In high school, I had a charismatic professor called Aguinaga, just a bit older than us, that was also a student at the aeronautic engineering university. One day, as some kind of apology of common sense, he told us something that happened in a military airplanes factory at Córdoba, Argentina, when engineers were designing the IA-63 Pampa a little jet combat airplane.
It was my fourth year in high school at that time, 1984, two years after Malvinas (Falkland islands) war. Who heard Maradona talking about politics in the media can understand how an Argentinian could've had such delirious idea, declaring war to a global power as England! In this war, Argentinian pilots, that as any Argentinian are a bit like Maradona in the bad as in the good sense, used the IA-58 Pucará, quite similar to the aforementioned Pampa but “propeller driven,” to nothing but bomb English aircraft carriers! They recklessly flew almost surfing sea waves to be invisible to radars; from the English ship point of view they came up from nowhere, dropped the bombs to disappear again. I'm mentioning this because I deduce (just an assumption of mine) that the initiative of developing the Pampa could've come from the performance of the Pucará in Malvinas; foreign (German, French) companies supported this project because they saw this little plane useful for combat training.
Now my professor's anecdote. According to Aguinaga, the engineers first designed Pampa's fuselage on the computer, when they later tested it in a wind tunnel (smoke passing through a large tube with a fuselage mock-up statically placed inside) they could see all kind of turbulences. They ended up correcting Pampa's aerodynamics by eye, a bit here, a bit there... Aguinaga closed the idea repeating what his teacher at the university 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
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