Technology: The Shape of Planes to Come

Backward-looking aircraft get the go-ahead to cross the skies

With their swept-back wings, forward-mounted canards, or stabilizers, and pusher propellers, they look a little as if they should be moving through the air tailfirst. But the two new designs -- Beech Aircraft's Starship and Rinaldo Piaggio's P. 180 Avanti -- are very much forward-looking pieces of machinery. Using advanced technology to deliver high performance and good fuel efficiency, they could dictate the shape of small transport aircraft in the coming years.

Last week the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration announced that Beech, based in Wichita, had met Government standards for airworthiness with its Starship, and granted "type certification," clearing the way...

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