The Boeing X-48 Blended Wing Body subscale research aircraft made its 100th flight at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, CA. The unmanned X-48C aircraft was flown on two separate 25-minute flights -- the seventh and eighth flights for the X-48C since it began flying Aug. 7. Between 2007 and 2010, the aircraft, then in the X-48B configuration, made 92 flights.
The X-48 is a scale model of a heavy-lift, subsonic aircraft that forgoes the conventional tube-and-wing airplane design in favor of a modified delta design that effectively blends the vehicle's wing and body into a smoothly contoured configuration. Boeing and NASA believe the blended or hybrid wing body concept offers the long-term potential of significantly greater fuel efficiency and reduced noise.
The X-48C, which was modified from the previous X-48B version, is configured with two small 89-pound-thrust turbojet engines instead of the three 50-pound-thrust engines on the B-model. The wingtip winglets on the X-48B have been relocated inboard next to the engines on the C-model, effectively turning them into twin tails, and the aft deck was extended about two feet at the rear.
Earlier flight tests of the X-48B proved that a blended wing body aircraft can be controlled as effectively as a conventional tube-and-wing aircraft during takeoffs and landings and other low-speed segments of the flight regime. With the X-48C, the team has been evaluating the impact of noise-shielding concepts on low-speed flight characteristics.
The Boeing-NASA team expects to fly the X-48C approximately 20 more times before the flight-test program concludes.