Occasionally I get a comment to the affect of “you should like this really complicate and intricate [thing] because you are an engineer,” and my usual thought is “someone forgot the KISS principle†.”  Feats of engineering are a point of pride for any engineer but so are simple, elegant solutions.  Most engineers, and general people, appreciate the precision design and engineering of a high-end sports car, like a Ferrari, or a fighter jet, like the SR-71 Blackbird.  However, I have found myself guilty of working on something only to realize I am over-complicating and over-engineering my solution to a problem when a simpler solution will do and refining a working solution is better than trying to it from the start.

Recently while looking (/dreaming) at (ultralight) Challenger airplanes I grew up flying with my father.‡  The Challenger is a simple, bare-bones partially home-built airplane made of basically four things: aluminum, fabric, two-stroke engine, and instruments.  While dreaming I came upon a playboy’s version of the airplanes I grew up with, the ICON A5 Airplane. The ICON A5 is very slick looking and has a Ferrari-feel to it, but I worry that the over-engineering to make it simple will give an over-simplified appearance.

Jet skis, sports cars, boats, and motorcycles are all dangerous in their own right but airplanes add a lot more variables by going into the third dimension.  One of the major problems, besides the added complexity of maneuvering, is you cannot just pull-over if something goes wrong.  When something fails, panic can even consume the most seasoned pilot.  Additionally, with every device/feature/doodad added to an engineering system adds to the potential for failure of the device/feature/doodad or potentially the entire system.

The A5 is a beautiful machine and it adds appeal to something I am very passionate about, but I like to think my engineering mind is always cautiously optimistic about an “engineer masterpiece.”


† KISS = Keep It Simple Stupid
Quad City (manufacturer of Challenger), great site about Challengers