A STOL jetliner – NASA’s answer to congested runways

NASA has sent me a two-CD set (how seasonal!) on its revitalised Fundamental Aeronautics programme. One is the presentations from the programme’s recent annual meeting (saved for later posts). The other is a 12-minute movie produced by the programme and entitled Today’s Research…Tomorrow’s Flight“.

I have shamelessy ripped some clips from the DVD to show you some of the concepts NASA is using to focus its research. The first of these is the cruise efficient short take-off and landing (CESTOL) airliner. NASA’s idea is that, by reducing take-off distance, aircraft can use runways that are too short for today’s A320s and 737s, increasing the capacity of existing airports. Steeper departures and approaches will also reduce noise. The challenge is acheiving STOL without sacrificing cruise speed and while meeting tomorrow’s tougher noise and emissions limits.

NASA’s targets for an “N+1″-generation subsonic airliner, to enter service in 2012-2015, include a 33% reduction in field length relative to the 737. For the N+2 generation (2018-2020 EIS) it is 50%, and for N+3 (2030-2035) it is a whopping 70% reduction. Technologies include over-wing nacelles and circulation-control wings to increase lift and reduce noise. Not sure Airbus or Boeing are ready to go quite this far with their next-gen narrowbodies…

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3 Responses to A STOL jetliner – NASA’s answer to congested runways

  1. ELP 12 December, 2007 at 4:37 am #

    I wonder if they can really keep the fuel burn down?

  2. The Woracle 12 December, 2007 at 5:22 pm #

    My question is who would build it. The video shows an N+2 (2020) CESTOL concept – the N+1 (2015) concept is a more conventional engine-over-wing design, but I still don’t see Airbus or Boeing going that way for their next-gen single aisles. So that leaves the next-gen regional jets – maybe – but no-one in the USA builds regional jets, so who would benefit from NASA’s work?

  3. J.D. Harrington 13 December, 2007 at 6:33 pm #

    The NASA Subsonic Fixed Wing project of the Fundamental Aeronautics Program (Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate) is pursuing fundamental research in a number of technologies that may enable a variety of future aircraft with significant improvements in performance and environmental impact. It is not NASA’s job to determine what an airframe company may eventually build, but, rather, to perform the early, pre-competitive research that establishes the feasibility of certain technologies.

    These technology improvements have been organized into three separate “generations” of vehicles: N+1, N+2, and N+3. The performance targets (in fuel burn, noise, emissions and field length) for each of these generations can be found at this link (open and view slides 3 and 4 http://www.aeronautics.nasa.gov/pdf/overview_solicitation_alonso_11_29_07.pdf).

    Which technologies eventually make it onto a flying vehicle depend on many other decisions beyond NASA’s research involving cost, integration, system-level benefits, and market determinations.

    Note that NASA’s performance and environmental goals are labeled “Corners of the Trade Space”; they are not all meant to be achieved simultaneously. It is widely recognized that a concept that is better suited for achieving one goal will have to trade-off improvements in some of the other goals.

    The CESTOL concept (which as Graham now correctly points out is not an N+1 concept, but, rather, an N+2 concept) is only one of the possible trades that may support future scenarios where the capacity of the airspace is constrained by the availability (or lack thereof) of additional runways in congested metropolitan areas.

    For more info:
    on NASA aeronautics, visit: http://www.aeronautics.nasa.gov.
    on the Fundamental Aeronautics Program, visit: http://www.aeronautics.nasa.gov/fap/index.html
    on the Subsonic Fixed Wing Project, visit: http://www.aeronautics.nasa.gov/fap/subfixed.html

    JUAN ALONSO
    Director, NASA’s Fundamental Aeronautics Program

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