MIT researchers, under contract with NASA, have come up with a new fuel efficient airplane design that they say would use 70% less jet fuel than current airliners. Their new design would also reduce noise and nitrogen oxide emissions.
Actually, MIT came up with two designs – the first one, called the D series, would replace the Boeing 737 (carrying about 180 passengers). The MIT D-series replaces the long fuselage used in today’s aircraft with two side by side partial cylinders to create extra lift. The engines are also located at the rear of the fuselage instead of the wings – this allows the engines to breathe in slower moving air so that they can create more thrust with less fuel. By using longer, skinnier wings and a smaller tail, drag is reduced. While the design calls for the plane to fly about 10% slower than a 737, some of that time could be made up because the wider body would let the airlines load and unload passengers much quicker.
MIT’s other design (the H-series) would carry about 350 passengers and features a triangular shaped hybrid wing shape along with a wider fuselage that creates enough forward lift so that the plane doesn’t need a tail for balance (which helps to reduce drag). This plane would also let engineers design in different propulsion systems for the plane – a few large engines, or a distributed system of smaller engines.
NASA is in the middle of an 18 month study with teams from Boeing, Northrop, GE Aviation and MIT to come up with what they call “N+3″ airplanes – three generations past today’s planes – which would reduce fuel usage by 70%, reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 75%, reduce noise by 71 decibels below the current FAA noise standards, and enable optimal use of runways at different airports within metropolitan areas in order to reduce air traffic congestion and delays.