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clean flight

Sep 27, 2017

Airbus’ Bladerunner starts raking air to clean up flying

It might look ungainly, but this could prove the smoothest way to shave costs and emissions in future jets

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

First flight of the laminar test airliner A340-300 MSN001

Airbus flew its A340-300 prototype in a new role today, as a test bed for investigating the friction reducing potential of laminar flow wings.

The technology could cut airflow friction by a wing in half and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by five percent.

In its statement Airbus said the laminar-flow “BLADE” test demonstrator aircraft (A340-300 MSN001) has made its successful maiden flight for the EU-sponsored Clean Sky “Blade” project. The aircraft, dubbed “Flight Lab”, took off from the Tarbes aerodrome in southern France at local time 11:00, and after a series of successful tests it landed at Airbus’ facilities in Toulouse Blagnac after being airborne for three hours 38 minutes.

The BLADE project – which stands for “Breakthrough Laminar Aircraft Demonstrator in Europe” – will assess the feasibility of introducing the technology for commercial aviation. Flight Lab is the first test aircraft in the world to combine a transonic laminar wing profile with a true internal primary structure.

On the outside the aircraft is fitted with two representative transonic laminar outer-wings, while inside the cabin a highly complex specialist flight-test-instrumentation (FTI) station has been installed.

“We began by opening the flight envelope to check that the aircraft was handling correctly,” explains Airbus Flight-Test Engineer, Philippe Seve, who was on board the flight. “We achieved our objective to fly at the design Mach number, at a reasonable altitude and check everything was fine. We also checked that the FTI was working as expected, to identify further fine-tuning for the next flights.”

Blade’s key goal to measure the tolerances and imperfections which can be present and still sustain laminarity. To this end, Airbus will simulate every type of imperfection in a controlled manner, so that at the end of the campaign the tolerances for building a laminar wing will be fully known. The flight Lab will perform around 150 flight hours in the coming months.

One of the blades seen closer up

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4 comments

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4 thoughts on “Airbus’ Bladerunner starts raking air to clean up flying

  1. ghostwhowalksnz

    Isnt all this being done with EU subsidies- The ‘Clean Sky’ is brand name for a whole range of EU subsidised aerospace research projects.
    Lots of planes of course have been ‘designed for’ laminar flow over part of the wings but production processes werent precise enough to get much effect. Even the WW2 Liberator bomber had a ‘low drag wing design’ which they didnt know at the time was due to some laminar flow. Those early attempts including the Mustang and Kingcobra fighters were based on specific airfoil sections with the maximum thickness more aft, but let down by the manufacturing.
    Nowdays all transport aircraft have laminar flow wing designs but the designs are compromised by mitigation for stall characteristics . of course carbon fibre skins can be made much smoother and computer flight controls can improve the stall issues.
    Im hoping that the desired effect is achieved but it works best with a crescent shaped wing with 4 engines! LOL

  2. Jacob HSR

    Can this be retrofitted to old aircraft?

    Another way to cut pollution and waste is to ban airlines, cafes, and restaurants, from throwing aluminium cans in the rubbish bin. Too hard to put it in the recycle bin? Pay up!

    Ditto glass bottles and plastic bottles.

    It takes a huge amount of electricity to make aluminium from bauxite but very little energy to melt aluminium cans.

  3. Ben Sandilands

    Keep in mind that the Airbus statement can also be read as setting the experiment up to explore reasons as to why it might be impracticable in service. This may reflect prior issues with various laminar flow enhancements for fuselages which I understand failed to pass muster because of the accumulation of dust in the grooves and problems in keeping them clean.

  4. Tango

    Boeing did it on the tail of the 787 and have stopped production of that setup.

    As Ben noted, the dust, bugs and dirt just don’t play well.

    Worth looking at and testing ideas to see if they can be overcome but so far nature has us beat on that one.