Airbus has flown a test aircraft for the first time with its new transonic laminar wing that it hopes will reduce wing friction by up to 50 percent. The gain in aerodynamic efficiency would lower carbon-dioxide emissions by 5 percent, the company said. The Flight Lab test aircraft, an A340, flew for about three and a half hours in southern France on Tuesday. It’s the first test aircraft in the world to combine a transonic laminar wing profile with a true internal primary structure, Airbus said. The tests will continue in the coming months, with about 150 hours of flying planned. Airbus said it plans to “simulate every type of imperfection in a controlled manner,” to fully determine the tolerances for building a laminar wing, which is a key goal of the Blade project.
Airbus said the test regimen includes several new techniques and technologies that are being deployed for the first time. On the wings, hundreds of points are being used to measure the waviness of the surface to help Airbus engineers ascertain its influence on the laminarity. Other “firsts” include the use of infrared cameras inside the pod to measure wing temperature and an acoustic generator to measure the influence of acoustics on laminarity.
The engineers also have installed an innovative reflectometry system, which measures overall deformation in real time during flight. Laminar flow, as pilots may recall from ground school, refers to the smooth flow of air across an airfoil. The smoother the air moves, without interruption or turbulence, the less drag will be produced, and lift will increase.