Futuristic X-48C Getting Ready to Fly at NASA

July 16, 2012, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Interested in knowing how airplane designs in future would look like? Then head to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center.

NASA, the US Air force, Boeing and Cranfield are working together on a new plane that could one day revolutionize the aviation sector.

Popularly known as a hybrid wing body, the design of the plane is a cross between a conventional plane and a flying wing design. It is believed that the new design will offer long-term benefits in fuel efficiency, fuel capacity, and noise reduction.

The group behind the X-48 project has been working since 2007 on getting its prototype in the air.

Though it looks a lot different from today’s aircraft, Norm Princen Boeing’s chief engineer on the project, said that the idea to pilot the X-48 would seem very much like a standard transport plane.

A full-size version of the X-48 may be out in about 10 years and is likely to have a wingspan of at least 240 feet and be able to fly up to 11,000 nautical miles.

It would probably offer a fuel efficiency improvement of between 20 percent and 30 percent. Although it’s not yet known exactly what its purpose would be, the X-48 could be useful as a tanker, a bomber, or as a commercial jetliner.

The main idea behind the new plane is that there is a great deal of internal volume for fuel and cargo inside the main, welded area of the hybrid wing design. And because it has a low profile, air scrubs over the body more efficiently than today’s planes.

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