September 1, 2019

Asymmetrical Airplane

Symmetry is the quality of having parts on either side or half that match each other, especially in an attractive way, or are the same size or shape.

We, human beings, are symmetrical at the first place. We have a pair of most of our organs on each side of our body. When we have mirror-image of opposite halves our body, we usually don’t notice a difference. Furthermore, the more precisely symetrical we are, especially our face, we are considered more “beautiful” or “handsome”.

Symmetry is a rule in aviation. What is the advantage or benefit of the symmetry in aircraft design? Many. Obtaining stability and control. Increase of performance by having same quality of manuovers towards each side. Easiness of production. Beauty can be a bonus, at this point. Nobody would imagine anything asymetrical of an airplane’s aerodynamic design. Or could? Apparently, some people did.

Asymmetrical airplane design is not a new idea. It has roots as old as the history of flight. The first actually-built experimental airplane was Blohm & Voss BV 141 in Germany. It was designed, drafted by Dr. Richard Vogt of Blohm & Voß, as a tactical reconnaissance aircraft in response to the 1937 German Air Ministry's request for a reconnaissance role. The design allowed a much greater field of view than conventional reconnaissance aircraft, while flight characteristics were deemed very stable even though the aircraft were asymmetrical. There were a total of 38 aircraft orders, but never realized.

The idea of asymmetrical airplane didn’t die with Blohm & Voss BV 141. In fact, there is another flying one today. The Rutan Model 202 Boomerang is a high performance pressurized five-place light twin experimental aircraft designed by Burt Rutan. He is an aerospace engineer born in Estacada, Oregon, who also designed Voyager, the first plane ever to fly around the world without stopping or refueling, and the sub-orbital spaceplane SpaceShipOne, which became the first privately funded spacecraft.

Of course, the first question is “why?”. Rutan himself also states that a more straight forward question was from a fellow who ran up and remarked, “What in the hell were you smokin’ when you laid that one out?”  

Per his own claim; it was designed and built to increase performance, efficiency and safety compared to other general aviation aircraft available. Seems like other difficulties made this kind of design not a feasable option so it stayed as experimental. However, Burt has shown a commitment to inspire the younger generations to create and revolutionize their world. He and his team make sure the plane keeps functioning well to take place several airshows every year.

If you are interested on this subject, check the official page for more details: