The start and end ofWorld War II was a tumultuous time for aviation, even before the war manynations world round had already ramped up aircraft production as well as builtup many airfields to hold them. A great number of pilots were being trained andinnovations have been utilized ever since the so-called Great War had ended,specifically cabin pressurization, retractable landing gears, and effectivenavigational equipment that far exceed what came before. Such was the focus onthis spectrum for both military and commercial interest that quality camebefore quantity a few nations such as Germany and Great Britain. It comes to nosurprise that when the war erupted that many of the elements of air power,industry and supply lines for example, were struck first (Bugos, Para. 10). Aswar pressed on and victory to those with the most aircraft became increasinglyless likely, thus in the war’s latter years the powers in play attempted toadvance new technology in a bid for an edge which birthed technology such asthe strategic missiles, all weather navigation, and jet engines (Bugos, Para.
10). So, it comes to no surprise that when the dust settled in 1945 that thistechnology be utilized for economic use over what was found reliable beforehand. To put into perspective on the technological andmethodical difference before and after this war, one can consider the innovationthat is the turboprop and compare it to the piston engine that came before.
Explained by in an educational blog post by Shoreline Aviation, a worldwide aircharter based in Marshfield Municipal Airport, Massachusetts, piston propelleraircraft used technology like those found in coal powered train engines whichutilized pistons fitted inside a cylinder and connected with a crankshaft(Shoreline Aviation, 2011). Fuel is introduced inside the cylinder and ignited,pushing the piston out of the cylinder and forcing the crankshaft to turn.After a full rotation is made the piston is moved back into the cylinder andthe process repeats, the turning force is used for the propeller to power theaircraft forward. The turbojet on the other hand, whose early ancestors werewindmills, used a rotor with angled blades that turned with the power ofignited fuels (Shoreline Aviation, 2011). Basically, it consisted of a frontair inlet, a compressor, and a combustor.
The compressor draws air inside the engine with rotating fans and forcesit into the combustor, resulting in high pressure in which fuel is introducedand ignited. This provides the energy to force the turbine in the engine tomove and, being attached with the compressor, sustain the cycle explainedabove. All of this results in a jet stream pushing the engine forward whichpropels the jet aircraft forward. This same technology is not limited toaircraft such as airliner but also used in missile systems, propeller poweredplanes, and even helicopters (Shoreline Aviation, 2011). The difference in general, such as the price tag, neededmaintenance, and sheer performance, between piston and turboprop is great as onecan expect. Shoreline Aviation explains, piston engines are far less complexthan the turboprop that exceeded them by using far fewer moving parts and also don’trequire the engineering feats that control the high temperatures and forcesunique to turboprops and turbojets, resulting in its higher prices.
The buckdoesn’t stop at upfront cost as although the maintenance of piston engines ismuch simpler and its operation very reliable thanks to its fewer moving parts, itstill loses out to the turboprop in terms of reliability; the operation of thelatter is designed to be smooth and vibration free which resulting in not only betterreliability but longer hours of use. One can log about 3,000 hours with typicalturboprop engines before it requires maintenance while the typical pistonpowered prop last about 2,000 hours before needing maintenance (ShorelineAviation, 2011). Shoreline Aviation further explains that performance of theturboprop can allow it to be used in altitudes at 20,000 to 30,000 feet whilethe piston powered props are restricted to heights of 12,000 feet. Let’s notforget the speed difference of the two, the typical turboprops can averagebetween 250 ktas (true airspeed in knots) to 300 ktas while the piston manages200 ktas and under. Advanced technology such as the turboprop, coupled with thehigh upkeep, price and restructuring of established industry, ended up beingchosen over the cheaper yet well tested piston engines in the years followingWorld War II and the beginning of the so-called Cold War in which the aviationindustry only flourished, as it did after World War I.
According to Glenn E. Bugos, in his work The History of the Aerospace Industry,the aviation industry post World War I had its infrastructure laid out beforethem. Bugos’s work further explains: National governments funded testinglaboratories — like the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics establishedin May 1915 in the United States — that also disseminated scientificinformation of explicit use to industry. Universities began to offerengineering degrees specific to aircraft. American aircraft designers formed apatent pool in July 1917 … whereby all aircraft firms cross-licensed keypatents and paid into the pool without fear of infringement suits. (Bugos,Para. 5)It was with this boonthat the entrepreneurs created the first monoplanes with radial air-cooledengines and enclosed fuselages, the first air transport businesses, airmail,and all metal aircraft. How craft were to be used began to dictate designswhether they be for military, civilian, or economic purpose and these began tobe spread throughout the world from state to empire to colony.
During the yearsof World War II, a massive amount of aircraft were produced by the main playerssuch as the United States, who’ve “…built 300,718 military aircraft, including95,272 in 1944 alone. In the previous six-year period, American firms builtonly 19,587 aircraft… In 1943, the aviation industry was America’s largestproducer and employer — with 1,345,600 people” (Bugos, Para. 11).
To helpproduce the new technology mentioned at the beginning, other manufacturingbusinesses were subcontracted to help meet demand under distributivemanufacturing and new concepts such as the so-called learning curve werecreated to predict when the appearance of cost reductions. According to Burgos,the United States firmly believed in the concept of air power in concept andtechnology and would lead the world for the next half century in concept andtechnology, all concepts except the one that helped placed it as a world power,”Mass production… slipped from that agenda. On VJ Day the American militarycancelled all orders… and assembly lines ground to a halt. Total sales byAmerican aircraft firms were $16 billion in 1944; by 1947 they were only $1.2billion. Production never again reached World War II levels….” (Bugos, Para.
11). To examine the events of aviation after the Second WorldWar, one can consider F. W. Geels work titled Co-evolutionary and multi-level dynamics in transitions: Thetransformation of aviation systems and the shift from propeller to turbojet(1930–1970). Written for Technovation,Freeman discusses co-evolution and its levels consisting of niche, regime, andlandscape levels and its relationship to all facets of civilization, to includethe aviation industry.
To explain the concept, he used the transition frompropeller driven engines to turbojets post war as an example; one of the caseshe cites involve Frank Whittle of Britain, Hans von Ohain and Herbert Wagner ofGermany, all who’ve examined the improvements in airframe systems and concludedthat propellers will be the hurdle that’ll block entrance into sonic speeds(Geels, 2005, para 4.1.3). Being at the niche level, it was initiallydifficulty in finding willing partners in the aviation world, but thetransition began to take shape with the outbreak and end of war.
In what wasmerely a niche in the late 1930’s began to drive aviation in the mid-1940’s asthe United States commercial aviation soared. Usingthe bedrock of cheaply sold post war military aircraft, smaller airline startupsclashed with established airlines with ultralow airline fares, which forcedthat latter to seek proven technology that drove the America’s bombers for itslonger range and adapt it for comfort. It was from there on that in “1945,airline companies created a cartel organization, the International AirTransport Association (IATA), to limit competition and keep international faresartificially high.
” (Geels, 2005, para. 4.2.3) In the 1950’s America’s domesticairline industry was growing rapidly as airline passengers exceeded trainpassengers and those of ship. This demand led to designs like that of theturboprop powered Super Constellation and DC-7 that could provide non-stoptransatlantic services as well as cheaper tourist class tickets. It also led tomore crowded skies and incidents such as the one in 1956 in which two airlinerscollided and lost 156 lives thanks to lack of long range radar to keep track ofsurrounding airspace (Geels, 2005, para.
4.3.1). This led to the rapidlyexpanding sector of electrical avionics. Anotherfactor pushing technological advancement are the power plays between differingcountries and business companies for places in missile production, civilaircraft production, and the airline passenger market; such plays pushed the turboengine further into the realm of civil aviation. (Geels, 2005, para. 4.
3.1) By1970, four engine prop airliners were already being phased out for turbojetairliners for long range flight. Prop craft were also replaced for shorterdistances thanks to the downscaled airliners like the French Caravelle and theBoeing 727. Through all this much change had to occur such as retraining pilots,longer run ways, and ATC adjustments to the different type of aircraft andairspeeds seen on their radars, especially since they’ve still relied oncalculating positions of craft by hand (Geels, 2005. Para 4.4). What ended upsealing the dominance of turbojet powered craft over piston powered craft wasthe Boing 747, as explained by Geels in his report: “The widebody aircraft represented a jump in passenger numbers (450–500 passengers) andspeed (640 mph).
The combination of fuel-efficient turbofans and scaleeconomies allowed a 30% reduction in operating cost per seat mile (Hopps,1978). With lower tariffs and powerful, long-distance aircraft, aviation trulybecame a mass phenomenon in the 1970s.” (Geels, 2005, para. 4.4) To conclude, the aviation industry has come a long wayfrom its early days and many of the innovations made before and after World WarII are still being used today in one form or another. It would be difficult to suggestwhat alternate paths or what better sectors to focus time and money to better getto the level aviation is at now without stating the obvious. So, there isn’t anyreal change to processes that lead to this, technology has evolved naturally throughsupply and demand and will continue to evolve if there is a need and a way.