As Fast As A Flying Falcon
Before the start of WW2, aircraft engineers realised that propellor powered planes were reaching their performance limits.
They needed to find a new form of propulsion.
On both sides of the Channel, designers had been working on similar concepts using jet engine technology.
This new technology continued to advance after the war and the first jet engined commercial airliner, the de Havilland Comet, made its maiden voyage on May 2nd 1952.
Jet power revolutionised commercial air travel, allowing for planes to travel faster and further than ever before.
However, the development of this new propulsion method wasn’t without its challenges.
Early prototypes presented an unusual problem. When the plane reached a certain speed, the engines would ‘choke’.
The engineers scratched their heads. What was causing this sudden loss of power?
Eventually, it became clear that the faster the plane travelled the greater the pressure of air that built up in front of the engine. In effect, the engine was being starved of oxygen.
Peregrine falcons face a similar challenge when diving at speeds of up to 200mph (320km/h).
They fly so fast that the air pressure flowing into their lungs is so high that they should not be able to breathe.
And yet they manage to and fly at the same time. How?
It’s all down to two small ‘cone’ shaped bones found high up on each side of their beaks. They slow down the air enough to reduce the pressure, allowing them breath even in a high-speed dive.
Taking this inspiration from nature, engineers experimented with adding similar cone shapes to the front of their jet engines.
What they found was a significant improvement. The engines could now suck in more air at higher speeds.
It’s a remarkable story of how nature often holds the clues to solving our man-made problems.
If you are interested in finding our more about how we can learn from nature as a source of innovation, register for our upcoming course on Biomimicry.