Boeing selected for NASA Sustainable Flight Demonstrator Award

On 18th January 2023, Boeing announced that the company was selected by NASA to lead the development and flight testing of a full-scale Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW) demonstrator aircraft.

The TTBW airframe concept is the result of more than a decade of development supported by NASA, Boeing and industry investments. It follows the NASA previous programmes focused on that matter, such as Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research project.

Within the already performed development, the Boeing company conducted extensive wind tunnel testing and digital modelling to advance the design of the TTBW. These early conceptual studies were launched under NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation programme.

Now, the technologies developed and tested as part of the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator (SFD) project will provide necessary information for future designs and can lead to breakthrough aerodynamics and fuel efficiency gains.

´The SFD programme has the potential to make a major contribution toward a sustainable future,´ said Greg Hyslop, Boeing chief engineer and executive vice president of Engineering, Test & Technology. ´It represents an opportunity to design, build and fly a full-scale experimental plane, while solving novel technical problems

A single-aisle aeroplane design of the TTBW configuration, combined with expected advancements in propulsion systems, materials and systems architecture could – depending on the task – reduce fuel consumption and emissions up to 30% comparing to today’s most efficient single-aisle aircraft. Ultrathin wings braced by struts with larger span and higher-aspect ratio could eventually accommodate advanced propulsion systems that are limited by a lack of underwing space in today’s low-wing aeroplane configurations. For the demonstrator vehicle, Boeing will use some elements from already existing aircraft and integrate them with all-new components.

The SFD initiative aims to advance the civil aviation industry’s commitment to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, as well as the goals set forth in the White House’s U.S. Aviation Climate Action Plan.

The SFD Space Act Agreement launched and financed by NASA has the total budget amount of 425 million USD. Another 725 million USD will be released by Boeing and its industrial partners to shape the demonstrator programme.

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Cover photo: Sustainable Flight Demonstrator visualisation (Boeing). All photos and quotations © Boeing. Information from the Boeing Company press releases were used.