Those French, you just can’t trust them — Airbus has unveiled a radical blended-wing-body aircraft it has been secretly test flying since June of 2019, and its design is nothing short of remarkable.
According to a report in AINonline, the demonstrator measures just 2 meters long and 3.2 meters wide. Dubbed “Maveric,” it has a surface area of about 2.25 sq-m, the report said.
Airbus says the design carries the potential to reduce fuel consumption by up to 20% compared with today’s single-aisle aircraft, the report said.
Speaking during the Singapore Air Show’s opening day, Airbus engineering boss Jean-Brice Dumont explained that a secondary benefit centers on opening new possibilities for propulsion system type and integration as well as a versatile cabin.
Although not new to the aerospace industry, the blended-wing concept shows more promise due to advances in weight reduction and flight control technology that raises the potential for better stability, said Dumont.
The time has come, he added, to make a serious effort toward scaling the application for passenger-carrying use to meet environmental targets such as a 50% industrywide reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, the report said.
“The concept of a Skunkworks or [flying wing] demonstrator was invented a while ago,” conceded Dumont. “But sometimes we need to reinvent ourselves. I really think that demonstrators accelerate [advancements]. Predevelopment of new technologies is key.”
So far the testing has helped engineers better understand flight controls in real conditions, said Dumont, who added that results have proved encouraging enough to proceed toward more extensive study, the report said.
Other imperatives that experts still need to tackle include safety, manufacturability, airport access, and maintenance, said Dumont.
“Let’s be very clear; we are studying an option,” he noted. “But with what we’ve done, we’ve already learned a lot. It has clearly helped us understand the flight behavior, which is the core of what we need to study such a disruptive configuration in real conditions.”
While conventional aircraft designs have proved exceptionally stable, delta wings have not, so developing a less-stable formula raises some fundamental questions about the extent to which flight controls would need improvement.
According to Dumont, such development cannot amount to a so-called “moon shot.” Other questions that still need answering include optimal engine placement and opportunities for distributed propulsion.
“We will need to simulate a lot before we really learn something about scalability. Generally, for this kind of aircraft, you’d better start small. I’m not telling you Airbus’s intention; I’m telling you the basic principles of design. But it will more likely be the successor of a smaller aircraft than a very big one.”