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Petroski on Engineering: Armchair Design & Analysis

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Rob Spiegel
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Re: Historic commentary
Rob Spiegel   2/14/2012 12:07:56 PM
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Yes, Henry, I agree that ticket price is paramount for air travel consumers -- including myself. And I can't imagine travelers choosing on airline over another based on anything but price. So I guess that says it all. No reason to improve comfort.

Henry Petroski
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Re: Historic commentary
Henry Petroski   2/14/2012 10:46:14 AM
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The airlines may be satisfied with the design of the interior elements of their planes, but of course that does not mean that there is not room for improvement. The main selling point for economy air travel seems to be ticket price. Passengers seem to give that much greater priority than amenities relating to seat comfort. My feeling is that until passengers in large numbers let it be known that they are not satisfied with what the flying experience is like, the airlines will not redesign it beyond changes that bring in more revenue, such as more leg room, etc.  

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Historic commentary
Rob Spiegel   2/13/2012 12:17:30 PM
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Thanks Henry. Yes, I understand the economics of space for the back of the plane. And the space has grown smaller over my decades flying. The basic design of tray tables, arm rests, seatbelts, etc. has also been static for decades. I would guess the airlines are simply satisfied with these design elements.

Henry Petroski
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Re: Historic commentary
Henry Petroski   2/11/2012 10:42:11 AM
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Airlines seem to have put their seating R&D dollars into improving the business and first-class sections on international flights, where seats transform into beds of a sort. Econmony class seat design does seem to have been static for some time. There has been, however, some improvement in leg room for a price to the customer. With the increasing prominence of narrow-body regional jets, it seems unlikely that economy-class seats will get wider. There seem to be simply too many constraints from available space and revenue to allow for much improvement.   

Dave Palmer
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Platinum
Re: That IS a Bad design?
Dave Palmer   2/10/2012 6:22:18 PM
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The maintenance story reminds me of an episode of the cartoon Animaniacs in which two of the characters are trapped in an elevator.  They try to contact the maintenance department over the intercom, and overhear the supervisor telling one of his employees: "Hit it with the hammer, Big Ed.  No, the hammer... that's a wrench, that long thingy's a hammer..."

Later, after being trapped in the elevator for ten hours, the characters try to contact the maintenance department again.

"Are you still in there?" the maintenance supervisor replies. "It was our indication that you got out."

"Really?" the character says. "What gave you that indication?"

"That's just an indication we had," says the supervisor.

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: Historic commentary
Rob Spiegel   2/10/2012 3:27:20 PM
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I haven't seen significant design improvements in the seating area of airline jets since the mid-1970s. Am I missing something? If anything, the seating area has become more cramped.

Henry Petroski
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Re: That IS a Bad design?
Henry Petroski   2/10/2012 2:36:00 PM
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The story of the mechanic pounding the broken table into submission is great! It shows how the human element can be the ultimate enemy of designs of all kinds. I wonder how long it took that tray table to finally be fixed so it could be both gotten out of and put back into the seat arm? Poor maintenance can be worse than no maintenance at all. 

vimalkumarp
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Gold
Petroski on Engineering: Armchair Design & Analysis
vimalkumarp   2/6/2012 10:37:19 PM
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This article by Mr.Petroski is a guiding for the young engineer by showing how to clearly express the design functionality. Many a times innovators fail to express the "need" in their statements.

Russell Faulkner
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Iron
Re: What about design for practical use case?
Russell Faulkner   2/6/2012 8:53:36 AM
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The cardboard tray wouldn't weight much more than the plastic plate sitting on it, and unlike the plate, the tray would normally be secured.  Even if left unsecured the tray wouldn't be much of a projectile, but adding foam-rubber edging would limit the damage when kids play with the trays.  In normal use the edging would also keep cups and plates from sliding off.

Mexjewel
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Iron
Historic commentary
Mexjewel   2/4/2012 4:35:20 PM
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I had to check the date of this commentary - 2012, not 1965! In the '70s I worked in aircraft seating design. Those First Class seats were a wonder of engineering. Their weight-saving, weight-supporting design were worthy of awards. I'd think the present-day comments would have been unwarranted, even back then. Surely engineering has progressed since...or has it?

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