Last updated: 2002.05.28


He was a very great artist at the business of designing aeroplanes, and like all great designers in the aircraft industry he was a perfect swine to deal with. There is, of course, a good deal of explanation in the psychology for this universal characteristic of the greatest aeroplane designers. A beautiful aircraft is the expression of the genius of a great engineer who is also a great artist. It is impossible for that man to carry out the whole of the design himself; he works through a design office staffed by a hundred draugthsman or more. A hundred minds, each with their own less competent ideas, are striving to modify the chief designer's original conception. If the design is to appear in the end as a great artistic unity, the chief designer must be a man of immensely powerful will, capable of imposing his idea and way of doing things on each of his hundred draughtsman, so that each one is too terrified to insert any of his own ideas. If the chief designer has not got this personality and strength of will, his original conception will be distorted in the design office and will appear as just another, not-so-good aeroplane. He will not then be ranked as a good chief designer. All really first class designers, for this reason, are both artists, engineers, and men of a powerful and intolerant temper, quick to resist the least modification of the plans, energetic in fighting the least infringement upon what they regard as their own sphere of action. If they were not so, they could not produce good aeroplanes.

Nevil Shute