Final flight of the Boeing X-48

Written by admin on April 15th, 2013

The Boeing X-48C flew for last time April 9, marking the successful completion of an eight-month flight-test program to explore and further validate the aerodynamic characteristics of the Blended Wing Body design concept. The Boeing X-48 is an experimental unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for investigation into the characteristics of blended wing body (BWB) aircraft, a type of flying wing. Boeing designed the X-48 and two examples were built by Cranfield Aerospace in the UK. Boeing began flight testing the X-48B version for NASA in 2007. The X-48B was later modified into the X-48C version. It was flight tested from August 2012 to April 2013. Boeing and NASA plan to develop a larger BWB demonstrator. The aircraft has done 30 flights which were conducted at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. The X-48C typically flew for approximately 30 minutes on most flights, reaching speeds of up to 140 miles per hour and attaining an altitude of about 10,000 feet. X-48C flight testing began Aug. 7, 2012. Some of the lessons learned are that the aircraft offers the tremendous promise of significantly greater fuel efficiency and reduced noise, and can be controlled as effectively as a conventional tube-and-wing aircraft during takeoffs, landings and other low-speed segments of the flight. The X-48C is a scale model of a heavy-lift, subsonic vehicle that forgoes the conventional tube-and-wing airplane design in favor of a triangular tailless aircraft that effectively merges the vehicle’s wing and body. Boeing believes the concept could be developed in the next 15 to 20 years for military applications such as aerial refueling and cargo missions. The blended wing body (BWB) concept offers advantages in structural, aerodynamic and operating efficiencies over today’s more conventional fuselage-and-wing designs. These features translate into greater range, fuel economy, reliability and life cycle savings, as well as lower manufacturing costs. They also allow for a wide variety of potential military and commercial applications. Boeing and NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate funded the X-48 technology demonstration research. The effort was aligned with NASA’s ERA project, which has the goals to reduce fuel burn, emissions and noise of future aircraft. Boeing and NASA will continue to develop Blended Wing Body technology, with the aspiration of developing a larger-scale, transonic BWB demonstrator in the future.

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