More ‘Bird-Like’ Wing Now Under Development At Airbus


UpNext, the innovation division of Airbus, announced last week it plans to be flight testing a Cessna Citation VII testbed with “morphing wing” technology in 2024. The developmental concept takes an aircraft’s complement of control surfaces to a whole new level, well beyond flaps, ailerons, slats and vortex generators.

Similarly to how a bird can use its thousands of feathers to almost infinitely refine the aerodynamic shape of its wings for various phases of flight, the morphing wing concept adds gust sensors, pop-up spoilers, multi-functional trailing edge configurations and a semi-aeroelastic hinge to all the conventional control surfaces to more completely leverage aerodynamics for efficiency. Airbus claims the morphing wing can exact improvements of up to 10 percent in specific fuel consumption.

Airbus’s “Wings of Tomorrow” program, launched in September 2021, gave rise to work on the so-called “extra performance wing.” The testbed, reportedly a 1999 Citation VII, will undergo the structural transformation at Cazaux air base in southwest France. Test flights of the extra-performance-wing-equipped business jet will start in 2024, with an eye toward adapting the technology to multiple applications, including larger aircraft.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Seems like we are leading to full AI control. Theoretically safer and more efficient. But, I’m too old to care.

  2. It’s seems like every time someone comes up with a “new” wing configuration, we end up with the same basic principle that the Wright bros. came up with over 100 years ago. Wilbur and Orville look more and more like geniuses now, just like they were then. As much as current engineers try, there is no changing the basic laws of aerodynamics that the Wright’s worked with/discovered.

  3. Maybe it is time to use some of the stability control computer capacity used in the Spirit and other advanced technology if it is available to industry in developing variable wing functions.