GROUNDBREAKING concept of 171ft superwings on Boeing’s X-plane will forever change how planes are designed.

A full-scale demonstrator is now in the works and will test fly in just five years at the Nasa Armstrong Flight Research Center.

The new design shows ultra-thin, aerodynamic wings supported by diagonal trusses


The new design shows ultra-thin, aerodynamic wings supported by diagonal trussesCredit: credit:nASA

If successful, these new models will take off to the skies in 2030-2035.

The Boeing Transonic Truss-Braced Wing airliner (TTBW) is being developed in collaboration with NASA since 2010.

The Air Force has named the current TTBW design – the X-66A.

An “X” designation was typically given to all experimental aircraft designs exploring new technologies in the past 80 years.

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The X-plane is designed to fly up to 592 miles/hour, making it the fastest truss-braced wing aircraft.

The concept features a lightweight, ultra-thin, and more aerodynamic wings supported by diagonal trusses.

The wingspan of the aircraft comes to 170ft, which exceeds 737 MAX 8 model by 53ft.

And it’s not just the size of the wingspan that’s impressive here, but also ultra-thin, swept back wings which allow the plane to burn up to ten per cent less fuel.

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NASA and Boeing hope the plane could achieve a vast 30 per cent reduction in fuel burn compared to today’s narrowbody jets.

NASA administrator Bill Nelson said: “It’s our goal that NASA’s partnership with Boeing to produce and test a full-scale demonstrator will help lead to future commercial airliners that are more fuel efficient, with benefits to the environment, the commercial aviation industry, and to passengers worldwide.”

To make this enormous wings practical, Boeing is planning to employ a familiar technology- folding wingtips.

The folding wingtips of the 777X model have become its trademark feature, but TBBW will take it up a notch.

The wings of X-66A will fold almost in half, with support provided by the truss.

This will allow the plane to fit into the same gates as aircrafts like 737, and would avoid the problem of fitting into certain airports hangars.

With the mounting pressure to cut aviation emissions, the X-66A is the first X-plane designed specifically with sustainability in mind.

But the innovative aircraft doesn’t come without its flaws.

With wings much thinner than conventional airliners, fuel storage could be an issue.

This means fuel would have to be stored elsewhere, potentially limiting the number of seats on a TTBW design and pushing a lot of the weight back into the main body of an aircraft.

Currently, there are two designs with 130-160 seat capacity, and another with 180-210 passenger seats.

Earlier this year, NASA announced it would invest £345 million into the project over the next seven years, with Boeing and partners committing to £590 million in funding over the same period.

The Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal added that a multitude of other innovations are also being studied at the same time, including new advanced materials for wings and a new high-volume production system.

He noted that very aspect of design and production is engineered with digital models.

In 2028 and 2029, airline pilots will participate in flight tests of the Boeing invention through a flight simulator and will assess the vehicle’s characteristics.

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If all goes well, the model will kick off the ground for the public in 2030.

Boeing CEO and President Dave Calhoun said: “We are intent on proving this technology and we are hopeful. If it matures the way we think it will, and NASA frankly thinks it will as well, I do think it will see service.” 

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