March 3, 2009

NASA flying wing moves to museum

A model the National Aeronautics and Space Administration built to research futuristic aircraft designs is moving to the U.S. air and space museum.

The 12-foot wing span blended wing body was used during wind tunnel flight tests and now will be on long-term loan to the How Things Fly gallery at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

One key focus of NASA aeronautics research is to develop technologies to make aircraft more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly, said Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. Because of these technologies, airplanes may look very different 20 years from now. This model will give visitors to the Smithsonian a glimpse into the future of air travel.

Officials said the blended wing body resembles a flying wing, unlike today's tube-and-wing aircraft.

When you get rid of the tail you have to come up with different ways to control the plane, said Dan Vicroy, a NASA senior research engineer. We have a lot of experience with conventional airplanes. We know how to predict how they are going to fly. But with this type of a flying wing design, we have fewer examples and less confidence in our flying quality estimates.

The blended wing body model, the largest artifact in the How Things Fly gallery, will hang from the ceiling about 15 feet above visitors' heads.