Spotlight on … Daniel Raymer

by Heather Brennan

This past January, the 2000 Summerfield Book Award was presented to Daniel Raymer at the 36th Aerospace Sciences Meeting in Reno, Nevada, in recognition of his book, Aircraft Design: A Conceptual Approach. Dan is a longtime, active member of AIAA, and his highly regarded textbook has been a continual best-seller in the Education Series. The book is now in its third edition, and the accompanying design software, RDS-Student, also has been revised and expanded. The appeal of Aircraft Design has been that it simulates the manner in which industry designers consider the design of an aircraft, rather than presenting a purely theoretical approach. Dan kindly agreed to tell Editorial Echoes a little about himself and his work-past, present, and future. He lives and works in Sylmar, California, and is married to an interior designer whom he met while teaching aircraft design in Sweden. He has a son attending Dartmouth, a son in elementary school, and a newborn daughter.

EE: How were you drawn into the industry?

DR: I went into the family business. My father was a Navy test pilot and aeronautical engineer, and an uncle, a cousin, and a brother are all airline pilots. I started with model airplanes and Tom Swift books at about age eight, and learned a lot about design from designing and flying model aircraft. I started working on my pilot's license at 16, washing a plane for my first lesson.

EE: Can you give a brief synopsis of your career? Is there a specific project that has given you your most interesting challenge and/or most professional satisfaction?

DR: After college I was offered my dream job-a drafting table in the advanced design department of North American Aviation (Rockwell). My first boss designed the X-15, and in a small design office with me were the guys who designed the Space Shuttle, B-1, HiMat, B-70, and others. I was in heaven, and I learned a lot about the real world of design.

I had several specific projects that stand out. At Rockwell I was tasked with developing computer-aided design capabilities for the advanced design department (my boss found some loose money, and nobody else wanted anything to do with computers!). The commercial CAD systems were not really tailored for aircraft conceptual design, so we built our own. Defining the system specifications forced me to really think about the design process, so I asked a lot of questions and learned a lot. And, I was lucky enough to have outstanding and visionary programmers who developed a program that is still in use, almost 25 years later.

Another project I'll always remember was the Innovative Strategic Aircraft Design Study, looking at new bombers to follow the B-1. I'd long been interested in flying wings and thought that a clean flying wing design, like the Horten flying wings of the 1940s, would offer a good stealth capability. At that time, nobody had publicly suggested that for the B-1 follow-on, and when I did, people looked at me strangely! My design was featured on the cover of Astronautics & Aeronautics in June 1979 (now Aerospace America), and in Popular Science, and even shown in a Soviet defense journal. We did a lot of design and development work from 1976 to about 1980, and I really thought it might get built, but we were told to stop work on very short notice. Later we learned that by that time others were working on stealth flying wings in the “black” world.

The third project that was quite a challenge was the early work on Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF), which led to the F-22 program. When I was made Chief Engineer for ATF at Rockwell, it was not obvious to anybody that stealth and supercruise were possible in the same aircraft. The shaping, weight, and propulsion penalties of stealth were thought to be too severe to allow dry supersonic cruise, which was considered to be difficult enough as it is! Furthermore, many influential people in industry and government thought that supersonic cruise was a waste of time for a fighter since you “slow down to dogfight” anyway. We tackled this two ways. First, we developed an extremely efficient aerodynamic configuration that also permitted fairly good stealth by the standards of the day. According to analysis and extensive wind tunnel testing, the design would indeed supercruise. A large model (photo in the front of my book) was shown at the Paris Air Show, and the design was described in Aerospace America (August 1985). We also did a lot of analysis and simulation to show that a supercruiser with stealth would dominate the air, killing opponents before they hardly knew they were in a fight. I still think that it is true, and I believe that the F-22 will rule the skies ! Again, though, my design didn't get built! Oh well.

EE: What was your motivation for writing Aircraft Design and creating your software, and what process did you go through to gather all that material in one place?

DR: My reason was simple-I felt that the existing design books and courses, while useful and well done, did not really present aircraft conceptual design as I saw it done in industry. Design isn't just analysis and optimization. The actual process of layout is the crucial heart of the whole effort. I was asked on a number of occasions to give talks on how it is “really done,” and each time I added a bit more. Eventually I was asked to take a sabbatical from industry to teach aircraft design at the Naval Postgraduate School. While there, I prepared lecture notes every night on real-world design procedures. After three months I had (I thought) an almost-completed book. Five years later the book was actually finished. The RDS-Student aircraft design software was developed to allow students to concentrate on design during their design course, rather than spending most of the semester doing analysis!

EE: Do you have any future book ideas or projects that you are working on?

DR: I've been gathering material for a new aerodynamics textbook, trying to integrate classical analysis, CFD, and practical/empirical analysis at the junior level. It may take five more years, though! I'm currently finishing a 32-bit Windows implementation of the RDS aircraft design program. I've also been teaching my aircraft design short course around the world, and doing various design studies under contact, plus consulting work for RAND Corporation and others.

EE: How long have you been a member of AIAA, and what do you enjoy most about your association with the Institute?

DR: I joined as a student and have been an Associate Fellow for many years. I've been very active on the Publications Committee, am on the Journal of Aircraft Editorial Advisory Board, and am a member of the Aircraft Design Technical Committee (second time). I often chair sessions related to aircraft design. AIAA has been a wonderful avenue for my professional advancement and it’s also been a lot of fun.

EE: Do you have any hobbies or personal interests that you would like to share?

DR: I love to fly aerobatics. I'm not very good, but I am safe and careful! I also enjoy music and songwriting, and like to ski, snowboard, snorkel, and travel.

Home | RDS | CRC | Books | Design Classes | Drawings | Links | Other Stuff | Raymer Bio