Aircraft design is often overlooked in discussions of the FAA's multibillion-dollar NextGen initiative, the elaborate mélange of satellite-based guidance, arrival, and departure technologies intended to modernize the outdated and much-criticized national airspace system by 2025. Yet a team led by researchers at California Polytechnic State University found that one of the easiest ways to improve system efficiency may be to reengineer the plane itself.
As part of a five-year NASA research project, the team designed a 100-passenger Cruise Efficient, Short Take-Off and Landing (Cestol) airliner that could arrive and depart at steep angles to and from 3,000-foot-long runways. "This plane was designed with a circulation-control wing, which generates higher lift at lower speeds," says David Marshall, an associate professor with Cal Poly's aerospace-engineering department. "We can reduce the field length by 50 percent."
For the past year, scientists have wind-tunnel-tested a 2,500-pound model with a 10-foot wingspan, nicknamed Amelia (for Advanced Model for Extreme Lift and Improved Aeroacoustics), at NASA's Ames Research Center.
Other researchers studied how Cestol planes would integrate into existing infrastructure. Results show that in tandem with NextGen's approach and departure routing, which could allow planes to fly outside traditional flight paths, Cestol aircraft could land at underused, shorter runways or at smaller regional airports. Spreading air traffic over more runways would relieve congestion and substantially reduce flight delays.
Because aircraft-design cycles can span decades, Cestol craft will probably not arrive on commercial runways for a dozen years or more. But when they do, Amelia will probably stand as an influence. "I don't know that Boeing will make a plane that looks just like Amelia," Marshall says, "But I do expect some of the technology to transition over."
How It Works: The Cestol Airliner
Scientists at Cal Poly mounted the Cestol's turboprop engines above the wing—as opposed to underneath it—for two reasons. First, exhaust passing over the wing increases lift. Second, the wing deflects engine noise, shielding communities below. "NASA wants aircraft noise reduced by 52 decibels," Marshall says. "So far, we're already looking at a 30-decibel reduction."
Conventional wings often have multiple flap elements, which rotate downward to increase the curve of the airfoil. The Cestol has a single flap, augmented by a narrow slot that runs the length of the wing. When the flap rotates downward, the slot channels high-pressure air over the top of the wing and directs the wind stream downward, increasing lift.
Deflecting Jet Exhaust
To combine the effects of engine exhaust and circulation control, the team moved the turbofans to the front of the wings. When the flaps rotate down, the exhaust is pulled into a low pressure region, which increases lift and allows for even slower and steeper ascents. "With this design, we can generate lifts five to 10 times higher than a conventional wing," Marshall says.
This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of Popular Science. See the rest of the magazine here.
Air travel "congestion" is a factor of scheduling. If you provide more space in scheduling, the airlines will fill it, much like the old adage that you can never build too big a storage building, as you will always find ways to fill it up. These ideas may move more people with the same overall infrastructure, but that will simply cause the bean counters to "overbook" using larger numbers, not create less congestion. It is no different than how airlines take a "dream plane" designed with a lot of spacious comfort in mind and have it retrofitted with added seats crammed into every nook and cranny, to carry more passengers under the same old cramped conditions. I doubt that will ever change.
For a plane like this to 'kill' congestion, it must not cause congestion whatsoever, and that is near impossible so by human/computer error, flux of incoming scheduling needs, and many other factors, so, the design integrations stated help with many things, but the plane will not 'kill' congestion, just make it easier to bypass.
red alert! red alert! red alert! red alert! FLYINGLAZERS INCOMING!! Have a nice day :)(BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
What's new here? The benefits from the Coanda-Effect with placing the turbines over wing is nothing new at all.... and has been done for decades.
The reason the turbines are on the bottom of typical commercial airliner wings is for two reasons: 1 - They are substantially more easier to service, 2 - Noise reduction for the passengers
What incentive is there for Airline companies - the ones who are actually writing checks to manufacturers - to buy nosier aircraft that require longer servicing periods? They care about passengers (the ones putting money in the pocket) and turnaround time between servicing (operating monies going out), not the people who thought it'd be a good idea to move into a house near an airport.
There's nothing new here, except the vision of bringing MORE regulation into the world and forcing an already crippling industry with more obstacles.
seems like congestion busting by being able to fly more @ once.
Much shorter run ways, faster take off times.
Fit in more run ways, even more take offs in addition.
Also, i noticed in the graphic - no passenger windows. sound proofing? or just good aerodynamics?
I don't think they are so concerned with the engines as they are about the fact that it's a 100 passenger plane that can take off and land on shorter runways than those aircraft of comparable size.
This is also why they are saying it will reduce congestion. More runways can be used by this "larger" plane, thus taking some of the strain from the bigger hubs. People won't have to drive 2-3 hours just to reach an airport that has passage to their destination... They can use the smaller, more convenient airport.
How about AN-72 that already does this and has been flying since 1977?
Would this design allow for gliding as great a distance as the same plane with the engines under the wings. Distance is everything when you are forced to glide, example- when the flight in NY had to ditch in the Hudson River due to all engines being knocked out by a flock of birds.
I would have thought that better train service would be the answer.
Stay home and avoid exploding fiery lithium batteries.
I'm right behind you on that thought. Gliding is important for safety.
And what about those engine supports? Is it ok for them to be operating in compression mode? Or are the new engines expected to produce lift directly?
Haven't NASA just used old ideas in a shiny new package? I mean, the over-engine wing was done 30 or so years ago on the VFW-Fokker 614, many countries have trialed exhaust flow, and Hunting-Percival used it on their H.126! So all NASA are doing are recycling I guess, albeit with new avionics and packages... Take nothing away from the guys, it's a great concept, but they surely can't be credited with 'designing' the technology.
Enjoy your 5 day long journey costing $2000 round trip! I'll fly across the country instead.
Hint: building a 3000 mile long railroad is INSANELY expensive, and uses shitloads of land and energy.