A man holds a V-shaped model airplane above his head and runs across a field, finally letting go and watching it glide a few feet above the ground.
This rudimentary flight test was the very first step in creating a bold new aircraft that its inventors say could change the way we fly by 2041.
Roelof Vos, assistant professor at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at TU University of Delft in the Netherlands, works with a team of engineers to build the Flying V, as the name suggests an unusual V-shaped plane which is about to shake up designer planes with its innovative oval cabin.
“I am an aircraft designer,” he said. “And this plane is magnificent”.
The project is a collaboration with KLM and Airbus and aims to strike a blow at green aviation.
“We want to have a big impact on reducing fuel consumption, and this aircraft is designed to be more energy efficient,” Vos said. “We are at a plateau in terms of aviation efficiency and the Flying V is trying to overcome this plateau. We have a long way to go but it is a good starting point ”.
Flying V prototype
The Flying V was the now patented idea of Justuce Benad, an intern at Airbus in Hamburg, who placed two fuselage cannons of an A380 aircraft at an angle to each other.
The cargo hold is inside the wings behind a 6.1 meter wide oval cabin for passengers. The fuselages contain plugs that can be easily removed to reduce the size of the aircraft.
Integration with the airport terminal is facilitated by two side-by-side doors for not only better emergency evacuation, but also quick passenger boarding and disembarking.
Vos believes that 2041 is a “fair target date” for the first prototype and admits that there is a lot of research and development to be done.
“The oval structure is completely new; how do we know it is effective? He thought.
“We could make the plane more efficient by making it smaller, but we don’t want it to be cramped for the passengers, so we are exploring different ways to set up the cabin,” Vos said.
“We don’t have a tail, so the design is simple, but the Flying V has to come at a very high angle, like the Concorde, so we have the highest landing gear ever built for a five-meter plane. tall that must fit into the fuselage. There are a lot of unknown unknowns. “
The Flying V could be powered by huge tanks of pressurized liquid hydrogen which would sacrifice 70% of the cargo volume. “But that’s the trade-off we have to make to make aviation carbon neutral,” Vos said.
The first official test flight – which was a little more advanced than a man running through a field – saw engineers from the University of Delft fly a three-meter scale version of the Flying V to measure the aerodynamics during flight.
Controlling the aircraft via a laptop on the ground was Chief Engineer Malcolm Brown.
“It has been two years of stressful and intensive work,” he said. “Seeing it in the air was worth every hour.” The test flight was the culmination of years of hard work, and the moment the model took off was understandably moving.
“Malcolm was emotional because after two years on the job, the big fear was that it would stagnate and collapse,” Vos said. “But seeing it take off and stay in the air meant that our calculations were good enough for our first test flight and that was a relief.”
The next step for Vos and Brown is to build a 13-meter-scale drone replica to test in a wind tunnel for handling, take-off and landing dynamics, and noise.
“We need to scale it up and test it in a more professional environment,” Vos admitted.
“We want to find people that we can collaborate with and make our vision come true. It’s a very inspiring project, the good thing is that there is a lot to discover. There is so much to discover. which we hadn’t thought of when we started the research and that makes it very interesting for us. “
Among all the unknowns, however, there is one thing Vos is sure of. “The Flying V will absolutely change the way we fly,” he said. “Literally”.