July 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 3 
Special Features

From defeat comes victory

History is replete with risky proposals and so-called failures that later turned into successes-either as new systems and products, or as technologies adapted for other advanced programs. Here are some of them:

  • The Wright brothers experienced a number of failures before aviation was born with the first flight of their aircraft in December 1903.
  • A prototype Boeing B-17 crashed during a demonstration flight for the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, but the plane turned out to be so good that more than 12,000 were built.
  • The Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar never went beyond the mock-up stage before the program was cancelled, but many of the technologies in the Space Shuttle and Boeing hypersonics programs emerged from that program.
  • Boeing's first jet-powered bomber, the B-47, with its sweptback-wings design developed from German World War II research and having pods that contained the engines, was such a radical concept in the late 1940s that the U.S. Air Force was hesitant to accept it. But the B-47 eventually became a classic strategic bomber. Now, swept wings are commonplace on modern military aircraft. And engines in pods suspended from pylons under the wings are the accepted configuration on almost all large jets.
  • The Boeing X-32 lost out to Lockheed Martin's X-35 in the Joint Strike Fighter competition, but the technologies developed for that program are being used on a wide variety of programs.


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