The 500-pound remotely piloted X-48B test vehicle, a blended wing body research aircraft that could fly more people and cargo more quietly in the future, took off for the first time on July 20 from Edwards Air Force Base in California. The 21-foot wingspan aircraft flew at 8:42 am PDT and climbed to an altitude of 7,500 feet before landing 31 minutes later.
The aircraft resembles a giant stingray and was developed by Boeing in cooperation with NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The X-48B test vehicle, an 8.5 percent scale version of the full-size design, was built by Cranfield Aerospace Ltd. in Bedford, England.
"Friday's flight marked yet another aviation first achieved by a very hard-working Boeing, NASA and Cranfield team," said Gary Cosentino, Dryden's Blended Wing Body project manager. "The X-48B flew as well as we had predicted, and we look forward to many productive data flights this summer and fall."
NASA's participation in the effort is focused on fundamental, advanced flight dynamics and structural concepts of the design.
The Boeing design features a wing that blends smoothly into a wide, flat, tailless fuselage. This fuselage blending provides additional lift with less drag compared to a circular fuselage, translating to reduced fuel use at cruise conditions. The engines mount high on the back of the aircraft, so there is less noise inside and on the ground when it is in flight.
Three turbojet engines enable the composite-skinned vehicle to fly up to 10,000 feet and 120 knots in its low-speed configuration.
The aircraft is flown remotely from a ground control station where a pilot uses conventional aircraft controls and instrumentation while looking at a monitor fed by a forward-looking camera on the aircraft.
Up to 25 flights are planned to gather low-speed data. Then the X-48B might be used to test the aircraft's low-noise and handling at transonic speeds.
Kemo D. (a.k.a. no.7) www.beyondgenes.com