China Flies Subscale Blended Wing Body Airliner Concept
China’s Northwestern Polytechnical University has flown a subscale model of a 300-330-seat blended wing body (BWB) airliner concept, the BWB-300, designed in collaboration with commercial aircraft manufacturer Comac.
The 10.3%-scale model was flown autonomously from the UAV flight-test center at Jingbian in Shaanxi Province on Jan. 30. A team led by the university has been researching the BWB concept since the late 1990s, and development of the design began in 2017.
The low-speed model appears similar in size to the X-48B demonstrator, an 8.5%-scale model of a 450-seat BWB flown by Boeing and NASA in 2007, and is larger than the Maveric demonstrator, a subscale model of a 200-seat BWB airliner flown by Airbus in 2020.
Comac has previously flown subscale models of a blended-wing regional airliner, a truss-braced-wing narrowbody and a fuel-cell-powered aircraft as it explores next-generation aircraft configurations.
The BWB-300 has a deep, lifting fuselage similar to that of the 200-seat SAX-40 BWB concept produced by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Cambridge University team in 2006 under the Silent Aircraft Initiative. Like Boeing’s later BWB concepts, the design has two engines mounted on top of the body between twin vertical fins.
The concept has “spacious and comfortable” 16-abreast seating, which reduces forces on passengers in the outboard seats when the aircraft is turning, according to Northwestern Polytechnical University. Adding eight exits along the lower fuselage will allow all passengers to evacuate the aircraft within the 90 sec. required for certification.
The university says the Chinese team plans to focus next on structural design and noise reduction and development of concepts for electric- and hydrogen-powered BWBs with distributed propulsion. Under Airbus’ ZEROe zero-emission aircraft initiative, the Maveric concept is a longer-term candidate for a hydrogen-powered airliner because of the large internal volume provided by a BWB design.
—With Chen Chuanren in Singapore