According to recent tests, the 315-passenger jet flies like other airliners of its size but is 20 percent more fuel efficient. Plus it just looks a lot cooler.
The Flying-V, an experimental aircraft that promises significantly better fuel efficiency than more conventional commercial jet designs, has been moving toward a larger, more detailed version since the 10-foot scale model took to the air in Germany in 2020.
The Flying-V was designed to be a long-haul, fuel-efficient aircraft, with the passenger seats, fuel tanks and luggage compartment integrated into the wings. The aircraft will eventually have a wingspan of 214 feet. Research shows the unusual design can deliver up to 20 percent better fuel efficiency than an Airbus A350 jetliner, believed to be the most advanced design today. At full size, the Flying-V would seat 315 passengers in two classes.
(caption id=”” align=”alignnone” width=”1000″) The latest scale model shows the radical wing design. Courtesy of TU Delft (/caption)
“We are working on an updated version to improve the design,” says Justus Benad, the Flying-V’s chief engineer and a faculty member at the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. â€žWe currently have ongoing research projects on aerodynamics, statics, flight noise and flight behavior.â€œ
The university’s blended wing aircraft concept is supported financially and technically by KLM Airlines. The Flying V was flown eight times last year from a German air force base with the support of a team from Airbus, and more test flights are planned for this year.
(caption id=”” align=”alignnone” width=”1000″) The model during flight tests in Germany. Courtesy of TU Delft (/caption)
Benad says data from the test flights will be used to feed “simulators” for the plane. KLM pilots are now flying the unusual aircraft in simulation mode. â€œIt flies very well â€“ like a normal jet,â€ he says. â€œEverything we have done so far proves to us that it is a viable and more efficient aircraft.â€
The design actually began about a decade ago when Benad was an intern at Airbus in a department dealing with alternative wing configurations. â€œThey are still involved with the project and helped us model the escape campaign,â€ says Benad.
(caption id=”” align=”alignnone” width=”1000″) This diagram shows seating arrangements in two passenger classes, as well as space for cargo. Courtesy of TU Delft (/caption)
Currently, the Flying V program works with both permanent staff and graduate students. Long-term plans include moving from the simulators to wind tunnel testing to prove the aircraft’s efficiency, and then building a mockup of the cabin. Finally, a full version is created for testing.
Future versions of the Flying V could also be configured with hydrogen propulsion. â€œYou could easily integrate the hydrogen tanks into the shape of the plane,â€ says Benad.