One unconventional aircraft has been simulating another in flight tests at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), where its VFW 614 in-flight simulator has been programmed to fly as if it was a much larger flying-wing airliner. The tests have been looking at an area for key concern with blended wing-body aircraft - low-speed handling.Concept: DLR
For the flight, DLR's ATTAS (Advanced Technologies Testing Aircraft System) research testbed - an engine-over-wing VFW 614 with experimental fly-by-wire control system - was programmed with the mathematic model of the dynamic behavior of a 700-tonne, 100m-wingspan, 750-passenger flying-wing airliner designed under Europe's NACRE (New Aircraft Concepts Research) program.
The flight tests involved simuated approaches to a virtual runway. Evaluation of the flying wing's handling characteristics showed the aircraft is difficult to control due to its unusual shape, and requires the introduction of a control system that "prevents the aircraft from responding adversely to pilot inputs by initiating appropriate counter-manoeuvres," says DLR.
This is similar in intent to the work conducted by NASA and Boeing in the US, where they have been exploring the low-speed handling characteristics and mitigating flight-control schemes for a blended wing-body airliner using the subscale unmanned X-48B (and soon the modified X-48C). And I'm pleased to see Europe isn't leaving it all to the US to pursue the flying wing. Here how the ATTAS compares in size with the NACRE flying wing: