FLYING THROUGH THE AIR IN A BIG “V”

20 percent less fuel consumption than an Airbus A350 – Delft University of Technology’s new concept for a comparable long-haul aircraft should make this possible. The innovative aerodynamic design is reminiscent of a horizontal letter “V”.
The name says it all: “Flying V” – a V-shaped aircraft. Although still only an initial concept idea, it is really something. The design integrates the passenger cabin, the cargo hold and the fuel tanks into the two wings. Together, they form the entire aircraft. The “Flying V” no longer has the traditional round fuselage with wings on both sides, or a tailplane at the rear.

Its “inventor” is a former student at the Technical University of Berlin, Justus Benad. While working on his thesis at the aircraft manufacturer Airbus in Hamburg, he developed the innovative aircraft model, using the modern A350 series from Airbus as a benchmark. The “Flying V” is somewhat shorter, but has the same wingspan as the wide-bodied aircraft. This allows it to use the existing infrastructure at airports such as gates, hangars and runways. The capacity for passengers (314 in the default configuration) and freight (160 cubic meters) is also comparable. The big difference, however, is the aircraft’s energy efficiency. Thanks to its unusual design, the “Flying V” is expected to consume around 20 percent less fuel than the A350, mainly due to its reduced flow surface, which creates less wind resistance.

SMALL-SCALE PROTOTYPE TO DEMONSTRATE FLIGHT CAPABILITY

When Benad presented his initial drafts to his colleagues at Airbus, they were so enthusiastic that they immediately patented the unusual design – with Benad as the inventor. Since then, the current researcher at the Department of System Dynamics and Friction Physics at the Technical University of Berlin has further developed the concept with colleagues from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. This year, the first scaled-down, airworthy prototype with a length and span of three meters will be built and tested. The tests will mainly focus on checking whether the aircraft is stable in the air even at low speeds, as required for take-offs and landings, and the “Flying V” will only be developed to market maturity if the tests are successful.

It was no coincidence that the project moved to the Netherlands. In October 2018, around 20 companies, associations and research institutes presented an action plan for the sustainable development of air transport to the Minister for Infrastructure and Water Management, Cornelia van Nieuwenhuizen. The “Smart and Sustainable” concept aims to significantly accelerate the development towards more sustainable aviation. By the end of 2030, CO2 emissions in Dutch aviation should be reduced by 35 percent, despite a further increase in passenger kilometers.

The “Flying V”’s greater eco-friendliness and fuselage design should also benefit passengers. “The aircraft’s unusual shape offers us many exciting opportunities to redesign the interior and make flying even more comfortable,” says Peter Vink, Professor of Applied Ergonomics and Design in the Faculty of Industrial Design at Delft University of Technology. “We are developing new ideas for the ‘Flying V’, for example, when it comes to on-board relaxation, or food, which could even be served buffet-style in the future”.

“THE DEVELOPMENT OF AVIATION HAS GIVEN THE WORLD A LOT AND OFFERED US THE OPPORTUNITY TO CONNECT PEOPLE. THIS PRIVILEGE IS ASSOCIATED WITH AN ENORMOUS RESPONSIBILITY.”

KLM CEO PIETER ELBERS ON THE MOTIVATION FOR PARTICIPATING IN THE “FLYING V” PROJECT

“Flying V” technical specification

Wingspan: 65 meters
Length: 55 meters
Height: 17 meters
Length: 55 meters
Passengers: 314
Freight capacity: 160 cubic meters
Fuel capacity: 140,000 liters (kerosene)
Efficiency: minus 20% (consumption compared to Airbus A350-900)

THE FUSELAGE IS A FLYING SOUNDPROOF WALL

Benad arranged the engines relatively far back and at the top of the fuselage, which has a pleasant side effect for the passengers – the cabin is much quieter than in conventional aircraft, where the turbines are mounted under the wings and thus much closer to the fuselage. This also benefits people on the ground, especially near the airport. Thanks to its design, the entire aircraft acts like a noise barrier between the engines and the Earth’s surface.

“WE ARE DEVELOPING NEW IDEAS FOR THE ‘FLYING V’, FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN IT COMES TO ON-BOARD RELAXATION, OR FOOD, WHICH COULD EVEN BE SERVED BUFFET STYLE IN THE FUTURE”.

PETER VINK, PROFESSOR OF APPLIED ERGONOMICS AND DESIGN AT THE FACULTY OF INDUSTRIAL DESIGN AT DEÖFT UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY

Delft University of Technology has entered into a partnership agreement with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines for the further practical development of the “Flying V”. For the airline, the innovative concept fits in perfectly with their corporate philosophy, both in terms of content and timing: “The development of aviation has given the world a lot and offered us the opportunity to connect people,” says KLM CEO Pieter Elbers. “This privilege is associated with an enormous responsibility. We have therefore been investing in sustainability at various levels for many years.” The cooperation with Delft University of Technology on the “Flying V” project fits well into their strategy. In October 2019 as part of the airline’s 100th anniversary celebrations, KLM plans to present not just a model, but a full-size cabin section, in the hope that Airbus, or one of the other major aircraft manufacturers, will decide to build the “Flying V” in the coming years.

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Text by Behrend Oldenburg
Renderings: Edwin Wallet, OSO Studio/TU Delft
Photo: KLM