It’s fashionable to talk about innovation and failing fast but exploring new technologies has always carried a great deal of risk as a BBC feature on failed aircraft design shows.
Aviation, like automobiles, was a wonderful opportunity for early Twentieth Century tinkerers. With the added impetuous of two world wars, the development of aircraft saw some strange experiments.
One of the things that drove aviation innovation was the evolution of materials science and manufacturing methods, sometimes with tragic results as we saw with the Comet jet liner’s fuselage failures and the DC-10s defective cargo door latches.
In many ways, the early days of airliners was not dissimilar to today’s experiments with smart materials and 3D printing.
Tragedies like the Comet and DC-10 should remind us that in some field the cost of failure is high.When a widget breaks, people can get hurt.
As we experiment with new materials and manufacturing processes, we will make mistakes just as the aviation pioneers did. It’s an ethical aspect of innovation we need to keep in mind, there can be real costs to failing fast.