Flying-V - long-haul aircraft guitar shaped

Guitar replacing Cigar – The medium-hull-free Flying-V

Reiner Hertl
16.07.2019
6 pictures
5 minutes

Futuristic, energy-saving, airport-compatible: an avant-garde aircraft design could make flights more sustainable in 20 to 30 years. The TU Delft is, together with KLM, developing the prototype of an aerodynamic aircraft in which passengers sit in thick wings.

More than an unconventional aircraft shape: V (as in Vision)

The Flying-V would be nothing less than a revolution in aircraft construction. A long-haul aircraft without a cigar-shaped fuselage and with passenger cabins, cargo hold and fuel tanks in the wings. On a scale of 55 metres in length and 17 metres in height, new standards are to be set for kerosene consumption. And even more sustainable: once the necessary technology has been developed, the aircraft, which until then had been powered by two modern turbofans, should ideally be able to be converted for the use of electric engines:

Our ultimate goal is a zero-emission flight. Radically new aircraft designs are just as important as new forms of propulsion.

Henri Werij, Dean of the faculty of Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft

Guiding principles, orientation marks and initial objectives

If you want to get some teasers, you can watch this concept video (Rock ‘n’ Roll):

Quieter, lighter and with new scope for interior design

For efficiency reasons, the construction should not only be as light as possible in the fuselage divided at the rear. The new construction, in which almost everything is in the wings, also reduces the noise level. The completely different design also affects the cabin designs: from the seat arrangement to their design to the wet cell, new variants are being developed. “This new configuration,” says Project Manager Dr. Vos, “poses a number of challenges in terms of aerodynamics, structural integration and interior design.”

We can, for example, develop new variants within the framework of Flying-V research so that passengers can better rest or eat in the plane. Among other things, we are working on the possibility of offering food over a buffet.

Peter Vink, Professor of Applied Ergonomics and Design at the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering at TU Delft

Further drive: 20 percent fuel savings

With significantly less wind resistance, the Flying-V should fly significantly more economically. First, with current turbofan engines, mounted on the inside of the V-fuselage, i.e. at the top back in the inner angle. The later conversion to alternative engines will also be taking into account while designing. The state of the art in electric propulsion technology for long-haul flights is not yet ready for the market. And the EU is demanding that carbon dioxide emissions have to be reduced to zero by 2050 compared with the values measured in 2000. A Flying-V realized by 2040-2050 could help. And could also be integrated into current airports: Existing gates, hangars and runways, the entire infrastructure of an airport today, should be able to use the Flying-V. All but ready for handling like an Airbus A350:

A possible Airbus part and the Benchmark Airbus A350

“Only aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus or Boeing could take over the construction,” said the university’s spokeswoman on the realization. It is therefore conceivable that the development would later be licensed to a market leader. In any case, Airbus, together with the inventor Justus Benad, has already secured the Flying-V patent. The concept, in which the wings no longer protrude to the side, could be measured in comparative data with the A350:

At 65 metres, the Flying-V would have approximately the same wingspan as the Airbus A350 in its basic configuration. There would also be room for the same number of passengers – 314. The cargo hold capacity of 160 cubic metres would also be identical. But not only the length would be different:

The Flying-V is smaller than the A350 and has a smaller inflow area than the available volume. The result is less drag. This means that the Flying-V requires less fuel on the same route.

Project Manager Dr. Roelof Vos

For some passengers, things could get more turbulent in the Flying-V.

Overall, the Flying-V offers the same passenger comfort and safety as other conventional aircrafts, according to Benad. How comfortable the flight remains also depends on how the challenge of turbulence can be met. In conventional airplanes, all passengers sit close to the longitudinal axis – if the aircraft tilts in curves, this remains within a range that passengers perceive as ok. Anyone sitting in the Flying-V far out in the wings could experience this flying experience in a different way.

Out of the wind tunnel to the maiden flight and into the air

A – motorless – mini version already took off for testing in 2014. Commenting on further tests, Vos said: “We have done calculations and initial trials in the wind tunnel, but we need much more data from the wind tunnel to show that this aircraft is actually as efficient as we think it is.” In any case, the route is still very long before the aircraft is ready for series production. Whether the project will one day be implemented by a large aircraft manufacturer on a large scale stays exciting. We are now eagerly awaiting October, when 1:1 models of the interior design will be shown and the first small model will be on display for KLM’s anniversary round.

In recent years, KLM has become a pioneer in the field of sustainability in aviation. The development of air traffic has brought a lot to the world and given us the opportunity to connect people. This privilege is coupled with a great responsibility for our planet.

KLM CEO Pieter Elbers

Recently, Elbers also appealed in this spirit in German newspapers to “create a sustainable future for aviation.” Sustainable flying is and will remain one of our airfields. And we will stay tuned for you on the fascinating subject of the Flying-V. For WingMag, a flying wing, a steel boomerang, is of course also a hot topic.

Pictures © TU Delft

by Reiner Hertl

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