Airbus has been messing about with a small demonstrator aeroplane that looks like something you'd see orbiting a moonbase on the cover of a 1970s science fiction novel, with its blended-wing aircraft design possibly sailing to the rescue of the air industry thanks to offering a quantum leap in fuel efficiency.
Well, they say the plane – codenamed Maveric – would be 20 per cent more efficient than today's winged tube norms, which is quite a substantial change and would have more of a positive environmental impact than blending 0.001 per cent of cooking oil into the EasyJet tankers of the year 2050. Airbus currently has a three metre test version of the plane – hopefully powered by something larger than twisted-up elastic bands – with which it has been secretly experimenting with control characteristics since last summer to see if it actually works.
And that's the problem, as this style of plane is harder to control than the single aisle tubes, plus the wider chassis means humans might sit further from the central axis of the machine and would therefore experience greater forces as the machines turn. Hence it might be a bit of a vomit ride, and such a design may be relegated to the role of cargo workhorse, should it still be socially acceptable to eat locally out of season soft fruits flown in from Costa Rica as the world burns in the year 2047 and even the cockroaches are moaning about the heat in the shade.
Airbus engineering head Jean-Brice Dumont said: "Let's be very clear; we are studying an option. But with what we've done, we've already learned a lot. It has clearly helped us understand the flight behavior, which is the core of what we need to study such a disruptive configuration in real conditions." [AIN Online via Reuters]