The broad story of aerospace progress over the past several decades has been more about evolution than revolution. The days of radical new aircraft wing shapes and ways of creating the power to fly them have long since yielded to the foundational understanding that flying is one of the safest ways to travel long distances quickly. The Boeing 737, one of the most highly produced commercial aircraft, began its journey in the mid-1960’s. Over 11,000 have been produced since then. The Airbus A320 family of aircraft has built a similar number, and began its journey more than 40 years ago in the early 1980’s.
Unsurprisingly, designing a brand-new aircraft from a clean sheet of paper is a time-consuming, difficult, and expensive task. The few new aircraft that have been built in the past few decades have taken too long to reach a stable level of production. The immeasurable number of obstacles with a clean sheet design drives the aerospace industry to innovate through iteration rather than starting over. You can keep what works while being able to fix and improve what needs to be changed. The result is a messy and tangled web of airplanes that from the outside may look the same, but inside are very different. Different engine configurations, avionics packages, seats, kitchens, cabin lighting, environmental systems, etc… have all changed and been improved over the years. These planes are meant to fly for tens of thousands of hours which can leave them in service for 30+ years.
Having such an array of aircraft and aircraft configurations leads to a dizzying number of different parts that need to be made. The aerospace industry needs to make the new configurations at the same time as continuing to make and support the old ones. A modern commercial aircraft has more than 600,000 individual parts. Multiply those by the decades of different configurations, and it’s enough to make everyone confused. The answer? Nicknames. Yes, there are some people that work assembling the final product. Those people get to see a shiny new aircraft roll off the flight line, down the taxiway and out to the runway. Most of the people who contributed, however, may not be as fully aware of the function of their parts or where they go in the aircraft. So, parts are given nicknames. Instead of having to remember very long numeric or alphanumeric part numbers, we give parts nicknames. Basically, just an everyday representation of what they look like. It makes production tracking, and awareness easier than part numbers. If you can imagine it, it’s probably been made into an aerospace part nickname. From appropriate to very inappropriate, it’s just one small part of the joy and challenge of aerospace.
At Kowaluska, we don’t have the dizzying array of part numbers (yet). After first designing and manufacturing a few pieces, we were continually bored with traditional names. Our new challenge was to create different names for our products that look like other things in life. Instead of naming our cups “cups” or “tumblers,” we noticed they were hourglass shaped, hence OurGlass. After making the ice cream spade, my 6-year-old aptly noticed it was distinctly cobra shaped when standing up, hence the name Cobra. It's part of our process and we have fun with it. Hopefully, this can give everyone else a small insight into Kowaluska.
Until next departure,