Researchers and engineers who are working to develop the highly-anticipated, futuristic ‘Flying-V’ aircraft, at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in partnership with Dutch airline KLM in the Netherlands, reached a major milestone this summer by conducting the design’s first successful maiden flight.
The design doesn’t have the length of the comparable long-haul, widebody Airbus A350, but it has the same wingspan, which means that the Flying-V would suit present airport infrastructure, such as gates and runways. It would also be able to carry roughly the same number of passengers (314 in the standard configuration) and the same volume of cargo.
The revolutionary, V-shaped design integrates the passenger cabin, cargo hold and fuel tanks right into the aircraft’s wing structure. Being lighter-weight and producing less air resistance, the Flying-V is projected to reduce fuel consumption by 20 percent, according to current calculations. It also promises to increase sustainability by virtue of being suited to the use of liquid hydrogen, instead of kerosene, as fuel.
For the maiden flight, experts transported a nine-foot, 50-pound scale model Airplane to a guarded airbase in Germany, where researchers and engineers partnered with an Airbus team to test takeoffs, landings, approaches and various in-flight maneuvers.
A drone pilot remotely controlled the aircraft, which was able to take off at a speed of around 50 miles per hour, and its flight speeds, angles and thrust capabilities all performed as planned, reported CNN.
Project leader Roelof Vos, Assistant Professor of Aerospace Engineering TU Delft and researcher in Flight Performance and Propulsion, commented: “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. 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.”
While most of the flight variables matched with developers’ predictions, the team did have to make some tweaks to correct issues that arose. Namely, they had to adjust the aircraft’s center of gravity, as well as fix its antenna to improve telemetry. The maiden flight also served to confirm that the current design still demonstrates too much ‘Dutch roll’—a combined oscillation in yawing (“tail-wagging”) and rolling (rocking from side to side) motion—which can result in a slightly rough landing.
The development team’s next step will be using the data collected during this test flight to create an aerodynamic software model of the Flying-V, which they can later use to program a flight simulator to be utilized in future research while also refining flight characteristics.
For more information, visit tudelft.nl/flying-v.