350-Passenger H Series. Image: MIT/Aurora Flight Sciences
Looking 3 Plane Generations AheadWhat will the airplanes of the future be like? This is the question that the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT tried to answer for NASA. The goal was to look 3 generations ahead of the current planes (that's around the 2035 timeframe) and improve substantially on current tech in the areas of fuel-efficiency, noise, NOx emissions, safety, etc. Two plane designs came out of the research project; one to replace the current Boeing 737, and the other to replace the 777. Read on for more details.
180-Passenger D Series. Image: MIT/Aurora Flight Sciences
180-Passenger D Series
The smaller of the two designs, the 180-passenger D "double bubble" series plane would be used for domestic flights. Built with current conventional aluminum and current jet technology, it would burn about 50% less fuel than a 737. But if it used more advanced materials and jet tech, fuel savings could be as high as 70%. That's very significant, especially if oil-based fuel is replaced with advanced biofuels made without fossil-fuel inputs.
350-Passenger H Series
The bigger of the two planes is the 350-passenger H "hybrid wing body" series that would replace the 777 for international flights. One interesting result from using the flying-wing approach: "The large center body creates a forward lift that eliminates the need for a tail to balance the aircraft." The H would also meet NASA's 70% fuel reduction target, as well as the 75% NOx emission reduction goal.