Hypotenuse and catheti and how blending makes wetted area not larger but actually smaller!

Most aircraft have larger than necessary wetted area and not so optimal body shape. One could think without thinking in more detail that wetted area is saved by lofting the plane so that the engine cowling is part of the main fairing and then there is a minimum canopy added on top of that.

However, a little thinking further: which one is the shortest route always, hypotenuse or catheti? Unlike the first thing which comes to mind when looking at planes and saving wetted area, instead of having this complicated shape, actually having more volume and fairing everything in the single form actually produces not only easiest path to the airflow, but also it produces lowest possible wetted area. So making the fuselage larger by removing canopy and putting the cockpit inside the main shape decreases wetted area and drag instead of increasing it. The shallower angle for windows does not decrease the visibility – the visibility can remain still the same. The only problem comes from the optical quality of the windows – as you are looking them from angled direction, you are looking through more plexiglass than you otherwise would and it can degrade the visibility. However – the visibility directly forwards is usually not so good in single engine aircraft which have engine in the front and it is neither better on planes without engine on front since somehow designers seem to not think that people would like to see straight forward very well too. Some twin engine planes have very high panels and poor visibility forwards despite of the fact not having the engine in front would make it possible to make the forward visibility a lot better than that.

So the design on CAD system becomes easy when the shape is not complicated but super simple. And in turn the super simple shape (convex to all directions though, in that sense not so simple, but I mean it is a single loft) has the best drag coefficient and the best wetted area too. At times it feels unbelievable that the solution can be so simple (and I have difficulty to believe it myself when looking e.g. our shared ownership Diamond DA40, it has many shapes, parts and forms), but who says that it has to have so many shapes. Nobody. So it will not have so many different shapes and forms if one shape can do it all. And who says the instrument panel needs to be panel and everything laid out to the panel? Nobody again. A bit more creativity and a lot better forward visibility is achieved despite of not having a bubble canopy and despite of having a pressurized fuselage.

Blending the fuselage to the wings increases frontal area. But who cares about the frontal area. It has very little effect to the drag in airplanes. It is all about wetted area and saving in the wetted area (in addition to maximizing the laminar flow). So blending the wing decreases wetted area – hypotenuse again, it is not a good idea to follow catheti. And the air likes that too – in fuselage wing joint the airflow can not sustain laminar flow. But what if you eliminate the joint and at the same time save in the wetted area. Great stuff.

One could say that it is hard to make a door to a such fuselage. Yes it is hard to make a door. But the solution for the door is to eliminate the door. A hatch that has no hinges and that is larger than the hole is the most light weight door one can imagine. It does not require complicated mechanism to hold it on place and it does not require lots of latches. It holds on place by itself because of the air pressure differential. It can be locked with a lot lesser heavy duty mechanics from inside to the fuselage. And how to ensure the hatch does not ever get out of the hole? That is super easy too: the hole and hatch can be circular and there is no way to put a larger circle out of a smaller circular hole. Not even magicians can do that!

Now then the window problem:
– to glue windows on pressurized fuselage, how to make sure the windows don’t rip themselves out – how to glue them on place. Keep it simple and stupid solution: glue them to the inside so that they are larger than the hole in the fuselage. Now what, we have a problem that there is a dent outside of the fuselage on the window area which is really bad for the airflow. No problem again, there can be a simple non-pressurized window that is glued to the outside and faired level with the fuselage around it. It is also a fail-safe: if the windows that are exposed to outside get scratches, no problem, it does not affect the pressurized fuselage – these windows can be replaced fairly easily. And guess what, no bolts are needed, no rivets are needed, very simple.

Then how to get the blended fuselage to work with pressurization. Again super simple: the blend can be fairing on the outside and the pressure vessel can be tubular with completely circular cross section inside.

    • gravityloss
    • October 1st, 2009

    the hypothenuse is not shorter in a 3d piece always.

    Think of a normal long straight cone with length x vs one that is thinning quickly first to a tube and that then goes to x. The latter will have less surface area.

    It's also coincidentally a sailplane rear end that minimizes skin drag.

    Probably in a wing blend it's the same – with some wing profile, some blending is optimal, not too much, not too little. I dunno if one could solve this with soap bubbles, they form minimum surfaces between wires.

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