TECH

Blended Wing Body Aircraft, X-48c, Successfully Tested By Boeing And Nasa

15/04/2013 12:07 BST

Boeing and Nasa are hailing a new generation of quieter and more fuel efficient aircraft after the completion of eight months successfully testing their 'Blended Wing Body' (BWB) prototype.

The futuristic body design of the X-48c - which quite frankly looks like it shouldn't work - marks a huge step forward in aircraft design.

The blended shape of the fuselage is also paired with a ditching of the traditional tail wing to create a very smooth profile.

blended wing body

The X-48c in flight

Bob Liebeck, a Boeing Senior Technical Fellow and the company's BWB program manager said: "Working closely with NASA, we have been privileged throughout X-48 flight-testing to explore and validate what we believe is a significant breakthrough in the science of flight – and it has been a tremendous success for Boeing.

"We have shown that a BWB aircraft, which offers the tremendous promise of significantly greater fuel efficiency and reduced noise, can be controlled as effectively as a conventional tube-and-wing aircraft during takeoffs, landings and other low-speed segments of the flight regime."

The craft used in test flights was a scaled down unmanned version of what will likely be produced in the future.

The wing design has already been used in some military aircraft but is yet to be adapted to civilian craft.

Wind tunnel testing of the aircraft

One of the major obstacles engineers had to overcome was where to place emergency exits on commercial versions of the aircraft.

The X-48c flew at speeds up to 140mph at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Thirty test flights have been completed over an eight month period.

blended wing body

The prototype is a scaled down version of what Boeing and Nasa hope to produce

Although testing took place at the Dryden Flight Research Center in California, the prototype was actually manufactured in the UK by Cranfield Aerospace Limited.

Nasa and Boeing hope to make a full sized BWB aircraft that can travel at supersonic speeds.