The fuselage would be turned into one wing to create less drag and engines would sit on top, with the wing shielding the noise from the ground. Passengers would sit in rows of up to 40 seats across. Wings would consume only a third of the fuel used by existing aircraft. They will be constructed of plastic, rather than aluminium, to reduce their weight. The outer surface would be covered in millions of tiny holes to reduce drag by sucking in air as it flows over the wing.
The impact on the world’s climate would be reduced even further by changes in the way that airlines operate. All airliners will alter their cruising altitude to avoid the conditions that form condensation trails. They could also reduce the amount of fuel they burn by flying in formation, as jet fighters do.
From the Times:
Boeing is working on designs for a military flying wing that will serve as a troop carrier or tanker. Cranfield University, in Bedfordshire, is producing a scale model for Boeing, which will be used for flight tests.
Airbus is also working on a flying wing design under a four-year, £20 million research project that is funded by the European Union and expected to report in 2009.
From the IEE on some of the ways used to make the future aircraft less noisy:
* putting the engines above the aircraft, so that the body of the plane itself shields the ground from noise
* embedding them in long ducts, muffled with acoustic liners, to reduce the noise
* designing an advanced engine; relocating the engines inside the airframe raises many engineering challenges.
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