Procurement Problems

In either case, whether airplane flying qualities are specified by a standardized specification such as MIL-F-8785 or by negotiations involving a Military Standard, there is still the matter of getting new airplanes to meet flying qualities requirements. In other words, the science of flying qualities is useless unless airplanes are held to the standards developed by that science.

In recent years, new airplanes are being bought by the U. S. armed services in a way that seems designed for poor flying qualities. Program officers are given sums of money sufficient to produce a fixed number of airplanes on a schedule. Military careers rest on meeting costs and schedules. These are customarily optimistic to begin with, having gotten that way in order to sell the program against competing concepts or airplanes.

The combination of military career pressures and optimistic cost and schedule goals usually leads to the dreaded (by engineers) “concurrency” program. Production tooling and some manufacturing proceed concurrently with airplane design and testing, rather than after these have been completed. When flying quality deficiencies crop up late in a concurrent program, requiring modifications to tooling and manufactured parts, it is natural for program officers and their counterparts in industry to resist.

Three notable recent concurrent programs were the Lockheed S-3 Viking anti-submarine airplane, the Northrop B-2 stealth bomber, and the U. S. naval version (T-45A) of the British Aerospace Hawk trainer, being built by McDonnell Douglas/Boeing. The Lockheed S-3 and McDonnell Douglas/Boeing T-45A concurrency stories are involved with the special flying qualities requirements of carrier-based airplanes and are discussed in Chapter 12, on that subject.

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