Recently arrived in the mail is a copy of Dan Raymers memoirs, “Living In The Future, The Education and Adventures of an Advanced Aircraft Designer.” While the history of recent publishing is replete with the memoirs of astronauts, test pilots, program managers and (rarely) the occasional engineer, this book is unique in that it serves not only as the personal history of the author (a well known aircraft conceptual designer), but also presents a number of the designs he worked on. Many of these seem to have not seen the public light of day previously. I highly recommend this book. It’s enjoyable, readable, and stuffed with unbuilt aircraft projects (Yay! Three-view drawings!!!!). What more could a guy want? OK, nekkid wimmins, but one cannot have everything. If you are interested in finding out how preliminary aircraft design is done, and what happens with those designs, then this book is for you.
“Living In The Future” is essentially two separate books… the authors life story (190 pages) and the authors design projects (170 pages). You can read one without having to have read the other. Interestingly, both covers are the front cover… like some old-school sci-fi potboiler double-issues, “Living In The Future” features the two books back to back in a single softcover binding. Read through to the middle, then flip the volume around and again read through to the middle.
As Raymer himself points out, this work does not have the most polished prose. Indeed, it is written in a very casual style… and is eminently readable. I rarely read autobiographies… they just don’t interest me much. But the autobiographical half of “Living In The Future” is engaging both in terms of readability and in just being a good yarn. Not just aircraft and launch vehicle design, but also world travel, music, women, partying, all that stuff I hear good things about.
Dan Raymer is known from his publications of papers and books (“Aircraft Design: A Conceptual Approach” being the best known) as well as his aircraft design software (RDS – Integrated Aircraft Design and Analysis). In his career at places like Rockwell and Lockheed, he designed a vast number of aircraft… not a one of which has so far been built (see NOTE). “Living in the Future” describes both the events and personalities surrounding these design efforts, as well as many of the designs themselves. Such projects as Rockwell’s earliest Advanced Tactical Fighter (eventually became the F-22); the Rockwell Delta Spanloader stealthy bomber; the X-31 (did you know some thought was given to building it out of an F-86???); a Lockheed ASTOVL fighter series that was a predecessor to the F-35; the “Black Horse” and Pioneer Rocketplane “Pathfinder;” a launch vehicle that uses sunlight, of all things; several small ground attack planes (including one with a slewable wing); the Hot Eagle/SUSTAIN concept to shoot a dozen or so crazed Marines in a rocket vehicle anywhere in the world; future airliners; unmanned aircraft, and more!
NOTE: Not entirely true. Raymer was in on the X-31, and very recently he roughed out the design for the FireJet target drone, which has entered production.