This is how we will fly in the future

Flying in a futuristic designed aircraft that carries passengers in the wings and also reduces CO2 emissions. It is not the purpose of a draft project that come out in a distant future of the next millennium. It is what the customers of the Dutch airline KLM will soon be doing. The plane of the future, which carries the name Flying-V, has in fact already made its first flight.

It was developed by researchers of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands based on the brilliant idea of a Technical University of Berlin student, Justus Benad. The main idea was to create an airplane model with a low environmental impact. So they created an aircraft with a structure inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s guitar. Its V-shape would allow passengers, cargo hold and fuel tanks to be placed in the wings, thus reducing the size of the cockpit and, consequently, fuel consumption. The latter should be 20% lower than that of current air vehicles, taking an Airbus A350-900 as a benchmark.

Currently, air flights are the most responsible for Co2 emissions, constituting about 2.5% of total emissions. Thus, driven by the common interest of all airlines to focus on more environmentally friendly aircrafts, the Dutch national airline, KLM, decided to finance the project and put its name on it. KLM CEO and President, Pieter Elbers, said in a press release “In recent years, KLM has developed as a pioneer in sustainability within the airline industry” and then added, “We are proud of our progressive cooperative relationship with TU Delft”.

The aircraft in question is 55 meters long, has a wingspan of 65 meters and can carry up to 314 passengers. Although it has the same capacity of a standard commercial flight, it is much lighter and therefore able to use 20% less fuel. Furthermore, its aerodynamic shape makes it more agile and performing.

Last September, a demonstration flight was carried out with a scale model of 22.5 kg and 3 meters in length, inside a German air base. The test took place under the watchful eyes of an Airbus team that tested its maneuvers, take-offs, approaches and landings. Pilot Nando var Arnhem, using a drone, drove the take-off. 

Assistant Professor of Delf University’s Aerospace Engineering Faculty, Roelof Vos, confessed that one of their main concerns was that the plane had trouble taking off. Then he explained: “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.” During the test, they managed to get the scale model off the ground at a speed of 80 km/h.

Researchers are well on track but it will take some time for passengers to get onboard. Several tests are still needed to perfect the flights of Flying-V, which is expected to begin populating our skies between 2040 and 2050.

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