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NBAA: Aerion goes with laminar flow

Nevada-based Aerion Technologies says natural laminar flow (NLF) advances it is exploring with at least one airframer could come to fruition within the next five years.

Doug Nichols, Aerion chief financial officer, says the company has several near-term projects under way aimed at showing the benefits of its proprietary NLF design techniques for wings, empennages and engine nacelles.

Longer term, the company is consulting with customers, both civilian and military, on new aircraft designs, showing trade-offs between traditional swept-wing designs versus straighter, thinner wings that, with NLF designed in from the start, would allow for drag reduction on the order of 10-15%. The work is supplementing Aerion's efforts to partner with an airframer to build a supersonic business jet that could fly efficiently both subsonic and supersonic using Aerion's NLF design.

Richard Tracy, Aerion chief technology officer and developer of the NLF intellectual property, says airframers in some cases are looking to introduce elements of NLF as part of a "focused risk reduction program." While redesigning the wing for NLF may be cost- and time-prohibitive, other elements like nacelles could take advantage of the technology to cut drag.