing models.
However, certification is becoming a problem. Software testing and software design requires research as well, even if it doesn't directly benefit the aircraft itself.

Large amounts of data are processed by modern aircraft. Up to 70 TB per hour for the A350. A major step to accomplish this was the introduction of ethernet-based systems on the A380 and 787. Newer aircraft such as the A350 introduced increasingly complex network topologies, again invisible from the outside (or even invisble to the pilots themselves).

Another field that's largely overlooked is manufacturing. Scaling up processes while reducing costs and maintaining quality is a huge area of research. Models such as the A321neo, the 787 or, on the military side, the F-35 wouldn't be as successful without it.


Sure, techniques are improving. But how much more efficient is the A350 compared to the A330? Maybe 15%-20%? And how many years did it take to get that 17% improvements? It's been 27 years since the A330 entered service, and I'm sure Airbus would like the A350 to also last 27 years.

The measure of success is not the number of lines of code, nor the amount of data processed, but it's some combination of cost, environment, and safety. And those seem to be improving at the rate of 17% every 27 years.
 
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kitplane01
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Sat Oct 09, 2021 6:27 am

flipdewaf wrote:

Is the real cost effectiveness of cars changing faster than that of airliners? Is my productivity from an iphone 13 that much greater than when I used and iphone 7?

Fred



Cars are undergoing a revolution. It is possible to buy a self-driving (or steering assisting) car powered by batteries. Tesla this year, Cadillac and Ford next year. Cars are a great example of how much I *wish* airplanes were improving.

Your new iPhone is water tight, and has a much better battery than what you got 20 years ago. Twenty years ago your phone was used to make calls. Now it's an entertainment device. The big revolution is that 20 years ago there was no Netflix, Tinder, or TikTok. And if you think those things are worthless ... go talk to a 19 year old. iPhones are a great example of how much I *wish* airplanes were improving.

(Dear person who wants to make snide remarks about the social value of Netflix, Tinder, and TikTok. Go post that in the non-aviation forum.)
 
mxaxai
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Sat Oct 09, 2021 9:57 am

kitplane01 wrote:
The measure of success is not the number of lines of code, nor the amount of data processed, but it's some combination of cost, environment, and safety. And those seem to be improving at the rate of 17% every 27 years.

Improvement is not limited to fuel efficiency. Safety has improved, noise and other pollution has been reduced. Manufacturing has become cheaper, maintenance has become cheaper, reliability and operations have been optimized, passenger comfort has increased. Even if those metrics aren't always easily quantifiable.

A result is that the average fare has become cheaper. Up to 50% less in the 20 years between 1995 and 2014, and another 10-50% since then, depending on the exact market. At the same time, passenger comfort has remained approximately equal (in Y) or has improved significantly (in Y+, C and F). And, particularly in the US, airline profits have soared in the past decade.
 
M564038
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Re: Is innovation declining?

Sat Oct 09, 2021 11:11 am

Well,
Percentage-wise, safety has improved greatly. There were few people dying 10 years ago, so a hard number to improve upon, but is has significantly improved.

And yes, 15% gains are A LOT, not going to save-the-planet-great, but the 15% promised by the NEO, was enough to force Boeings hand completely. A 15% gain without a similar reaction from the competition would turn the market into a near monopoly! It increases the margin for a given ticket price greatly!
Launching a radically new technology, say to give a 30% improvement, won’t give you any more guarantees you will beat the competition than the 15%! But it gives you a pretty good chance you’ll burn enormous amounts of R&D-money to give your competitior going for the simple 15% a long term victory!

Everyone dreams of a Tesla/iphone-type of change in their field!
One processor with a huge number of sensors and revolutionary UI/UX and fast connectivity often in combination with AI, is a different world than a few 286-era processors flying in close formation controlling one parameter each(A3xx-series). But, as long as there need to be 2 pilots present anyway, it doesn’t really offer any tangible, measurable difference for the passengers or airline. Just cost a lot to get new technology through decades old regulations, if at all possible.
Yes, it could represent some improvement. It could give you an auto pilot with artificial situational awarness. Making your AF447, CFIT or too slow on approach-accidents much less likely, but getting to that point would cost a mountain of cash!

Safety and noise regulations also stand in the way of, and make flying wings and open rotor- development an a acceptable risk.

Batteries does not have the energy density to ne usable for passenger flight. Yet.

Still! There has been large improvents in economics and safety, and within the regulations and market limits that exist, that is quite impressive!
kitplane01 wrote:
mxaxai wrote:
Starlionblue wrote:
Again, there is massive innovation under the skin. Looking at A350 vs A330/A340, you have self-contained hydraulic actuators, allowing the deletion of the third hydraulic system, improved flight deck ergonomics, BTV, improved aerodynamics, airport navigation function, integrated EFB, distributed computer processing and networking with automated redundancy and hot backup, simplified hydraulics, more robust air data system redundancy.

To expand on this.

The number of lines of code has increased nearly exponentially over the past decades. The A330 features just over 1 million LOC, the 787 is already well beyond 10 million LOC. The added software functionality contributes significantly to comfort, safety and efficiency, even if it's invisible from the outside. And it's fairly easy to add to existing models.
However, certification is becoming a problem. Software testing and software design requires research as well, even if it doesn't directly benefit the aircraft itself.

Large amounts of data are processed by modern aircraft. Up to 70 TB per hour for the A350. A major step to accomplish this was the introduction of ethernet-based systems on the A380 and 787. Newer aircraft such as the A350 introduced increasingly complex network topologies, again invisible from the outside (or even invisble to the pilots themselves).

Another field that's largely overlooked is manufacturing. Scaling up processes while reducing costs and maintaining quality is a huge area of research. Models such as the A321neo, the 787 or, on the military side, the F-35 wouldn't be as successful without it.


Sure, techniques are improving. But how much more efficient is the A350 compared to the A330? Maybe 15%-20%? And how many years did it take to get that 17% improvements? It's been 27 years since the A330 entered service, and I'm sure Airbus would like the A350 to also last 27 years.

The measure of success is not the number of lines of code, nor the amount of data processed, but it's some combination of cost, environment, and safety. And those seem to be improving at the rate of 17% every 27 years.
 
flipdewaf
Posts: 4289
Joined: Thu Jul 20, 2006 6:28 am

Is innovation declining?

Sat Oct 09, 2021 12:08 pm

kitplane01 wrote:
flipdewaf wrote:

Is the real cost effectiveness of cars changing faster than that of airliners? Is my productivity from an iphone 13 that much greater than when I used and iphone 7?

Fred



Cars are undergoing a revolution. It is possible to buy a self-driving (or steering assisting) car powered by batteries. Tesla this year, Cadillac and Ford next year. Cars are a great example of how much I *wish* airplanes were improving.

Your new iPhone is water tight, and has a much better battery than what you got 20 years ago. Twenty years ago your phone was used to make calls. Now it's an entertainment device. The big revolution is that 20 years ago there was no Netflix, Tinder, or TikTok. And if you think those things are worthless ... go talk to a 19 year old. iPhones are a great example of how much I *wish* airplanes were improving.

(Dear person who wants to make snide remarks about the social value of Netflix, Tinder, and TikTok. Go post that in the non-aviation forum.)

Exactly why I said cost effectiveness. The ability of a product targeted at consumers to pull emotional strings to come across as innovative is relatively common, hence distinguishing the difference of b2b vs b2c.

The breakthrough for Tesla is the software derived and focused car as opposed to the mechanically focused cars of before. Once a car is fully self driving and you don’t actually need a license to go in then there suddenly is no reason to own it. Once you don’t own a car and it’s a simple means to get from a to b then the development will be much more like an airliner. We will care about he seat and how long we have to wait for it to arrive and cost for the service. Uber will care about the price, reliability and cost of operation and not much for the driving experience and looks.

The breakthrough in phones was Steve jobs stood saying “a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a breakthrough internet communicator and a revolutionary phone”, ever since then there has been marginal gains and tweaks and small additions, exactly as we see in airliners. Businesses aren’t fooled by flashy marketing campaigns that claim innovation when looking for return on investments.

The biggest innovation I see are from the likes of 3m and Bosch that actually allow Facebook and google to keep operating without you even realising.

Fred


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IADFCO
Posts: 295
Joined: Sun May 22, 2016 4:20 pm

Re: Is innovation declining?

Sat Oct 09, 2021 2:27 pm

I think that the A350's morphing wing is a clever example of innovation, and shows how you can significantly improve already mature configurations. It's not a "radically" morphing wing, in the sense that they don't change thickness and camber of the main airfoil, but they achieve some useful changes by leveraging what's already on the leading and trailing edge through clever control scheduling. So they get efficiency gains now and build experience for more radical morphing in the future.
 
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seahawk
Posts: 10417
Joined: Fri May 27, 2005 1:29 am

Re: Is innovation declining?

Sat Oct 09, 2021 3:35 pm

The basic thing that changed is that in the 1950ies the airframe was designed to match the engine today the engine is designed to match the airframe.
 
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kitplane01
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Posts: 2106
Joined: Thu Jun 16, 2016 5:58 am

Re: Is innovation declining?

Sun Oct 10, 2021 4:24 am

mxaxai wrote:
kitplane01 wrote:
The measure of success is not the number of lines of code, nor the amount of data processed, but it's some combination of cost, environment, and safety. And those seem to be improving at the rate of 17% every 27 years.

Improvement is not limited to fuel efficiency. Safety has improved, noise and other pollution has been reduced. Manufacturing has become cheaper, maintenance has become cheaper, reliability and operations have been optimized, passenger comfort has increased. Even if those metrics aren't always easily quantifiable.

A result is that the average fare has become cheaper. Up to 50% less in the 20 years between 1995 and 2014, and another 10-50% since then, depending on the exact market. At the same time, passenger comfort has remained approximately equal (in Y) or has improved significantly (in Y+, C and F). And, particularly in the US, airline profits have soared in the past decade.


I don't even know what "up to 50% cheaper" means, because "up to" seems to mean ....

My understanding is that Y seats are more packed in than 1995. If First Class has gotten better it's not helped me :-)

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics says the average fair was $496 in 1995, and $359 in 2019 (last non-covid year, all inflation adjusted). So that's a 1.2% reduction per year, compounded.
And in those year, seats have gotten more cramped, fees have been added. On the other hand, oil has gone (inflation adjusted) from $30 to $54.
If those offset (wild guess) airlines are getting 1.2% more efficient per year on a cost basis.

https://www.bts.gov/newsroom/average-ai ... e-low-2020
https://inflationdata.com/articles/infl ... ces-table/

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