Aviation Technology Advances
10/06/2013

After more than 70 tests, Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson pulled the model airplane with the 55-inch wingspan out of the wind tunnel at the University of Michigan for the final time. It was 1933, and the 23-year-old aviation engineering wunderkind had sensed months earlier that there was a problem with the design of the sleek plane. Now he had proof he could share with the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation engineering team in Burbank, Calif. The stakes couldn’t have been higher. As the first all-metal Lockheed airplane and the first to be outfitted with twin engines, the model represented a dramatic leap forward in aircraft technology. In fact, it represented the future of Lockheed itself. The company had been bought out of receivership the previous year during the depths of the Great Depression by its new owner, Robert Gross, himself just 35 years old. Lockheed was desperately in need of a new aircraft that would once again position it as an innovative industry leader.  Johnson’s wind tunnel work was the first of many crucial insights that, in his own lifetime, branded him the century’s leading aircraft designer. 

The Lockheed team created a unique prototype. It was called the Electra—named after a star in the Pleiades cluster — but also carried the designation Model 10, which was the next available model number in the Lockheed line.  The Electra immediately attracted the interest of smaller airlines, especially Northwest Airlines and Pan American Airways, both of which purchased Electras for their fleets by yearend 1934. The Lockheed innovation website can be accessed here 

A student from Texas has invented a plastic pistol that anyone can make with a 3-D printer.  A few days after Cody Wilson's invention had been created, the United States Department of Homeland Security issued a warning to the rest of the world. The officials, responsible for fending off terrorist attacks, wrote three pages about the dangers of a weapon against which they are powerless. They wrote that public safety is threatened. They also wrote that, unfortunately, it is impossible to prevent this weapon from being made.When the police in Australia heard about Wilson's invention, they decided to build the weapon themselves. It took them 27 hours to produce all the parts, but only a minute to assemble the gun. Then they fired a bullet into a block of gelatin. The full Der Spiegel report can be accessed here.