Reducing the fuel burn, emissions and noise levels of future aircraft is the goal behind Boeing’s X-48C research aircraft, which has successfully completed its eight-month flight-test programme after performing 30 flights.
Designed by Boeing, built by Cranfield Aerospace and flown in partnership with Nasa and the US Air Force Research Laboratory, the X-48C is a scale model of a heavy-lift, subsonic vehicle that forgoes the conventional tube-and-wing airplane design in favour of a triangular tailless aircraft that effectively merges the vehicle’s wing and body.
The X-48C is a modified version of the X-48B aircraft, which flew 92 times at Nasa Dryden between 2007 and 2010. It’s configured with two 40 kg-thrust turbojet engines instead of the three 22 kg-thrust engines on the B-model. In addition, the wingtip winglets were relocated inboard, next to the engines, and the aft deck was extended by about 60 cm at the rear.
Says Fay Collier, director of Nasa’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) project: “Both very quiet and efficient, the concept has shown promise for meeting all of Nasa’s environmental goals for future aircraft designs.” Boeing and Nasa hope to develop a larger-scale, transonic BWB demonstrator in the future.