Aircraft

KLM and TU Delft eye sustainable aviation future with V-shaped flyer

KLM and TU Delft eye sustainab...
The Flying-V concept is reckoned to use 20 percent less fuel than an Airbus A350-900
The Flying-V concept is reckoned to use 20 percent less fuel than an Airbus A350-900
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The Flying-V concept is 55 meters long and 17 meters high, with a wingspan of 65 meters
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The Flying-V concept is 55 meters long and 17 meters high, with a wingspan of 65 meters
The Flying-V concept is reckoned to use 20 percent less fuel than an Airbus A350-900
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The Flying-V concept is reckoned to use 20 percent less fuel than an Airbus A350-900
The V-shaped design integrates the cabin, cargo hold and fuel tanks into each wing structure, with a wingspan that matches an Airbus A350 
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The V-shaped design integrates the cabin, cargo hold and fuel tanks into each wing structure, with a wingspan that matches an Airbus A350 
A flying scale model and a full-size section of the Flying-V's interior will be displayed at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in October, 2019
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A flying scale model and a full-size section of the Flying-V's interior will be displayed at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in October, 2019
The Flying-V would be propelled by fuel-efficient turbofan engines and run on kerosene
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The Flying-V would be propelled by fuel-efficient turbofan engines and run on kerosene
The Flying-V design means that it could make use of existing airport infrastructure, would carry about the same number of passengers as an A350 and haul the same amount of cargo
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The Flying-V design means that it could make use of existing airport infrastructure, would carry about the same number of passengers as an A350 and haul the same amount of cargo

When Gibson introduced the Flying V electric guitar in 1958, it divided opinion. A bold new aviation concept out of TU Delft is sure to do the same. Wearing the same moniker as Gibson's iconic instrument, the design is aimed at improving aircraft efficiency and sustainability.

The original idea for the Flying-V came from thesis work undertaken by TU Berlin student Justus Benad while at Airbus Hamburg, who looked at ways to improve the efficiency of a commercial passenger aircraft. When compared to an A350-900 reference aircraft, he estimated his concept could potentially offer 10 percent higher lift-to-drag, have 2 percent lower mass, be quieter and benefit from a simple configuration.

Work on the concept has continued to be refined and reworked. The V-shaped design integrates the cabin, cargo hold and fuel tanks into each wing structure, with a wingspan that matches an Airbus A350 but from an aircraft that's a bit shorter overall. This means that the Flying-V could make use of existing airport infrastructure, it would carry about the same number of passengers as an A350 and haul the same amount of cargo.

The Flying-V design means that it could make use of existing airport infrastructure, would carry about the same number of passengers as an A350 and haul the same amount of cargo
The Flying-V design means that it could make use of existing airport infrastructure, would carry about the same number of passengers as an A350 and haul the same amount of cargo

"The Flying-V is smaller than the A350 and has less inflow surface area compared to the available amount of volume," said TU Delft's Dr. Roelof Vos. "The result is less resistance. That means the Flying-V needs less fuel for the same distance."

In fact, TU Delft reckons that the aerodynamic shape and reduced weight could see it use 20 percent less fuel than an Airbus A350-900.

The Flying-V concept is 55 m (180 ft) long and 17 m (55 ft) high, with a wingspan of 65 m (213 ft). It can accommodate 314 passengers and 160 cubic meters of cargo. It will be propelled by fuel-efficient turbofan engines and run on kerosene, but future implementations could see more environment-friendly propulsion systems being employed when such technology is developed.

But will it fly? We'll have to wait and see, but Benad did fly a radio-controlled model when the project was in early development and KLM recently entered into a cooperative agreement with TU Delft at the IATA Annual General Meeting in Seoul for further research into the concept.

Researchers are currently working on a flying scale prototype that will be used to test the design's stability and reliability when flown at low speeds. KLM will officially present that model and a full-size section of the interior of the Flying-V at the KLM Experience Days at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in October as part of the airline's 100th anniversary.

Sources: TU Delft, KLM

12 comments
Towerman
Is it a sweep wing ? in one picture it looks like the passengers are facing sideward views and picture nr 3 above it looks like the passengers is looking to the front and the wing appears much less swept. I can't see this being that aerodynamic, the passenger compartment in the leading edge makes for... well a thick leading edge and overall wing which equals high drag, i suspect the wind tunnels tests will come to this exact conclusion, when the actual goal is to improve on efficiency.
Towerman
Well if its like the main picture, i guess maybe they can get away with the drag issue as the main picture shows a lot of sweep aft wards, it does look innovative and good looking for a wing type aircraft.
vince
Why not design it with electric motors along the entire wing surface for 300 mph cruising speed and make the entire wing surfaces the batteries for 2500 plus mile range?
flyerfly
Right now they don't allow lithium batteries in cargo areas much...just think of a giant one. Also to carry a battery all over the place is a bit inefficient for long flights. Unless the electricity comes from nuclear or some other renewable source it is kind of pointless to have electric anyway unless it ends up being safer... The reality is most electricity is still generated with gas turbines...
Nobody
The biggest problem I see is the center of gravity vs. center of lift. Perhaps a canard with a variable geometry?
myale
So in a normal plane the fuel is in the wings slightly away from the passengers - guess in this one it is underneath or behind the passengers. The wings and nose on a standard plane where the turbulence is mainly generated are away from the passengers in the tube, whereas in the design the windows are on the leading edges - wouldn't this generate quite a bit of cabin noise or require additional means to reduce this.
Eggster
The farther you are from the aircraft's center line, the more you will be affected by banking maneuvers. The point about fuel storage is an excellent one as well. There are some serious tradeoffs here.
MMccollum
If I were Boeing, I would seriously consider patent infringement. Looks an awful lot like the X-48. Just with a cutaway in the back middle. Hope that someone comes up with ideas that are actually implemented. I remember one from about 2007-2008, talking hypersonic from London to Sydney in about 4 hours...but they stopped working on it.
noteugene
I'm not an engineer but I think I can improve on this design. It needs to be more U shaped than Y shaped. The way the wings point out has to add to the drag co efficency factor. Like driving down the road with your doors half way open. I'd make it longer. Airports & the skies are overcrowded as is. Hopefully this design will allow for more leg room per passenger. In addition, I'd extend the top out past the body a bit further than this for tres benefit. 1, added shade for passenges like an awning. 2. Create more lift, it'd be like adding wing surface area & 3, more room to install solar panels. Whole top should be a solar panel. Forget 20% increase in fuel efficency, let's shoot for 40%. Odd but just a wk ago I thought of this same U design not for an airplane but a Carrier. Couple benifits for that. In warfare, outgoing fighter jets wouldn't have to wait for incoming & vice versa. 1 wing for outgoing, 1 for incoming. Yeah, make sure to paint giant arrows on top. Other benefit, instead of having to lower smaller boats over the side, a silly, time consuming process, you could have 3 small or mid size boats in btwn the wings. (1 up in the Y). Push a button to dislodge & your good to go. Your carrier get hit, you'd not have to waste time scrambling to dislodge a boat over the side......which are too small anyway. Nuts? Could be. But if just 1 of these ideas pan out, I'm ok with it.
TomLeeM
I think that is a really cool looking design. I think it would be better as a delta design. Since a new design like this takes time to develop and is risky, I wonder if it will ever get into production?