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A Safe, Responsible, And Accountable Approach To Teaching Airplane Design

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.41.1 - 2.41.5



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Paper Authors

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John Valasek

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2502

A Safe, Responsible, and Accountable Approach to Teaching Airplane Design

John Valasek Western Michigan University

Papers relating to the teaching of capstone aircraft design courses typically focus on either pedagogy1 (suggested topics and tools) or on how aircraft design should be incorporated into the overall aerospace engineering curriculum 2-4. This paper proposes that the topics of flight safety and professional responsibility and accountability be given increased emphasis in existing aircraft design courses. The intention is not to replace existing course topics, but rather to suggest re-casting them in the frameworks of flight safety and professional responsibility. Techniques for incorporating these concepts in the classroom environment are presented.


"Meeting the specs at or below cost" is a traditional yardstick and motivation for aircraft preliminary design. However, safety and survivability considerations can no longer take a back seat to performance and cost considerations:

"Based on projected fleet growth, by the year 2010 one jet transport hull loss will occur per week unless strong, preventative measures are taken by the industry to reduce accidents." 5

This scenario is based upon current and projected demands for public air transportation. If, at a minimum, it is desired to hold the total fatality level constant in spite of the projected increase in activity, then the only solution is to increase the relative safety beyond current levels.

Acceptable levels of safety arise as a result of societal tradeoffs between the number of fatalities and the costs incurred to lower them. Engineers, educators, and students should be aware that the total numbers of people killed are important not only in human terms, but also in terms of public perception of safety. As evidenced recently by direct intervention from the executive office of the U.S. Government 6, public opinion and temperament ultimately dictate aviation activity and safety levels, both in the marketplace and in the polling place.

It will take a major effort on the part of the air traffic control system, airplane air and ground crews, airplane design management, and airplane design engineers to achieve the desired safety levels. Accident investigation is a core component, but learning and applying the lessons from


Valasek, J. (1997, June), A Safe, Responsible, And Accountable Approach To Teaching Airplane Design Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6772

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