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NASA Planes Could Lead To More Sustainable Air Travel By The 2030s

NASA has revealed plans for two aircraft projects that they are hoping will be the next generation of sustainable flights. 

One of the aircrafts is called X-66A, which NASA and Boeing worked together on as a part of Boeing’s Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project, according to reports. The two companies have the goal of building, testing, and flying the planes, which will be emission-reducing, single-aisle aircrafts, within the next decade; by 2030 ideally. 

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“It’s our goal that NASA’s partnership with Boeing to produce and test a full-scale demonstrator will help lead to future commercial airliners that are more fuel efficient, with benefits to the environment, the commercial aviation industry, and to passengers worldwide,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in a statement according to CNN

“If we are successful, we may see these technologies in planes that the public takes to the skies in the 2030s.”

The design could potentially reduce fossil fuel consumption and emissions by up to 30% when compared to current aircrafts. 

According to NASA and Boeing, the concept of design is known as the Transonic Truss-Braced Wing, which relies on elongated thing wings that are stabilized by diagonal struts connecting to the wings of the plane, creating less of a drag and thus reducing the fuel that is burned. 

The new designs were shown off at the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

“This is an experimental aircraft. This is not a commercial development of an aircraft that passengers are going to fly in today. And the reason we need to do this is because this is high-risk technology. We’re trying to validate technology,”  Bob Pearce, NASA associate administrator for the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, said.

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The first test flight is scheduled to ideally take place in 2028, with NASA hoping that the technology and new design will be used throughout around half of the commercial flight market for short to medium haul single-aisle aircrafts. 

According to NASA, single-aisle aircrafts account for almost half of all aviation emissions around the world. Boeing also predicts that the demand for these single-aisle aircrafts will increase by 40,000 planes between the years 2035 and 2050. 

“The goal is for the technology to serve about 50% of the commercial market through short- to medium-haul, single-aisle aircraft,” Nelson said.

As a part of NASA’s Electrified Powertrain Flight Demonstration project, the hybrid electric aircraft that GE Aerospace and magniX are developing will also be getting an updated look to include lighter and more efficient motors, and utilize materials that will also improve fuel use to reduce emissions. 

Within the next five years, NASA is hoping to conduct at least two flight demonstrations to show off the new technology, so that ideally the aircrafts can be introduced commercially in the US between 2030 and 2035.

Boeing Building

Boeing Under Fire For ‘Gambling With Public Safety’ After Two Crashes 

According to a report from US politicians, Boeing has jeopardized the safety of passengers by cutting certain costs and ignoring software flaws that contributed to two fatal crashes. The cut costs and software flaws mainly existed in the development of Boeing’s 737 Max, an aircraft that has since been grounded indefinitely. 

The first crash occurred in 2018 and involved a Lion Air 737 Max, and the second occurred in 2019 at an Ethiopian Airlines; in total 346 individuals were killed between both crashes. The committee on transportation and infrastructure – made up of members of the House of representatives – in the US published their report on Wednesday, and within the report they claim that “there have been repeated and serious failures by Boeing and its regulator, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in allowing the faulty aircraft to carry passengers.”

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Democratic representative Peter DeFazio is the committee’s chair and expressed that Boeing and the FAA “gambled with public safety in the critical time period between the two crashes.” He attributes these failings to a “broken” safety culture at the company, and several gaps in the system that the FAA uses to regulate safety systems on these planes. These gaps are what led to the fatal crashes. 

After new reports of software fixes and new rounds of testing for the 737 Max plane, Boeing is hoping to re-certify the aircraft for public use. Between the coronavirus pandemic and these recent failings from Boeing, the company has had to cut over 16,000 jobs, so they’re hoping the re-certification of the 737 can help them recover. 

Boeing has been under investigation for the past 18 months, and within that investigation officials found that the company had cut some major costs in order to compete with its biggest competitor, Airbus. The report from the US government claims that this competition added an extreme financial strain to Boeing’s spending, which led to even more cut corners. 

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“Among other things, this pressure resulted in extensive efforts to cut costs, maintain the 737 Max program schedule, and avoid slowing the 737 Max production line. There are several instances where the desire to meet these goals and expectations jeopardized the safety of the flying public.”

The report also found that Boeing had made some major errors in their aircraft design, specifically regarding the system put in place for the pilot should a crucial system malfunction during a flight. This system is referred to as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, and it was initially designed to push the nose of the plane down during certain flying conditions to prevent it from stalling. However, this system kicked in on both fatal flights shortly after takeoff because of a faulty sensor. 

The report also criticized the FAA greatly on their relationship with Boeing and complete lack of concern over these safety measures that have been overlooked. Boeing not only withheld information from the FAA, but were able to influence their regulator into approving certain flights for travel. 

Boeing is currently working on regaining regulatory approval for its 737 Max aircraft, and the company has “full confidence in its safety,” however, the real test will be to see what airlines continue to have a relationship with Boeing as time goes on.