NASA Audio File

A team led by NASA and The Boeing Company has completed the first phase of flight tests with the X-48B blended wing body aircraft at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. The remotely piloted aircraft is a component of NASA's work to develop cleaner, quieter and more fuel-efficient airplanes for the future. The team completed the 80th and last flight of the project's first phase on March 19, 2010, almost three years after the X-48B's first flight on July 20, 2007.

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Tim Risch, NASA Dryden X-48B Project Manager

Cut (1) – RT 01:20

The advantages of a BWB type aircraft like this is that it that it is at least 30 percent more efficient than a conventional tube-in-wing aircraft. For the general public this means several things. First, this kind of aircraft will lower the cost of air travel for the general public. The second reason that fuel efficiency is important is emissions, and today, reducing carbon emissions is one of our national objectives, as well as pollutants like nitrogen oxide. And with a highly efficient aircraft like this, it provides a tremendous improvement in reduction in emissions, both carbons and pollutants. The other advantage that this aircraft has is that, by the way that it's configured, the engines above the fuselage gives much less noise than traditional tube-in-wing aircraft that have the engines below the wings. So a great advantage of this aircraft that we're also looking at is to find and make improvements on noise reduction by having the configuration of engines above the wings. 
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Cut (2) – RT 00:18

The flights were structured into three major objectives. The first was what we called envelope expansion. In those flights, what we were looking for was to just understand in general how the airplane behaved during general maneuvers like takeoff and landing. 
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Cut (3) – RT 00:30

The second objective was what we called the characterization phase, in which we undertook a variety of maneuvers that looked at, for example, stall characteristics, that looked at what would happen when one engine might be out and we had asymmetric thrust. We also performed a set of maneuvers called parameter identification maneuvers, ways in which we could quantitatively characterize the aircraft's performance. 
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Cut (4) – RT 00:38

The third objective was finally what we call limiter assaults. This was probably the most important phase of the program. In limiter assaults, what we do is program into the software limits into the aircraft performance. The goal there is to ensure that even if the pilot, in the worst case condition, would try to put the aircraft into a condition that could cause it to stall or spin or something like that, the internal software prevents the pilot from doing that, thus maintaining and ensuring the integrity and safety of the aircraft. 
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Cut (5) – RT 00:25

The purpose of the X-48B program is to look at the low speed handling qualities of this kind of aircraft. In research that has been done, one of the things that was identified was how does a plane like this handle at low speeds, and of course that's very important for passenger and aircraft safety to make sure that at low speeds it handles well and is predictable.
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