CubCrafters Unveils Ducted Fan Leading Edge Slats


Already known for its aircraft’s nearly instant takeoffs and landings measured in plane lengths, CubCrafters is developing a new kind of powered leading-edge slat that will shorten both. The company has unveiled its Electric Lift Augmenting Slats (ELAS) and says it has the potential for broad application in the industry. It also might blunt the appeal of eVTOL aircraft while adapting technology developed for those aircraft. “ELAS is a disruptive concept that carries unprecedented benefits, including enabling fixed-wing aircraft to operate outside of designated airports and manage much higher payloads versus comparable eVTOL aircraft—all while enhancing safety,” said CEO Patrick Horgan.

On the test bed NX Cub, the company uses a dozen small electric ducted fans to blow air across the top of the wing. The faster air over the top surface increases lift by a factor of 1.5 to 4, depending on the flight profile. The patented technology can be added to existing airframes or incorporated at the factory. “As our research and development continues, ELAS may prove to have the ability to dramatically enhance the short field performance capabilities of fixed-wing aircraft in general aviation as well as commercial aviation,” Horgan said.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Interesting. Can someone tell me why you can’t just embed the motors in the wing to blow air over the surface through slots. You could also distribute the airflow more evenly via ducts. Seems like less drag. Also, if you do this do you need the slats?

    • You can, lots of engineering work in 50-70’s with bleed air thru ducts (leading or trailing edges/ Coanda) penalty is structural complexity, maint headaches to maintain clean ducts and consequences of engine loss when below unblown stall speed. Engines exhausting across wing are less complex, but there’s cruise drag penalty and skins take a beating. This concept is potentially draggy in cruise but given limited speed range/priorities of a Cub is comparatively “simple” if you discount the wiring/mounts. Cub solution compared to exotic concepts kind of like fixed gear vs retracts, in slower aircraft fixed gear reduced weight (less induced drag)/simplicity beats out more complex retract’s reduction in form drag.

      For laminar flow comment, high AOA is about maintaining boundary layer attachment, laminar boundary layers separate sooner than turbulent flow (dimples on golf balls). Laminar also more demanding of production/maint/contamination

    • Yes. Many GA aircraft have laminar flow wings. Even comparatively normal planes like the PA28. Most gliders too.

  2. Yup . . . this’ll make my Piper Cub much more better. How is it a dozen reasons come to mind why this is a dumb idea?

    • Agree. Kind of like the Whittaker landing gear they developed for rough fields when all they needed to do was put bigger tires on. That wing looks like it has a ton of drag. Takes off and lands slower but cruises slower still.

  3. Rich R covered pretty much what is/was part of the picture of aeronautical aerodynamics development, and boy! there’s so much more that could be developed… Well, the guys researching and experimenting in a full size aircraft is always a good thing. Lots to learn and deal with “new” packages and ideas. When I was developing a flying wing, and an amphibian and an ultralight aircraft I had the opportunity to make and use 12 full size different wings with different profiles and it was exhilarating to see what goes when you are actually flying the aircraft. Stall characteristics, cruise speed, what is the real result of profiles with this Cl that Cd etc…All in all it’s fun to see “new” ideas coming up being experimented and developed. As for me, this project is almost no deal. Can you imagine what would happen when you are flying and those little ducts are bombarded by bugs? LOL.
    Imagine cleaning it up! LOL 

  4. I doubt the application here is to make a super-STOL Carbon Cub more so but to provide a workable alternative to the phantasmagoric EVTOL.

  5. Somebody at Cubcrafters either has OCD OR … all that public money they got from their IPO is burning a hole in their pockets. If they wanna build specialty low volume airplanes that pop into the air … let Mike Patey do it. He already has a buck rogers looking ‘thingy’ shown last year at Airventure. OR … maybe they’ve been watching too many NASA Armstrong X-57 videos and they want to compete? During the USAF STOL transport YC-14 / YC-15 competition, Boeing had an idea to use ‘blown flaps’ from two huge engines. For good reason, the USAF went for the standard McDonnell Douglas YC-15 design with four engines … which turned into the C-17.

    Why doesn’t Cubcrafters use all that money to try to figure out how to mass produce an airplane for “everyman?” You know … one that mere mortals can AFFORD and would sell like hotcakes at a Sunday AM fly in breakfast. HEY … like a Cub. IF MOSAIC comes in as we all hope it will (I ain’t holdin’ my breath), there’ll be a place for such an airplane … not THIS abortion.

    • What makes you think this tech will not improve sales, reduce costs, or both? It may be the innovation that makes your “everyman” plane possible.

      The idea that all the best in flying is already here continues to amaze me.

      • See the comment of Rodger the Dodger, below, ‘old Eric. This notion is RIDICULOUS! Parts count alone will guarantee that. And a vaporware video of smoke tests of this system is not a saleable airplane. Please continue to be amazed. And when YOU buy one … let us all know.

        • Sorry, but your notion that parts count alone will increase cost is just not true. Modern cars have much higher parts counts and you get a lot more capability and reliability for the inflation adjusted dollar than you did with the 1960’s cars.

          The tech here is not vaporware. What’s not going to improve things is continuing to do what we have been doing.

          Finally, I’d appreciate your not putting words in my mouth. I don’t know where you got the idea I’m “amazed” by this. Seems rather straightforward to me.

  6. $300,000 to $400,000 for a “Cub”. Now let’s make it more expensive and harder to maintain. That is America today, flash and cash. The rest of us just watch.