Saturday, July 28, 2007

The aircraft of the future?

The X-48B Blended Wing Body

Edwards Air Force Base, California: An experimental jet that resembles a flying
wing flew successfully for the first time in a program that could lead to more
fuel-efficient, quieter and higher-capacity aircraft, NASA said on Thursday.
The remotely controlled, 230-kg, three-engine jet with a 21-foot wingspan took
off July 20, climbed to an altitude of 7,500 feet and landed about a half-hour
later, NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Centre said.
The X-48B Blended Wing Body aircraft was controlled by a pilot at a ground
station. NASA and Boeing said data from the flight are already being compared
with data from wind tunnel tests.
The aircraft and a duplicate were designed by Boeing Co’s Phantom Works in
cooperation with NASA and the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright
Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, USA.
Built by Cranfield Aerospace in Bedford, England, they are 8.5 per cent-scale
versions of a future full-size design.
The X-48B resembles a flying wing, but the wing blends into a wide, flat and
tail-less fuselage, NASA and Boeing said.
The design is intended to provide more lift with less drag compared to the
cylindrical fuselage of a traditional aircraft, reducing fuel consumption while
The engines are located high on the back of the aircraft, which should mean
it is quieter inside and less noise reaches the ground during flights.
The planes are initially flying at low speeds to gather information about the
stability and flight-control characteristics of the design, particularly during
take-off and landing.
Another X-48B used for wind tunnel testing is available as a backup for flight

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