(Versión en castellano)
In high school, I had a charismatic professor, called Aguinaga, not too older than us, who was, at the same time, a student at the aeronautic engineering university. One day, as a apology of common sense, he told us an anecdote that one of his teachers at the university had told him. According to him, this happened in an airplanes factory at Córdoba, Argentina, while it was being designed the IA-63 “Pampa,” a little jet combat airplane.
It was my fourth year in high school when Aguinaga told us that anecdote, in 1984, two after Malvinas' (Falkland islands) war. Who watched Maradona talking about politics can understand how it is possible an Argentinian had the delirious idea of declare the war to England. In this war, the Argentinian pilots, that as any Argentinian had something of Maradona in the good as in the bad sense, used the IA-58 “Pucará,” quite similar to the aforementioned Pampa but “propeller driven,” to nothing but bomb English aircraft carriers! To be invisible to radars they recklessly flew almost surfing sea waves; from the English ship point of view they came up from nowhere, dropped the bombs to disappear again. And the following is a deduction of mine, that the initiative of the IA-63 Pampa could've come from the performance of the Pucará in Malvinas, foreign companies (German, French) supported this project because they saw this little plane useful for combat training.
Now it comes Aguinaga's anecdote. At first they designed Pampa's fuselage on the computer, when they later tried it in a wind tunnel (a mockup placed static inside a large tube with smoke traveling through it) they could see all kind of turbulence. They ended up correcting Pampa's aerodynamics by eye, a bit here and there... Aguinaga concluded his tale repeating what his teacher told him as a moral: “If it's pretty, it flies well.”
Bewildered by the complexity of our culture we lose sight of the obvious, among other self-deceptions we end convinced that we are “the principle and the end of all things,” what, extrapolated to some deity can be used to manipulate others. In our modern times, deities come also disguised as science or technology.
We can invert that engineer's phrase without changing its sense: “If it flies well, it's pretty.” A dolphin shows pretty curves, just like the turbulence in the wind tunnel showed the engineers where to retouch Pampa's fuselage: it's nature what teaches us what's pretty, what flies well.
©2019 - Walter Alejandro Iglesias