NASA has released new images of Boeing's X-48B Skyray blended wing body (BWB) research aircraft during "Block 2" testing at Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base in California. Many, including NASA, believe the BWB is the shape of airliners to come because of its potential to reduce dramatically fuel burn, emissions and noise.
Photos: NASA Dryden
Block 2 means the leading-edge slats are not deployed. Block 1 testing - 11 flights in all - was conducted with bolt-on slats in the extended position to improve the BWB's low-speed performance for take-off and landing. "Retracting" the slats pushes the stall speed up from 60kt to 75kt, says NASA, but will allow the Skyray to reach its maximum speed of 118kt.
Powered by three model-aircraft jet engines, the remotely piloted X-48B weighs 500lb, has a 21ft wingspan, and is an 8.5%-scale model of a Boeing-designed 450-seat BWB airliner. NASA is considering funding a bigger demonstrator as it continues fundamental research into hybrid wing/body airliners that could enter service from around the end of next decade.