Design contract seeks 'greener' airliners

Jan. 27, 2012 at 5:05 PM
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GREENBELT, Md., Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Three U.S. companies are designing leaner, greener aircraft in a contract with NASA's Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project, the agency says.

The Boeing Co. in Huntington Beach, Calif., Lockheed Martin in Palmdale, Calif., and Northrop Grumman in El Segundo, Calif., have spent a year developing technology that would allow future aircraft to burn 50 percent less fuel than aircraft that entered service in 1998, a NASA release said Friday.

The goals of the design competition also include a 75-percent reduction in harmful emissions and the shrinking of geographic areas affected by objectionable airport noise by 83 percent.

"The real challenge is we want to accomplish all these things simultaneously," ERA project manager Fay Collier said. "It's never been done before. We looked at some very difficult metrics and tried to push all those metrics down at the same time."

NASA awarded $11 million to the three research teams to assess what kinds of aircraft designs and technologies could help meet the goals, and the companies have just delivered their first results to the agency.

"We'll be digesting the three studies and we'll be looking into what to do next," Collier said.

Boeing's advanced vehicle concept centers around the company's now familiar blended wing body design.

Lockheed Martin engineers proposed a box wing design, in which a front wing mounted on the lower belly of the plane is joined at the tips to an aft wing mounted on top of the plane.

Northrop Grumman has embraced company history with a flying wing design as championed by Northrop founder Jack Northrop and reminiscent of its B-2 stealth bomber.

"All of the teams have done really great work during this conceptual design study," Mark Mangelsdorf, ERA Project chief engineer, said.

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