The way we fly could be set to change faster than predicted thanks to a radical new Flying-V plane design. Air France-KLM collaborated with a Dutch university to fund research into a new aircraft design that could make long-haul air travel much more sustainable.
The Flying-V has massive wings and unique two-prong design. The wings will be where the passenger cabins, cargo hold, and the jet’s fuel tanks are placed.
Named after the Gibson guitar of the same name, the Flying-V is 55 metres long, making it shorter and lighter than today’s most advanced aircraft.
It has less inflow surface compared to its volume, meaning improved aerodynamics and much better fuel efficiency.
Funded by KLM-Air France and researched by the Delft University of Technology, it is hoped the design could reduce the impact of global air travel on the environment, a factor that currently accounts for 2.5 percent of global C02 emissions. With fuel-saving capacity predicted to be around 20 percent, the Flying-V could be revolutionary.
Although smaller than today’s planes, the jet can carry the same number of passengers with seats for 314 travelers.
Critically, the Flying-V has the same wingspan as an Airbus A350, meaning it will be able to use existing infrastructure at airports.
The passenger experience
From a traveler’s perspective, the most radical change will be that seats are located in the wings, rather than the fuselage. New lightweight seat designs will offer more comfort and make the most of the new aircraft shape.
A passenger common area, resting space or buffet-style food hall are also in the works. Revamped bathrooms will also be introduced.
Pieter Elbers, chief executive of KLM, and Professor Henri Werij of the Delft University of Technology signed an agreement at the IATA Annual General Meeting in Seoul last week to work on the project. The airline will contribute funds to TU Delft’s research.
Powered by today’s most fuel-efficient turbofan engines, the Flying-V is designed to be powered by kerosene but it can be easily adapted to incorporate advances in technology, such as transatlantic flight compatible hydrogen or electric-powered engines.
Ready for flight
A scaled-down model of the design will make its first public test flight in October at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol as part of KLM’s 100th-anniversary celebrations. Passengers keen to see what things will look like on board will also be able to see a full-size section of the interior at the Dutch airport.
The original plan for the Flying-V aircraft design came from Justus Benad, a student at the Berlin Institute of Technology. It draws parallels with a similar design patented by a German aeronautics engineer in 1910.