My first ideas never went past the rough sketch form as Jos Whedon considered them too sci-fi:
The design was refined to more of a conventional aircraft with some F-35 characteristics and variable geometry in the cockpit section like the Concord. The nose could drop and the wing tips fold down, giving it a bird of prey attitude during VTOL, as the unfinished sketch at the bottom shows.
Ultimately Production Designer James Chinlund was looking for a more brutal, ground attack craft aesthetic and the need to cross the globe in an hour was no longer a priority, so the aerodynamic qualities were downplayed and I pursued this concept that's a little more A10 Warthog-like:
Early work in progress gives a peek in to my process, as well as showing my initial thought as to how this would work in VTOL mode, but the design was rejected as still too streamlined and futuristic before I could develop it any further.
Given the note of "more attack-chopper-like" and having been steered toward referencing the Apache and Comanche helicopters, I headed in a different direction with this one:
Fellow concept artist & modeler Mike Meyers had developed a rough model that was very well received with some radical variable geometry that extended the engine nacelles back for high-speed flight, visually lengthening the plane. Myself and colleague Tani Kunitake were tasked with pursuing that basic concept further, he by doing an aesthetic pass on Mike's basic layout that ultimately became the Quinjet you see in the movie. In parallel developed a concept for a forward-swept scissor-wing geometry that would motivate the lengthening of the silhouette for more aerodynamic high-speed flight and maintain that hawk-like attack attitude for VTOL. I started with the basic design above and roughed it in using Luxology Modo for modeling and simple rigging:
As James was unsatisfied with the styling, feeling it to be somewhat "heavy" looking, I sketched loosely over a screen cap of the model to find a new form vocabulary:
This lead to the following design:
Working from these sketches I went back into the Modo model to further refine the transformation:
While I would have liked to refine the design further (In particular the rear and engine area which is pretty basic and crude in its forms) I was pretty pleased with the overall concept and think it would have been a very unique and dynamic aircraft. As it turned out Tani's excellent design had already gained traction with James Chinlund and Joss Whedon with it's complex forms and canopy evoking such navy carrier planes as the Tracker and Grumman Prowler, so ultimately that design was chosen and passed on to Paul Ozzimo for further refinement in 3-D. Someday I'll jump back into Modo on my own and develop a design I like based on this geometry.