First Flight of X-48B Blended Wing Body Aircraft PrototypeS

Click to viewHere's a pic of the new X-48B, Boeing's Blended Wing Body research aircraft in flight for the first time. The prototype, developed by Boeing Phantom Works with cooperation from NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, flew for 31 minutes, reaching an altitude of 7,500 feet. Check the sexy gallery and jump for more details about the BWB.

Boeing is at it again with one of their fantabolous X-designated planes. The plane flew from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. This X-48B is only the second prototype that Boeing has built and the only one tested in flight; it was created to test the "structural, aerodynamic and operational efficiencies of the BWB concept," according to Bob Liebeck, the BWB program manager, especially during take off and landing.

BWB planes don't have a tail, the wing itself blends into the fuselage, giving more lift and less drag than a traditional circular fuselage. This means 30% less fuel consumption than a normal plane and also less noise, both inside and on the ground.

The composite-skinned aircraft uses three turbojet engines that enable it to fly up to 10,000 feet and 120 knots in its low-speed configuration. This X-48B prototype is "remotely piloted from a ground control station in which the pilot uses conventional aircraft controls and instrumentation while looking at a monitor fed by a forward-looking camera on the aircraft" making it the coolest RC/Plane and flight simulator videogame in history - in addition to being a kick ass machine, period.

Boeing's Tom Koehler said to us via email that "the X-48B that flew on July 20 is a small-scale unmanned prototype of the BWB concept" Still, it's quite a feat - and one that will hopefully develop into better, more efficient aircraft in the future. Who knows, maybe even beyond military uses, this design will find its way into cool commercial airplanes. [Boeing Phantom Works and NASA]