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Flying V Design For Commercial Airliner Passes Its First Test Flight

The future of humans getting from one point to another very quickly, en masse, just took an interesting step thanks to aerospace engineers with KLM Royal Dutch airlines and TU Delft. In a departure from traditional aircraft designs, the KLM and TU Delft engineers are re-examining how we might all take to the skies one day, and it's actually showing remarkable promise.

If you've flown commercial, you know pretty much what you're going to get when you step on board a plane.

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You'll be in the middle of rows of seats along a giant tube with a couple of wings attached to it. Big or small, that's what commercial airliners come down to.

The Flying V design being developed in The Netherlands does away with that concept, doing away with the central fuselage and instead putting passenger seating in the wings.

Preliminary computer modeling suggests that the Flying V design should have significant advantages.

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Researchers say the design should cut fuel consumption by 20% over the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, both of which are among the most advanced passenger aircraft in the skies today. Such promise earned the design from TU Delft a major investment from KLM back in June 2019.

As great as computer modeling is, it's not the same as seeing something actually in flight.

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So the KLM and TU Delft teams have been hard at work constructing a 22.5 kg, 3-meter long model to prove that the Flying V design can actually take flight. Working alongside a team of Airbus engineers, the group gathered at a remote German airbase for the test flight of the model, unsure what exactly would happen.

"One of our worries was that the aircraft might have some difficulty lifting-off, since previous calculations had shown that 'rotation' could be an issue," TU Delft assistant professor Roelof Vos said in a press release. "The team optimized the scaled flight model to prevent the issue but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. You need to fly to know for sure."

When the time came, the model did indeed fly.

In the lead-up to the test flight, the team had to adjust its center of gravity and fix the antenna for telemetry. But on the day of the flight, the plane took off at a speed of about 80 kmph and the team put it through its paces, executing a series of maneuvers and approaches before landing again. The landing showed that they still have some work to do as well, as the aircraft showed too much "Dutch roll."

With the new data and proof that the plane can fly, the engineers have even more work cut out for them.

Next they'll take the aerodynamic data they have and work up a new software simulation, as well as tweaking the model for future tests. If everything holds up, then there's the matter of building a full-scale prototype.

In the meantime, the engineering team are taking some time to appreciate their accomplishment. "It's been two years of intense stressful work to reach this moment," said Malcolm Brown, TU Delft's lead on the project, in a video. "And then, to have it confirmed that it flies, all of that hard work, it was worth putting in all of the hours making sure everything's correct and built properly, built accurately, and it pays off."

h/t: CNN, Business Insider

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