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While multiple studies mention the difficulty of R&D target-setting, few studies exist which bring together reasons for these difficulties; nor do they delve deeply into addressing this issue in detail. Additionally, there are many studies conducted on single or subsets of commercial airplane technology, market, and economic parameters; but few have been conducted from a combined critical technological performance parameter perspective. This paper provides what appears to be one of the first studies outlining reasons for R&D target-setting difficulties through a literature review; then also provides the first set of analyses tied to a larger study applying a quantitative method addressing these difficulties. An emerging operations research method, Technology Forecasting Using Data Envelopment Analysis (TFDEA) was used for this set of initial results; including determining the state-of-art in commercial airplane technology. This is the first time TFDEA has been used as a focus for addressing R&D.