Aviation is the safest form of transportation. Yet there is something uncertain each time a plane takes off. Wind gusts, passengers, pilots, and weather are just a few of Mother Nature's manifestations. To best manage these uncertainties, the plane is designed with maximum flex. It is intentionally built to adjust, adapt, and bend.
It's not a coincidence that the Wright Brothers originally built bicycles.1 While a tricycle is designed to be steady and prevent a fall, it is inherently limited, slow, and hard to maneuver. As children, we quickly grew out of our tricycle and wanted a bike. Remember the feeling the first time you mounted a two-wheeler? It seemed illogical that you could stay upright. It was unstable and unsteady without a helping hand or training wheels.
The brothers built their first airplane understanding this. Ever since that time, all aircraft designers and engineers have required that a plane be designed with “give” – that it not be rigid or inflexible. The more rigid, the less safe, effective, and efficient. This became the standard for reliable and secure air travel.
Today's fighter jets, like the F-16, will fall out of the sky like a brick if the pilot doesn't have computer stabilization. Yet it is the design's flexibility that allows it to respond so superbly in combat. The more anchored you are, the harder it is to turn quickly in a dynamic situation. Today, all airplanes, even commercial airliners, are built to be ...