X-48C completes successful test flight

A Boeing-designed futuristic aircraft with the potential to boost fuel efficiency significantly while reducing noise had a successful test flight, NASA said.

The remotely piloted X-48C Blended Wing Body research aircraft, a scaled-down model of the proposed design, flew Tuesday at Edwards Air Force Base in California’s Mojave Desert.

Built by Cranfield Aerospace Limited in Britain, the X-48C has a wingspan of about 20 feet, weighs about 500 pounds and can fly up to 140 mph, reaching an altitude of 10,000 feet.

Tuesday’s flight lasted 9 minutes and reached 5,500 feet, seattlepi.com reported.

The aircraft is a successor to the X-48B, which flew from 2007 to 2010.

Modifications include moving wingtip winglets to the fuselage, extending the length by 2 feet and replacing the X-48B’s three 50-pound thrust jet engines with two 89-pound thrust engines.

“In our earlier flight testing of the X-48B, we proved that a BWB aircraft can be controlled as effectively as a conventional tube-and-wing aircraft during takeoffs and landings and other low-speed segments of the flight regime,” Bob Liebeck, Boeing’s blended wing body program manager, said in a release. “With the X-48C, we will be evaluating the impact of noise shielding concepts on low-speed flight characteristics.”

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to Military.com. He can be reached at mhoffman@tandemnsi.com.
  • DGR

    Ive been following this closely. If consumers decide they want the windows, then if nothing else we have the ground work for some really cool freightors and military birds down the road. Time will tell, but for companies like UPS, the decrease in fuel burn that these tests have shown is extremly interesting. I am all for the blended wing approach and if they can get it to work on a commercial scale then we could very well have the next revolution of air transportation. But then again, we are a long ways from a full scale demonstrator, and that is what they need if they want to get major commercial/military interest.

    • Jeff

      They could always put in some skylights.

      I think the bigger complaint will come from the proposed seating which arranges seats like an auditorium… where many more people are seated in the middle without either bulk head or aisle to one side.

      • Ben

        Or for the more adventurous, floor windows.

    • Taggart

      How about virtual windows? I’ve read that Disney Cruise Lines has virtual port holes in their steerage class cabins.

    • wehaveplans

      virtual windows and also virtual ceilings have been looked at, but I suppose the main issue is will the public take to it in a commercial form. there will always be a hesitancy with an adoption of new unfamiliar technology, the leap from tube to blended wing may be too extreme for conservatives

    • steve

      At first I thought I was looking at a miniature B52 on take-off??? Fuselage sure has a stark resemblance

      • blight_

        So a shark looks like a manta ray….

      • bmart.

        I think you must have meant B2. But still, not so sure as far as the resemblance dude.

    • kim

      A lot of travellers sit in the center aisles of widebody jets, without much chance of looking out the windows. Not that there’s much to see to begin with, whether at day or night. The in-flight entertainment systems are improving anyway, so people get used to the new planes too, especially if it brings fares even further down.

    • John

      The other problem is folks with claustrophobia. Windows help that a bit, and no windows will make it harder for those people to fly.

      • blight_

        It’ll just aggravate people with a fear of heights?

  • Raraavis

    If every passenger has a video screen the could switch to the external camera channel and get much better views than they could from a window.

    If travelers are willing to accept strip searches at the gate and cramped seats with no leg room then no windows will be easy.

    • blight_

      If passengers lay down on their luggage you can double the packing density…

      • Raraavis

        I am waiting for the day they simply drug the passangers and stack them like cord wood for the flight.

    • tiger

      Clouds still look like clouds. There is little to see when flying most of the time. Besides, the Guys at UseLESS Airways will still lose your bags.

  • Peter BullCalf

    “we proved that a BWB aircraft can be controlled as effectively as a conventional tube-and-wing aircraft… ” (only about 90 years after Vincent Justus Bernelli). See aircrash dot org for the truth about BWB technology.

  • tiger

    So when can I buy this at Tower hobbies?

    • UAVGeek

      Probably Hobbyking first.

  • Jeffrey

    That will be a big emprovement in efficacy and just in general

  • Rob

    A problem witht these designs if they go for a Civilian commerical use is the full-size plane would end up being space hog withwise.

    • Dingman

      It is actually the opposite. Before McDonald Douglas was bought out they drew up a BWD that had a smaller wing span than the 747 and held up to 700 passengers.

  • stephen russell

    Basis for the 797 jetliner??

  • paperpushermj

    I hope for those unlucky passengers doomed to sit 30 to 40 ft off the centerline that the chair in front has a built in barf bag.

  • tiger

    what happens to overhead bins?

  • 4FingersOfBourbon

    On a 12 or 20 hr flight in the dark who cares about windows?

  • Pappa51

    Reminds me of the Hydra bomber in Capitain America. . . That thing was cool. I would think that if a guy really wanted too he could make a foam and fiberglass flying RC model of this thing for himself. Tower Hobbies or Hobby People would have most everything you’d need. Looks like fun. . .

  • Bob

    Seems like Jack Northrop’s idea about 60 years ago.

  • Mastro

    The “passengers want windows” argument is a bit thin.

    Passengers also want food, bathrooms, leg room and luggage space. The airlines have told us “fat chance ” on those the last few years- people still fly.

    • PolicyWonk

      True - besides - since flat panels are so cheap (think JetBlue), they could stick cameras all around the air craft, and allow passengers to “switch channels” to get the view they want when desired.

      • blight_

        Or reverse the seats to increase passenger safety in the event of a crash-but then again, it seems crashes tend to be everyone-lives or everyone-dies…

  • Anlushac11

    If this is ever developed full scale some proposals show a blended wing and body very heavy lift aircraft with capacity exceeding the upgraded C-5 Galaxy’s

  • UAVGeek

    It’d be perfect for the KC-Y tanker that’s needed to replace the now 30+ year old KC-10.

  • SJE

    I know that the overwing engine design is quieter and theoretically more fuel efficient, but there is a problem of turbulent air being fed into the engine, which both decreases engine life and reliability. Why not try a standard underwing engine as well?

    • Anlushac11

      Just my humble opinion. Moving engines underwing would require more ground clearance so longer and heavier landing gear. Im guessing would also require wing reinforcement which adds weight. Also if aircraft is to have secondary military heavy lift role no low engines might make aircraft easier to “squat” to offload cargo.

      • Tiger

        I would have gone for a in wing arrangment like on the Avro Vulcan.

    • m167a1

      Noise abatement I expect.

  • Heftyjo

    I’ve got one of these. Its kinda cool….

  • Jeffrey

    I didn’t like the comment on the windowes I think that modern fighters need that much glass with all the radars and heat seeking tech

    • blight_


  • Guest

    Passengers could be stacked one above another 4 high, given sedative, and made comatose for flight. Upon arrival passengers could be offloaded like logs rolled off plane down chute.. Call it First Class

    • Rhys F

      Cargo Class more like!

  • Johnno

    For years now we’ve been told how much more fuel has been save with newer designed engines GE, Rolls Royce Pratt and Whitney, we can save this many tons on this leg and so on but here is the kick, with the price of fuel there are no savings at all. The passenger is still getting slugged and lets face it passenger tickets are just the icing on the cake, it’s the cargo below the seats that is making the money