Five major US airlines have formed a sustainable aviation coalition that will provide feedback to Boeing and NASA on the Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW) demonstrator aircraft, also known as the X-66A. American Airlines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Delta Air Lines have joined the advisory group.
The TTBW concept was designated X-66A by the US Air Force in June, having received funding from NASA in January. Boeing and NASA will jointly develop a demonstrator aircraft based on a McDonnell Douglas MD-90, which should fly in 2028. The high and thin wing with a high aspect ratio has demonstrated a nine-percent fuel burn improvement during numerous wind tunnel tests. Combined with advanced propulsion systems, fuel burn should improve by even thirty percent.
Before the X-66A will fly, the five airlines will offer input to Boeing on a number of aspects related to the aircraft design and operations. “Airline participants will share feedback on sustainable operations and airport compatibility. While the X-66A will have a wingspan of 145 feet, the TTBW design could be used by airplanes of different sizes and missions and may benefit from folding wing tips to accommodate existing airport infrastructure,” Boeing says in a media statement.
Flying the simulator
Pilots of the five airlines will also test the X-66A flight simulator to assess its handling characteristics. Once flight testing begins out of Edwards Air Force Base in 2028 through 2029, the carriers will offer feedback on airline operations and maintenance. This is not uncommon for new aircraft projects. For example, Airbus has an identical partnership with airlines for the ZEROe hydrogen project while Embraer has the Energia Advisory Group for its hybrid-electric program.
“Hearing directly from the operators during all phases of the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project will help us understand exact requirements and tradeoffs. The airlines’ feedback will significantly contribute to the X-66A project learnings while furthering aviation sustainability,” said Todd Citron, Boeing Chief Technology Officer.
Boeing and NASA unveiled the livery of the X-66A during a media event on Tuesday at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News and until July 1 2023 in a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.