An MIT team has turned a multi- million-dollar NASA contract into the most advanced rethink to date of the classic passenger jet. The design, nicknamed the Double Bubble, calls for an extra-wide fuselage and rear-mounted turbofan engines. The configuration would allow the craft to burn 70 percent less fuel than a Boeing 737 while producing significantly less noise and nitrogen oxide, a pollutant that causes acid rain.
So when can we board? NASA says it would like to see the 180-seat craft airborne by 2035, when air traffic is projected to double. Engineers will push toward that goal this summer, when they subject a scale model to a second round of wind-tunnel tests at Langley Research Center. Here’s a look at some of the fuel-saving features they will scrutinize.
Comparison with a Boeing 737
3-D print your very own Double Bubble Airplane
This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Popular Science_._