Flying Wing Under Study

Aviation Week, Aug. 7, 1995 pp.33
by Pierre Sparaco / Paris

Aerospatiale is exploring the technical merits of a very high capacity, flying wing commercial transport.

The French manufacturer's exploratory work is based on the assumption that steady traffic growth eventually will necessitate higher capacity transports and greatly reduced operating costs.

LOOKING WELL BEYOND the technically conventional 500-sect Airbus A3XX or Boeing New Large Aircraft that could enter service late in the next decade, French engineers say future commercial transports will have to embody radically innovative concepts.

According to Aerospatiole's forecast, despite the increasing number of direct routes in the next century, major long-haul carriers will need to operate 800-1,000-seat transports to prevent air traffic control and airport congestion, But sustained traffic growth will also be tied to low fares, requiring reduced operating costs.

Today, no dramatic technical breakthrough is in sight. To further reduce operating costs, manufacturers must develop new concepts that will significantly cut airframe weight and reduce drag. Less power per seat will then be required and fuel consumption will be lowered, French engineers said.

The flying wing concept can play a major role in achieving such long-term goals. The absence of a fuselage can generate a dramatically improved weight/payload ratio. But it can be applied only to very big airfromes providing sufficient cabin height without compromising the overall aerodynamic concept and maintaining a sufficiently thin wing. "We need imagination," knowing that such a high capacity flying wing would enter service well after 2020, an Aerospatiale official noted.

Airbus Industrie's engineers share Aerospcitiale's viewpoint. Bernard Ziegler, the European consortium's senior vice president-technical, is also promoting the flying wing concept. However, Ziegler concedes the traveling public will have to accept totally different cabin interiors, with long seat rows and no windows.

The French advanced study group is currently considering a 1,000-seat flying wing transport. Cruise speed would be about Mach 0.85 and maximum range 12,000 km. (6,480 naut. mi.).

SUCH A GIANT AIRCRAFT would be equipped with four 1 00,000-lb.-thrust turbofan engines installed above the wings.

Wingspan, however, would be about 96 meters (315 ft.). To comply with airport constraints such as apron surfaces, folding wingtips would be required, despite the resulting complexity and weight penalty.