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Frontiers December 2012/January 2013 Issue

“The reason the structural loads resulting from cabin is our 50-50 partnership with NASA,”program advanced to its current statetube-and-wing airplane naturally handles Blended Wing pressurization, permitting efficient, light- Liebeck said. “They didn’t limit their Body program of the Blended Wing Body fuselage, they wind tunnels for testing, along with a lot ofsupport to sending checks. They providedweight skin structure. The flatter design advanced to its to accommodate pressure loads—and technical support by NASA engineers.”While the Blended Wing Body programthought, might need a stronger structure current state that could add weight. had the potential to produce better results, is our 50-50 said. “Finally, I said, ‘Let’s assume we’ll complete when Boeing Commercial Air-research into the new design was far from“It was getting very complex,” Liebeck partnership vessel and keep it at a relatively light program. It was considered not a viableplanes decided to begin a new airplanebe able to create a flat-sided pressure with NASA.” weight.’ If you get cautious and constrain option at that time, said Kouroush Hadi, yourself too early in the design process, director, Airplane Product Development, – Bob Liebeck, chief you’ll be haunted by that decision Commercial Airplanes. scientist, Blended throughout the project.” Commercial Airplanes considered Wing Body program A solution to the cabin pressure several alternatives for the next genera- problem was eventually found through tion of jetliners—including the Sonic the creation of PRSEUS, the innovative, Cruiser—before finally deciding on the lightweight composite material process. 787 Dreamliner, Hadi said. Extensive In July 1997, the test team flew a market research involving both airline remotely piloted subscale Blended Wing customers and passengers clearly Body airplane at El Mirage Dry Lake in pointed toward an advanced tube-and- California. That aircraft, which had a wing design. The 787 concept, with 17-foot (5-meter) wingspan, was designed extensive use of composites, a new and built by Stanford University. The test wing and technologically advanced took place just days before the merger new engines, produced major efficiency of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas. and environmental improvements, while While Boeing Commercial Airplanes also introducing significant passenger had other plans for the next generation experience improvements. It was the PHOTOS: (Above) The X-48C of commercial jetliners, it continued to right choice for a competitive market, undergoes wind tunnel testing at fund Blended Wing Body research. From Hadi said. NASA’s Langley Research Center 1997 to 2003, the program explored As Commercial Airplanes prepared in Virginia in 2009. various concepts for a Blended Wing to offer the 787 Dreamliner to airlines in (Insets, from left) Ian Brooks, instrumentation technician, left, Body airplane, which ranged in size from 2003, it transferred funding responsibility and Alan Stevenson, systems 200 to 500 passengers. The studies were for Blended Wing Body research to what engineer, both with Cranfield limited mainly to computer simulations and was then Boeing Phantom Works—now Aerospace, prepare the X-48C wind tunnel tests, and no flying models Boeing Research & Technology—to focus for a test flight at Dryden; David were built. NASA remained a dependable on its unresolved issues as a commercial Klassman of NASA prepares the X-48C for engine start. partner during this period and beyond. transport. Financial assistance also was “The reason the Blended Wing Body provided by Boeing Integrated Defense BOB FERGUSON/BOEING BOEING FRONTIERS / DECEMBER 2012–JANUARY 2013 27


Frontiers December 2012/January 2013 Issue
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