Engineers are exploring radical new designs for commercial planes that would use less energy and lower emissions. But will passengers be willing to board them?
Modern airliner designs date from the 1950s: a metal tube and swept-back wings with jet engines slung underneath. They get you where you’re going and back. But after decades of research, something very different could be flying you on vacation by the late 2030s.
Unconventional designs such as “blended-wing” shapes now used for some military jets, which combine the cabin and wings in one piece, have been floated for years as possibilities for passenger aircraft. Now the rise of climate-change concerns and emergence of new manufacturing materials have brought a rethink a step closer to reality, scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration say.