Traditional aerospace design methods offer quick and efficient ways to generate new designs, but such that often resemble previous ones. For truly innovative design, however, a different approach is needed. This paper suggests that a general conceptual design method called ‘parameter analysis’ (PA) may be used for teaching and practicing innovative aerospace design. To support this proposition, we investigate four diverse, innovative and unique case studies, all carried out by very experienced aerospace designers: the ‘dam busting’ bouncing bomb of World War II, the Gossamer Condor human-powered plane of the 1970s, the asymmetric Boomerang twin-engine plane of the 1990s and the SpaceShipOne suborbital spacecraft of the early 2000s. The paper elaborates on how the methodology of case-study research has been adapted and applied to provide the evidence supporting the research hypothesis, and presents the results of analyzing the case studies. It shows that the expert aerospace designers followed a thought process similar to PA, even if unknowingly, where the similarity was measured by counting the number of PA characteristics that could be shown to exist in the case studies. Advantages and limitations of the research methodology are also discussed.
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