Airbus studies blended-wing airliner designs to slash fuel burn

Airbus is studying blended-wing airliner designs as a means to cut CO2 emissions by more than 20% and has already test flown a sub-scale model as part of its research efforts.

An initial sortie of that test article took place in central France in June 2019, with Airbus using the effort to improve its knowledge of the advanced fly-by-wire technology required to control such aircraft.

The airframer also says it is leaning on fly-by-wire know-how developed for combat aircraft to control the intrinsically unstable flying-wings.

MAVERIC has two ducted fans mounted within its twin vertical stabilizers, a stand-in for turbofans, but Airbus says it is considering other propulsion systems. The company believes it could eventually merge distributed hybrid propulsion technology being developed on its EcoPulse demonstrator with its flying-wing effort.

Airbus declines to say what class of commercial airliner would most likely to be replaced by a flying-wing or what the seat count could be.

“It’s more likely to be the successor of smaller aircraft than a very big one,” says Dumont. “For the equivalent seat count of [a tube-and-wing] aircraft the footprint of such [flying wing] aircraft is much smaller.”

In addition to continuing flight tests through the early part of 2020, Airbus plans to further study safety, manufacturing, maintenance and airport integration issues related to flying-wing airliners.

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