Inside Logistics

Flying-V prototype flies for the first time

New concept for long haul aircraft takes maiden flight in Germany


September 15, 2020
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The Flying-V accommodates passengers and cargo in the wings. (TU Delft image)

SINGAPORE – The scale model of the Flying-V has flown for the first time. A year and a half ago the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and KLM announced the start of the design of the Flying-V aircraft, which is being designed to reduce fuel consumption by 20 percent over conventional aircraft.

The plane is a long-haul aircraft where the passenger cabin, the cargo hold and the fuel are all located in the wing. “We’ve designed an oval pressurized cabin that allows for an efficient structural design, with sufficient design freedom to allow for proper aerodynamic shaping,” said Dr. Roelof Vos, researcher in flight performance and propulsion at TU Delft and project leader of the Flying-V.

“Our preliminary calculations have shown that the aircraft has significantly less drag than a modern widebody aircraft, such as the Airbus A350 or the Boeing 787. Structural calculations have shown that also the structural weight is significantly lower. Based on those studies we’ve estimated that the Flying-V consumes 20 percent less fuel than an Airbus A350 for the same flight.”

The model aircraft took flight in August. (TU Delft image)

Now, after extensive wind tunnel tests and ground tests a scale model has been successfully flown. In August 2020 a team of researchers, engineers and a drone pilot from TU Delft traveled to an airbase in Germany for the first test flight.

“We were very curious about the flight characteristics of the Flying-V. The design fits within our Fly Responsibly initiative, which stands for everything we are doing and will do to improve our sustainability. We want a sustainable future for aviation and innovation is part of that. KLM has been among the top three most sustainable airlines worldwide in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for many years. We want to continue to do so in the future. We are therefore very proud that we have been able to achieve this together in such a short period of time,” says Pieter Elbers, president and CEO of KLM.

Click here for the footage of the flight.

KLM presented the scale model for the first time during KLM’s 100th anniversary in October 2019. Several partners are now involved in the project, including manufacturer Airbus.

“You can’t make the aviation sector more sustainable on your own, but you have to do it together,” says Elbers. Collaborating with partners and sharing knowledge takes us all further. That’s why we will further develop the Flying-V concept with all partners. The next step will be to fly the Flying V on sustainable fuel.”

More details about the plane can be found on the TU Delft website.