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New Plane Designs Could Save Fuel, Emissions

Futuristic airplane designs that currently exist only as drawings could soon take real flight, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

What’s going on: “NASA in June launched a competition for U.S. companies to design and build a full-scale demonstrator. The rules require entrants to target planes around the size of a Boeing Co. 737 that can carry 150 passengers. The agency wants a prototype that could fly as early as 2027 and be ready for mass production in the next decade.”

  • Though the agency won’t comment on submissions, which were due in September, the ideas submitted likely “include plane bodies that look like flying wings with passengers seated 10 or more across, compared with rows of six on a Boeing 737.”
  • “Others have long, thin wings that would have to fold to fit into airport gates. In some designs, jets under the wing are replaced by rear-facing propellers mounted on the back of the plane.”

New designs, new promise: Two of the three main plane models around which designers have coalesced in recent years “use the main body of the plane to provide lift, rather than relying mainly on the wings,” promising better fuel efficiency and lower emissions.

Boeing’s role: Aircraft manufacturer Boeing, which is working with NASA on a plane design featuring “truss-braced” wings, has been working on the concept for more than a decade and “sees significant potential benefits in fuel consumption and emissions.”

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