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Triangle-shaped plane set to be a game-changer for sustainable air travel

23 November 2023

Commissioned by the US Air Force, a new aircraft featuring an innovative blended wing body (BWB) is set to take to the skies within the next four years.

Image: JetZero
Image: JetZero

Originally conceived at Boeing under the leadership of Robert Liebeck, the form of the BWB aircraft is completely blended, acting as a single wing rather than the conventional tube and wing configuration.

This structure promises significantly lower drag, translating to 20-30 percent lower fuel burn using current engines.

“No other conventional airliner comes close in terms of efficiency,” claims Liebeck.

Liebeck first started on the design back in the 1980s, when he was the leader of the team at Boeing team, which was funded by NASA. Now in his mid-80s, he works as a consultant at the company JetZero, which has been tasked by the US Air Force to build and fly the aircraft in four years. This means that this isn’t an innovation on the distant horizon; it’s just around the corner. “2027, that’s tomorrow,” Liebeck says.

The BWB will be used for both commercial flights and as a military tanker. The aircraft's unique design, with engines located on top, reduces airport noise by 30-50 decibels, potentially allowing for 24/7 airport operations.

The aircraft has the potential to transform military operations, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, notes, saying that it will “significantly reduce fuel demand, giving our warfighters the strategic advantage they need to win.”

Given the Air Force's status as the largest consumer of fossil fuels within the Department of Defense, BWB would be a huge step forward in cutting carbon emissions. Not only that, but its potential to be adapted to liquid hydrogen as fuel could render it carbon-free.

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