I was watching a program on The History Channel the other day called Stealth and Beyond, Air Stealth. It was about the stealth fighter and bomber programs, and the history of stealth when it comes to planes. I was not expecting them to say anything about design as far as aesthetics are concerned.
I don’t have the exact quote, but an U.S. Air Force pilot was talking about how the newest stealth fighters, the MX-22 or something, is a good looking plane, as opposed to the F-117 which is a very strange looking plane with the harsh angles, weird shape and such. He said that the F-117 is also very hard to fly, such that the plane can be flown only with the aid of a computer.
Then he made the comment that “the best looking planes are always the easiest to fly.”
I found this comment fascinating. “Easiest to fly” is a fairly objective statement. If you have to have a computer help you fly a plane and another does not require a computer, I don’t think there’s any doubt about which plane is easier to fly.
However, a comment like “best looking plane” is what most people would call a very subjective statement. Generally, we argue over which car is the best looking, which painting is better, etc. But this pilot made it sound as though it was pretty well agreed upon among pilots which planes looked the best, and that all pilots knew that the best looking planes also were the easiest to fly.
What’s interesting to me is that the planes that fly the best also happen to be the planes that are the most appealing to the eye. Could it be that somehow the human brain is able to look at a plane, somehow understand that this design is more aerodynamic, and then it sends a message to another part of the brain saying “Yes, this plane looks better because it will fly better”?