Boeing's Blended Wing Body (BWB) research aircraft -- designated the X-48B -- made a 31-minute first flight last Friday at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The 21-foot wingspan, 500-pound unmanned quasi flying wing climbed to 7,500 feet during the inaugural jaunt. "We've successfully passed another milestone in our work to explore and validate the structural, aerodynamic and operational efficiencies of the BWB concept," said Boeing Phantom Works Program Manager Bob Liebeck. Up to 25 flights are planned to gather data in low-speed flight regimes, after which Boeing will explore the BWB's noise characteristics and handling characteristics at transonic speeds.
The composite research trijet will be able to fly up to 10,000 feet and 120 knots in its low-speed configuration, though modifications will needed to enable the aircraft to fly at higher speeds. Boeing does not envision a BWB passenger jet in the next 20 years, but the company's integrated defense systems division believes the BWB would be a "flexible, long-range, high-capacity military aircraft."