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Jet's `blended wing' design tests the skies

July 28, 2007|From the Associated Press

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE — An experimental tailless jet that resembles a wing flew for the first time in a program that could lead to more fuel-efficient, quieter and higher-capacity aircraft, NASA said Thursday.

Controlled from a ground station, the 8.5%-scale version of the planned X-48B "blended wing body" aircraft took off July 20, climbed to 7,500 feet and landed about half an hour later, according to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in the Mojave Desert.

The X-48B resembles a wing, but the wing blends into a wide, flat fuselage, NASA and Boeing Co. said. The prototype is 500 pounds with a 21-foot wingspan. It has three engines.

The design is intended to provide more lift with less drag compared with the cylindrical fuselage of a traditional aircraft, reducing fuel consumption while cruising.

The engines are high on the back of the aircraft, which should mean it is quieter to people inside and on the ground.

The aircraft and a duplicate were designed by Boeing's Phantom Works in cooperation with NASA and the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. They were built by Cranfield Aerospace Ltd. in Bedford, England.

The planes are initially flying at low speeds to test the design's stability and flight-control characteristics, particularly during takeoff and landing.

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