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The future meets the past as researchers from Old Dominion University, NASA, Boeing and the U.S. Air Force test what could be the shape of some airplanes to come. Engineers have installed a small-scale blended wing body prototype in ODU's Langley Full-Scale Wind Tunnel, an historic tunnel that once hosted some of America's greatest aviation pioneers, including Orville Wright, Howard Hughes and Charles Lindbergh.

Designated the X-48B by the U.S. Air Force, the prototype was developed by Boeing Phantom Works, St. Louis, Mo. The 21-foot wingspan aircraft, designed and built to Boeing specifications by Cranfield Aerospace, is an 8.5 percent scale version of a blended wing body concept. A blended wing body looks like a modified triangular-shaped wing and different than traditional tube and wing airplanes.

Engineers from Old Dominion are putting the X-48B through a series of tests in the huge 30- by 60-foot test section. Boeing and NASA want to assess the prototype's aerodynamic characteristics and use the wind tunnel data to better predict how it will react during flight tests later this year at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California..

The Air Force Research Laboratory has partnered with NASA and Boeing in the research effort. The Air Force is interested in the blended wing body concept's potential as a multi-role military aircraft that could be used for many different missions.

This article was posted on: April 28, 2006

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