Monday, November 12, 2012

The Next Big Wing

Something is cooking at Boeing/NASA, and is flying in the background, which may become the next big wing.

It is Boeing's X-48C Blended Wing Body (BWB).   A good link to the concept can be found at...  X-48C  through Aviation Week's online journal.  However, I will not repeat the article but will add wistful thoughts on this concept.

X-48C Video First Flight 

The scaled down model has flown about a hundred times by NASA, and does not currently have funding to upscale to a 737 sized model as of yet.  The main thing one can surmise from this, is that it works, and aligns with computer projections of how an all composite blended wing with two engines would behave.  A lot of concept tweaking is ongoing at this time before any attempt for additional funding is garnered.

The stage of this project places it right into  "Winging It" greedy arms, as my speculations and conceptualizations cuts from the keyboard.  This is going to be the next big winged aircraft from Boeing!  I also believe this could also be that next game changer; long after the platitudes have died down for the 787 program, during a period, where it starts cranking out 200 787 units a year for all of its sizes and configurations.  The Blended Wing Body aircraft is for cargo, passengers, and military. It also would be the second Sea Change from Boeing in the 21st century in the air-framer category.

Here is a short list of details Boeing will have on its plate, before offering such an aircraft as a formal production commitment in the Future.  The future maybe 25 years off before a freighter comes to the forefront via the military, or cargo companies.  At that time these entities would swoop up this concept for there own purposes. Here are some primary details to pound out for engineering minds in the meantime.

1. Determine how big a wing should go so it may land with today's airport layout.
2. Determine a commercial aircraft windowing for the air frame.
3. Determine what capacity and size for freight or passengers.
4. Define Military configurations that would go windowless for troop and cargo movement, and have various sizes for various mission's (i.e.paratroopers).  A dreaming example: Having drone escorts as a defensive shield controlled by on-board mission teams. The first Flying Military Operations and Deployment Center (FMODC)of its type.  Kind of like a flying flag battleship, controlling drones, troops, and  missiles during incursions and operational engagements. Providing a battalion sized unit delivered to the drop zone and then provide air-cover with drones and missiles.  
5. A commercial aircraft model would have to address the visual amenities during flying. Or have an auditorium type seating like a flying theater.
6. Military stealth configurations.

Looking at Boeing' s dance card for current new models takes on its devotion for the 777-X and the 787-10 for the following ten years of time. Then onto another series of upgrades for those future 777X and 787's models models that are sent through the engineering hopper of lessons learned one more time of next generation CRP aircraft.  Applying newest technology and engines leap to that family of aircraft for an additional 10 years, taking the Boeing journey until 2035 and beyond.  I would see a full production attempt for the BWB concept by 2040, with an initial offering for military, freight, and passenger types all dialed in during that time. It would only come sooner if some external events push the project. But Boeing is laying in the weeds, could pounce sooner than later, if the military needs arise. Boeing's flying large scale X-48C, now in testing is a proof of concept for a large military or cargo aircraft or offensive tactics.