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Boeing X-48B

Boeing X-48B

Boeing X-48B

Boeing X-48B

Boeing X-48B

Boeing X-48B


There are two different types of remote control aircraft. There are those made by hobby fliers just for the fun of it. And then there are multi-million dollar remotely piloted aircraft developed by huge aerospace companies. The Boeing X-48B, quite obviously, falls into the latter category.

The X-48B has a 6.4 meter (21 foot) wingspan, and weighs in at 230 kgs (500 lbs). Power comes from three turbojet engines mounted at the rear of the aircraft. It can fly at up to 136 mph (220 km/h), and reach an altitude of 3,000 meters (10,000 feet). Like I said, this isn't your everyday RC plane.

The X-48B wasn't just created as some sort of elaborate toy for Boeing engineers to mess around with during coffee breaks either - however cool that would be. Instead the aircraft is being used to experiment with the idea of developing a full-size blended-wing transport aircraft in the future.

Blended-wing aircraft are nothing new, in fact the Germans were designing blended-wing aircraft towards the end of the Second World War. There have been recent notable blended-wing aircraft too, including the Northrop Grumman B2 bomber. However the Boeing X-48B's full-size successor would be the first blended-wing aircraft designed primarily as a military transport and passenger aircraft.

Blended wing aircraft like the X-48B have a number of advantages over conventional tube-and-wing passenger aircraft. They are quieter, more fuel efficient, and because the passengers aren't just confined to a thin tube, they also offer far more interior space to the occupants.

Recent advances in composite materials have made it much easier and cheaper to produce blended wing aircraft than it was previously. Aircraft built from composite materials - like the full-size version of the X-48B would be - are lighter and stronger than their metal-made counterparts.

The Boeing X-48B made its first flight in July of 2007, and since then it has made many more. Every test flight has proved a success and the program is moving along nicely. In fact things are going so well that after 80 test flights the team are working on a successor to the aircraft, called the X-48C. This aircraft should be up in the air by 2011.

If the project continues without any hiccups then by 2022 the US Air Force should have themselves a truly unique transport aircraft. A few years after that, you might get to go in one next time you go on vacation.



Source: NASA





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