Boeing Completes Final Test Flight of Blended Wing X-48C Aircraft
Boeing completed an eight month flight-test program on April 9 when its X-48C blended-wing research aircraft flew for the 30th time. The purpose of the aircraft is to explore the aerodynamic characteristics of Boeing’s Blended Wing Body design concept.
The remotely-piloted X-48C is a scale model of a heavy-lift subsonic aircraft that has a triangular tailless composition, as opposed to the conventional tube-and-wing design. This also differs from a flying wing design which is composed of separate wings which are seamlessly blended into the body and has no defined fuselage or tail.
The X-48C is a modified two-engine version of the X-48B, which made its first flight on July 20, 2007, and flew 92 times between that time and 2010.
Thanks to greatly improved fuel efficiency, a blended wing body aircraft will have far greater range than a similarly-sized conventional plane, in addition to being far quieter and having greater payload capacity.
The C variant has two 89-pound thrust turbojet engines, as opposed to the three 50-pound thrust engines found on the B variant. Other differences between the two models include the wingtip winglets being relocated inboard, and the aft deck being extended by about two feet at the rear.
All thirty flights of the unmanned aircraft were conducted at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. A majority of the plane’s flights lasted for approximately 30 minutes.
During testing, the X-48C reached speeds of up to 140 mph (225 kilometers per hour), at an altitude of about 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). The X-48C made its first flight on August 7, 2012.
Boeing does not have any plans to introduce commercial aircraft using this design at the present time but the research being conducted now will contribute to the design of new and more efficient aircraft in the coming decades.