Boeing's Phantom Works will begin flight testing its revolutionary hybrid helicopter/fixed-wing aircraft later this summer. Final ground tests are taking place now. The canard rotor-wing, looks at first sight like something out of an unseen episode of Thunderbirds – the product of an overactive imagination.

But says George Muellner, former president of Phantom Works, it has great potential to combine the best of both types of platform and meet the needs of the US Marine Corp special missions, for example.

Its rotor is deployed for take-off and landing but in flight becomes a fixed wing with propulsion supplied by jet engines.




The aircraft, if viable, thus offers VTOL capability combined with the manoeuvrability of a fixed-wing aircraft.

"I personally love the concept. I see a time when I have one that flies out of my garden," says Muellner.

Boeing is currently developing both a manned and unmanned version of the aircraft. The former is seen as a potential escort vehicle while the unmanned version is likely to be deployed from ships for surveillance.

Giving an update on current Phantom Works projects, Muellner, announced that it is working with Cranfield University and Cranfield Aerospace to develop a scale model of the blended wing-body concept. Likely to fly in 2004 the model will have a wing span of around 30ft (10m).

Boeing believes that the integration of engines, wings and body into a single lifting surface promises significant aerodynamic and structural efficiencies that would translate into greater range and fuel economy, lower manufacturing costs and greater reliability.

"The scale of this thing would mean you could carry 44ft (13m) seagoing containers onboard the aircraft. The design, being ostensibly flat rather than the conventional tube and wing construction, gives significant extra lift.

"There's the potential there for a family of platforms all using the same wing design and varying the width of the body."

He says Boeing has done a lot of recent research on the issue of passenger nausea in the proposed blended wing concept. "It's not a problem on the scale we might have expected," he says.

Source: Flight Daily News