Accession Number:



False-Failed Innovation

Descriptive Note:

Journal Article

Corporate Author:

Joint Chiefs of Staff Washington United States

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



History is littered with technologies that failed as innovations. Others, such as gliders and airships, were like desert flowers. They flourished briefly and withered. Then there is the false-failed innovation-a technology that is examined and discarded but that gets a second chance under other conditions and succeeds. Perhaps the best example is inflight refueling, an idea pioneered in the 1920s to extend the range of wood and fabric biplanes. The Army Air Corps set the technique aside in the1930s as aircraft range and endurance improved. Rediscovered in the late 1940s when the United States tried to build an intercontinental jet bomber, the technology proved invaluable. Air refueling became a capability that quickly spread throughout the services and to other countries. This article looks at airships, gliders, and air refueling to determine why some promising innovations are permanently discarded while others are profitably resurrected.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Aircraft Operations
  • Lighter-than-air Aircraft
  • Gliders and Parachutes
  • Transport Aircraft

Distribution Statement: