FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
EL MIRAGE DRY LAKE, Calif., July 29, 1997 -- A new aircraft design concept called Blended-Wing-Body (BWB) was demonstrated here today with the flight of a sub-scale aircraft before a group of leaders from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), McDonnell Douglas (NYSE: MD) and Stanford University.
The remotely piloted aircraft, with a 17-foot wingspan, was designed and built at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., to evaluate flight control laws and flying characteristics of the BWB concept, in which the forward body blends into the wing in a single structure. This concept allows a significant reduction in drag, lowers aircraft structural weight, enhances lift characteristics and allows an aircraft to operate more efficiently and at lower costs than a conventional design with a separate wing and fuselage.
Those attending the demonstration included representatives from NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Defense, Stanford, General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, Honeywell, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas.
The aircraft is a six percent scale version of a conceptual passenger or cargo aircraft with a 280-foot wingspan. In its passenger version, it would be able to carry 800 passengers more than 7,000 nautical miles. The cargo versions could carry 231,000 pounds of payload more than 7,000 nautical miles.
The flight of this aircraft, a testbed primarily for flight controls, is another phase of BWB research that has been conducted since 1991 by a government-industry-academia team. This aircraft’s on-board flight control computer automatically adjusts the trailing edge control surfaces, resulting in conventional flying qualities for this unconventional aircraft configuration. The current research contract with NASA Langley Research Center is for $2.3 million over a three-year period.
Other members of the team are NASA Lewis Research Center, Stanford, University of Southern California in Los Angeles, University of Florida in Gainesville and Clark Atlanta University in Georgia. Dr. Robert Liebeck of McDonnell Douglas' Advanced Transport Aircraft Systems group in Long Beach, Calif., is the BWB program manager.
The sub-scale aircraft was designed and built under the direction of Dr. Ben Tigner, a post-doctoral research affiliate at Stanford's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, with the assistance of a number of graduate students. Pilot for the research flights is Bill Watson of Simi Valley, Calif., an experienced radio-controlled model pilot.
A number of additional flights of the aircraft are planned to better understand the flight control characteristics and general flying qualities of the aircraft. Data obtained during the flights is transmitted to the ground and recorded in the aircraft and downloaded to a laptop computer for further analysis after each flight.
In addition to this aircraft, other BWB research performed during 1997 included a wind-tunnel test at NASA Langley's National Transonic facility, where theoretical predictions were validated. Low-speed wind tunnel tests are planned for later this year, also at NASA Langley.
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