A view of models of Airbus' MAVERIC and E-Fan X aircraft at the Singapore Airshow on Tuesday. Photo: REUTERS/Edgar Su

Airbus unveils 'blended wing body' plane design after secret flight tests


Airbus on Tuesday unveiled a curvaceous aircraft design that blends wing and body, designed to slash carbon emissions by some 20%.

The European planemaker has been carrying out flight tests of a 3.2-meter-wide technology demonstrator, code-named Maveric, at a secret location in central France since last year. It lifted the veil on the design at the Singapore Airshow.

The concept of a "blended wing body" design has been around since the 1940s and led to the U.S. B-2 bomber, as well as the X-48 research project between Boeing and NASA a decade ago.

Such aircraft are complex to control but produce less aerodynamic drag, making them more efficient to fly.

Planemakers are revisiting such designs as the passenger jet industry tries to commit to more environmentally friendly aircraft.

"We believe it is high time now to push this technology further and study what it brings to us," Jean-Brice Dumont, executive vice-president of engineering at Airbus, told reporters. "We need these disruptive technologies to meet our environmental challenge. It is the next generation of aircraft; we are studying an option."

He said it was too early to say whether such shapes could contribute to the next generation of medium-haul planes, expected in the 2030s.

Since the previous generation of tests, aerospace has seen improvements in materials that make such aircraft lighter, and computing power has increased, improving flight controls, Dumont said.

Airbus is now studying how the cabin would work and how the aircraft would be integrated into airports. One unresolved question is whether such a plane would have windows or use video screens to give passengers a sense of their surroundings.

Another issue that has dogged such experiments in the past is how to handle sensations of movement.

Because passengers would be sitting further out from the center of the aircraft, compared to the classic "tube and wings" model, they would move further when the aircraft turns. Rival Boeing has put more weight on a potential cargo role.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Is it a bird? Is it an aeroplane? Noooou, in future I plan to fly Alice with MagniX engine equipped too, London to Berlin about 20 people.

Smaller aircraft carrying less weight, shorter distance could be an answer (in more nearer future) than bigger aircraft. Are they designed to carry people or cargo?...

It will mess up my plan (travel industry) with smaller aircraft flying about all over the places.... Now how can I plan a leisurely itinerary when I need to persuade city planners to dig more airstrips ?

It's called Alice and models are given names, usually known by numbers like Airbus' A380, or Boeing's 737 MAX (code-named Maveric looks superb)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Boeing/NASA has a model and been flying it for years.

Airports will need to re-design the gantry boarding system from scratch if they adopt this type of plane as well.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

And why not? It takes about a week to build a hospital in China.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I guess who looks out the window anyway

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If the wings and entire top of the aircraft was covered in a solar panel, when in daylight they could supply all or part of the electricity needed for passengers and equipment meaning even less fuel used. Even have a couple of emergency propellers that can be powered off the solar panels for an emergency landing if the jets fail or fuel is empty. Obviously when using the propellers in an emergency all the solar power is used for that and all other electronics shut down.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

If it works, then well done!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Give several window view options in the seatback monitor as they do nowadays. No need for anything in the 'walls'.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As HS2 (High Speed 2 is a partly planned high speed railway) is topical in the UK, I wounder if any Secret rail transportation is being planned.

How good are we with laying pipes and digging grounds? Like the pipeline network for oil, could we create spaghetti of pipes to transport vehicles inside the tube ?

Imagine Hadron Collider type thing that you can zoom you from A to B.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kenichi ever heard of Musk's The Boring Company? It has tried to get approvals in multiple cities, but came against political issues which will take many years before approve, if ever.

Boeing is right. Humans won't like the extra movement when off the center-line of the aircraft. It is common for commercial aircraft wings to bend 2m+ during flight. That's fun for 3 minutes, not 2 hours. Cargo. That's where this sort of aircraft fits, but most cargo planes are older, converted, passenger planes.

Sure, there are specialized cargo planes too, but those are expensive compared to used planes.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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