The groundbreaking 171-foot superwing concept in Boeing’s X-plane will change aircraft design forever.
A full-scale demonstrator is currently in the works and will conduct a test flight at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in just five years.
If successful, these will be newwill take to the sky between 2030 and 2035.
The Boeing Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW) airliner has been under development in collaboration with NASA since 2010.
The Air Force has named the current TTBW design the X-66A.
The “X” designation was typically given to all experimental aircraft designs that explored new technologies over the last 80 years.
The concepta lightweight, ultra-thin and more aerodynamic wing supported by diagonal straps.
The aircraft’s wingspan is 170 feet, surpassing the 737 MAX 8 model by 53 feet.
Not only is the size of the wingspan impressive, but also the ultra-thin, swept-back wings, which enable the aircraft to consume up to ten percent less fuel.
NASA and Boeing hope the plane could reduce fuel consumption by a massive 30 percent compared to today’s narrowbody jets.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said: “It is our goal that NASA’s partnership with Boeing in the production and testing of a full-scale demonstrator will contribute to.”Commercial aircraft that are more fuel efficient for the environment, the commercial aviation industry and for passengers worldwide.”
To make these huge wings practical, Boeing plans to use a familiar technology: folding wingtips.
The folding wingtips of the 777X model have become its trademark, but TBBW will take it a step further.
The X-66A’s wings fold almost in half, with support provided by the truss.
This allows the aircraft to fit into the same gates as aircraft such as 737s and would avoid the problem of fitting into the hangars of certain airports.
With growing pressure to reduce aviation emissions, the X-66A is the first X-plane designed specifically with sustainability in mind.
But the innovative aircraft is not without its flaws.
Because the wings are much thinner than on traditional airliners, fuel storage could be a problem.
That means fuel would have to be stored elsewhere, potentially limiting the number of seats in a TTBW design and shifting much of the weight back into the main body of an aircraft.
Currently there are two designs with a capacity of 130-160 seats and another with 180-210 passenger seats.
Earlier this year, NASA announced it would invest £345 million in the project over the course of the yearfor seven years, with Boeing and its partners committing £590 million in funding over the same period.
Stan Deal, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, added that a variety of other innovations were being explored at the same time, including new advanced materials for wings and a new system for mass production.
He noted that many aspects of design and production are developed using digital models.
In 2028 and 2029, airline pilots will take part in flight tests of Boeing’s invention using a flight simulator and assess the characteristics of the vehicle.
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If all goes well, the model will be presented to the public in 2030.
Dave Calhoun, Boeing’s CEO and president, said: “We’re committed to proving this technology and we’re hopeful.” If it’s as mature as we think it will be, and NASA honestly thinks it will be, I think it will be put into service.”