Flying-V airliner design shows promise after first successful flight


A scale model of the Flying-V  energy-efficient aircraft being developed by researchers in Holland has flown for the first time.

The research program, which started last year, is being conduced by researchers from Technical Univeristy of Delft (TU Delft) and is receiving funding from Dutch Airline KLM.

The first flight of the Flying-V model, which was initially planned for last October, was conducted after extensive wind tunnel testing and a series of ground tests. The first flight with the 3m wide, 22.5kg, battery-powered scale-model was conducted at an airbase in Germany.

The aircraft’s v-shaped design integrates the passenger cabin, the cargo hold and the fuel tanks into the wings. Researchers believe that the Flying-V’s improved aerodynamic shape and reduced weight will mean it uses 20% less fuel than the Airbus A350.

If built, the Flying-V would not be as long as the A350 but would have the same 65m wingspan and would carry the same number of passengers – 314 in the standard configuration – and the same volume of cargo, 160 cubic meters.

Pieter Elbers, President and CEO of KLM said, “We were very curious about the flight characteristics of the Flying-V. The design fits within our Fly Responsibly initiative, which stands for everything we are doing and will do to improve our sustainability. We want a sustainable future for aviation and innovation is part of that.

“The next step will be to fly the Flying V on sustainable fuel.”

During the test flight a series of manoeuvres was successfully performed and data for future analysis collected.

Dr. Roelof Vos, assistant professor of aerospace engineering at TU Delft said, “One of our worries was that the aircraft might have some difficulty lifting-off, since previous calculations had shown that rotation could be an issue.

“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.”

Rotation on take-off was performed easily and occurred at a speed of 80 km/h. The plane’s thrust was good and flight speeds and angles were as predicted.



A live webinar providing more detail on the Flying-V design and the test flight can be viewed here (registration required).

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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