First Flight of the X-48C Blended Wing Body Experimental Unmanned Plane

X48C Blended Wing-Body experimental unmanned scaled aircraft prepared for the first flight August 7, 2012 at the Dryden flight test center in Edwards AFB, California. Photo: NASA

Boeing conducted the first flight of the remotely piloted X-48C experimental Blended Wing Body (BWB) unmanned aircraft yesterday at the NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The flight lasted 9 minutes and the aircraft climbed to an altitude of 5,500 feet before landing back on the dray lakebed.

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The X-48C is a scale model of a heavy-lift, subsonic vehicle that forgoes the conventional tube-and-wing airplane design in favor of a triangular aircraft that effectively merges the vehicle’s wing and body. Boeing and NASA believe the BWB concept offers the potential over the long-term of significantly greater fuel efficiency and reduced noise. The X-48C is an 8.5 percent scale model of an aircraft with a 240-foot wingspan that possibly could be developed in the next 15 to 20 years for military applications such as aerial refueling and cargo missions.