The aviation industry is desperately searching for new aircraft designs which make flying more economical and environmentally friendly. A miniature model by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines recently completed its maiden flight and shows what more efficient aeroplanes could look like in the future. The remote-controlled flight of the futuristic-looking Flying-V was the culmination of two years’ work by KLM and Delft University of Technology. Unlike conventional aircraft, the Flying-V has a single unit incorporating both the fuselage and the wings. With a new aerodynamic fuselage design which enables longer ranges and better fuel usage, it is hoped that so-called wing-only aircraft will take efficiency to a new level and reduce fuel consumption by 20% compared with the most cutting-edge aeroplanes available today.
According to KLM, the Flying-V has the same wingspan as an Airbus A350, meaning that existing airport gates and taxiways could be used. The turbofan engines are located on the plane’s fuselage instead of on the underside of the wings; the passenger cabins would probably be split between the two sides of the V-shaped fuselage. Although the model is not full-sized, the flight of the miniature model proved that the aircraft works aerodynamically and can fly as planned. The next step is for KLM and TU Delft to build a full-sized prototype, which could entail research and development work costing billions of euros.