Aircraft

Wraparound jet engine design could put window seats at a premium

Airbus envisions an airliner with engines wrapped around the fuselage
Airbus envisions an airliner with engines wrapped around the fuselage
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Three fans powered by a turbojet
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Three fans powered by a turbojet
A series of fans linked by gearing
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A series of fans linked by gearing
Airbus envisions an airliner with engines wrapped around the fuselage
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Airbus envisions an airliner with engines wrapped around the fuselage

If you like the window seat while you fly, then maybe enjoy it while it lasts. Airbus has filed a US patent application for a new multi-fan jet engine design, which has the engine nacelles wrapping around the airplane's fuselage instead of suspended from the wing. Still very much a concept, the design is aimed at improving engine efficiency while keeping overall size down.

The popular conception of most airliners is that they are propelled by jet engines, though the pedantic will point out that what looks like a jet engine hanging off the wing is, in fact, a turbofan. The difference is that in a pure turbojet engine the aircraft is propelled by the thrust of the jet exhaust, as in the case of a fighter plane. This works, but it's very inefficient, so engineers came up with the turbofan engine, which has a turbojet engine as its core. The thrust from this helps move the aircraft, but it also powers a huge ducted fan on the front of the engine that collects air and pushes it over the outside engine to provide extra thrust more efficiently.

According to Airbus, the quest for ever more powerful and efficient engines has led to larger and larger turbofans that are rapidly approaching design limitations. The bigger the fan, the heavier the engine, the smaller the ground clearance, the larger the fan blades, and the more difficult it is to integrate the various parts of the machine.

A series of fans linked by gearing
A series of fans linked by gearing

Airbus's solution is to replace one big fan with a collection of little ones. It's not a new idea in itself, but Airbus has added a few refinements, such as geared rings on each fan that transmit torque directly or indirectly to one another while controlled by adjustable linear actuators.

But the most striking change is moving the engine nacelles from under the wings to inside them, or to the rudder, or even the fuselage itself. On the fuselage, the fans could hug close to the skin where they could scoop up the airstream boundary layer flowing over the aircraft to further improve efficiency. In addition, the smaller fans would make them stronger and place less stress on the airframe.

However, none of this would improve the view.

Source: US Patent Office via Aeropatent

19 comments
nickyhansard
I've often thought of this. Seems like it would drastically cut the weight of the wings design and lead to a more solid construction overall.
exadeci
Wouldn't it be only on a specific part of the airplane ? Like above the wings and not on the whole length. I don't think we will see this anytime soon with the noise and vibrations they would add to the cabin (while currently the wings reduce it)
William H Lanteigne
Google deHavilland Comet. Engines embedded in the wings, c 1952.
VincentWolf
I certainly wouldn't want to crash land in one! You would get blown to bits or fried alive by the disintegrating engines in a crash. It wouldn't be safe at all for passengers.
Robert Walther
I would actually prefer 4K (+) large monitors rather than a teensy window. The fuselage would be safer and stronger and your view could be anything you choose.
DavidGordon
"Fighter planes" have been using turbo fan engines for half a century. Turbo jets are no longer used on any plane designed or built in the last 40-50 years.
DavidCherbonnier
The "Fan" only improves efficiency at low altitudes where the air is denser. At altitude, in less dense air, thrust is supplied by the jet, or to be exact the pressure differential between the front and back of the engine. There may be a weight savings in the smaller jet but reducing the diameter by half reduces area by one quarter so four engines would be used to replace one. That means complexity for the same amount of thrust is quadrupled. There's a reason two engine configuration replaced four engine configuration. Now Airbus will increase it to eight? That sounds like a step backward.
StephenRescsanskiJr
Besides noise suppression , as mentioned in a comment, "How do you get in and out of the aircraft? AS to crash evacuation there are aircraft currently and in the past that have engines mounted on the rear of the fuselage which do not take up a large portion of the plane. Under a delta wing ala Valkarie XB70 or Concord? Patent may or may not be an issue. Note the jets with rear mounted engines stick out from the fuselage where the wrap around will have passenger and freight loading issues as well as noise isolation.
GaryReece
Why not just do away with windows, replace them with a mini cam and lightweight screen. You'd have stronger aircraft, more sound insulation and no more wing blocking views.
JerryHatfield
Yet ANOTHER crackhead concept aircraft from Toulouse. What the hell are they smoking there? Interchangeable passenger sections? Stacked seating? Someone there is having a real good laugh pulling the medias' leg.
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