Believe it or not, one of the A’s in NASA stands for Aeronautics. It may not get as much press as their space stuff does, but the work is no less important and helps develop key technologies that advance the design and safety of modern aircraft. Yesterday, at Edwards Air Force Base in California, NASA tested out a concept for a futuristic blended wing body aircraft that may well be norm several decades from now. Don’t get too excited though; like they say in Camelot, it’s only a model.
This remotely piloted scale model of the X-48C was built in a joint venture between NASA’s Langley Research Center and Boeing Phantom Works. The initial concept of the craft was created back in the ’90s by McDonnell Douglas when they were experimenting with blended wing body (BWB) designs in order to increase fuel efficiency, control, and interior space. When Boeing acquired McDonnell Douglas they shelved the design as a commercial craft due to concerns that people wouldn’t like flying on an aircraft that had so little access to window seats (apparently the interior seating of the craft would be more like a movie theater than a traditional airplane). Over the past several years, Boeing and NASA pulled the design out of mothballs and have been testing it with a serious eye towards the future of aviation. The current “C” variant of the X-48 is meant to test out ways to reduce the noise of what will be a huge aircraft.
One thing is for sure, if this thing ever goes into production as a commercial aircraft then Southwest will almost certainly go under due to the costs of red, blue, and orange paint.