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This Bonkers Tri-Wing Jumbo Jet Concept Reduces Fuel Consumption by 70%

Airliners haven’t traditionally been a lightning rod for innovation. Commercial wide-body planes haven’t changed all that much over the last few decades. But amid an industrywide push to reduce carbon emissions, a bonkers new jumbo jet concept is aiming to change that. ( More...

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Peter Fuller 23
Three wings, interesting. The center and aft wings will operate in the disturbed airflow from the wings ahead, so dealing with that plus carefully shaping wing-body fairings will need some detailed design and testing. One thing for sure: all those surfaces will add up to a guaranteed jobs program for the deicing crews!
Gary Eldridge 10
Now trying to find a window seat that isn't right over the wing is twice as difficult.
George Pepe 6
3 times. There are 3 wings
AWAAlum 3
6 actually
George Pepe 3
I like the window seat over the wing. You can watch the landing spoilers extend and you get a peek inside the wing.
I’m struggling to believe that people are actually taking this “concept” seriously. I, too, looked for an April 1st date on the first piece I read about this a few months ago. This is not a viable concept. Period. And these boys from Trussville, Alabama – they don’t know what they don’t know. Their “founder” and “chief engineer” has a degree in chemical engineering with an emphasis on pulp paper studies. Their “operations specialist” and “captain” isn’t actually a pilot, but a retired Navy line officer. Their CEO’s background is as a dietician.

It is unfathomable to think that a group of guys with no aeronautical engineering experience and no meaningful piloting experience know more about heavy jet design than Boeing, Airbus, General Dynamics, Lockheed, McDonald-Douglas, et al, COMBINED.

The sweep and aspect ratio of the wingS are not conducive to Mach 0.9 flight. Three substantially identical wings aligned as depicted cannot be designed to function as intended due to disrupted airflow on the non-front wings during variable operating scenarios. No provisions are apparent for controlling the pitch axis of the aircraft. As depicted, the carry-through sparS would run through the middle of the cabin, inhibiting movement within the cabin.

Let’s compare this concept’s specifications to what is, arguably, the most advanced airliner in service today: The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which is a composite-heavy aircraft. The 787-8 seats 242 passengers; the SE proposes to seat 264. The 787 has a fuselage that’s 18’-11 x 19’-6; the SE’s is 17’-9 x 18’-1. The 787 is about 30% longer than the SE (and the fuselage is over a foot wider), but the SE carries 9% more passengers?? Are they standing for that 10,000 mile ride?? The 787-8 has an empty weight of 264,500 lbs.; the SE purportedly weighs in at 74,000 lbs. BS! That’s a lighter empty weight than an Airbus 220 series, that seats 100 passengers and has less than one-third the range the SE claims. The 787-8 requires 8,500’ for takeoff, but the SE claims 1,500’ is needed? More BS! An F/A 18 Hornet (without the catapult assist) requires a 5,200’ runway. Laugh now at the thought of a 264 seat airliner taking off, landing, and taking off again in 700’ LESS runway than required for modern fighter jet – in full after-burner – to just takeoff.

There is NOTHING about the concept that is plausible. I will win the lottery – TWICE – before this thing flies.
Mike G 23
And who wouldn't leap at the chance to fly in an airliner where all the fuel is in a bladder just above passenger heads. What could go wrong?
Duane Mader 3
An extra 2 sets of wing tip vortices, extra 2 sets of wing fuselage intersections. The Moller flying car comes to mind.
flynrph 3
The commercial aviation industry racks their collective brains trying to achieve 2% to 5% reduction in fuel burn. So add another "bullsh*t" to the 70% reduction that was spouted. Absolutely no credibility to all of the claims.
notmanyifany 6
With such narrow main gear track it won't be landing in crosswinds!
Michael Hope 3
It is to use the new circular runways, so always into the wind. LOL.
Rick Polley 19
I love it that some people think outside the box. 99% of people are sheep. We don't know how this will work out but kudos to these people for having a go. Stimulates the brain .
Ga Za 5
Nature designed the best shape for flying, we call them birds. Human designed aircraft best follow that lead.
Jeff Phipps 9
Form follows function. Birds don't have to carry a load of packages or persons. An albatross isn't the same shape as a falcon. We can certainly take cues from nature (which designers have always done), but it has it's limits.
John Reep 9
What -- a swallow carrying a coconut?

It could grip it by the husk!

It's not a question of where he grips it! It's a simple question of weight ratios! A five ounce bird could not carry a 1 pound coconut.
Tim Dyck 10
So the next question is "what is the flight velocity of a fully laden swallow?"
Bandrunner 12
African or European?
Tim Dyck 3
Are you trying to get me blasted off a bridge?
BTW thanks for the response.?
Boris Biggins 5
What? I don't know....AHHHHHHHHeeeeeeeee!
Jason Findlay 5
Oh wait, wait, it could be an African swallow.

Oh yeah, an African swallow sure. I'm talking about European swallow, that's my point.
George Pepe 4
Which unladen swallow has a higher velocity?
He would grip it under his dorsal guiding feathers.
Nature also made what might be the the first flying creature, the dragonfly, which passes air pressures from one wing to the other....kind of like this airplane idea. Human designed airplanes can follow that lead also perhaps.
Dan Anderson 4
I still think that a Rutan-style heavy would be a far better aircraft, given it would most likely offer higher speeds, much less chance of stalling, and also fuel efficiency.
Gary Eldridge 4
Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites did design, build and flew a similar aircraft for D.A.R.P.A. back around 1986/1987. It was known as the ATTT or the AT3. The concept was to provide STOL capabilities in a military transport with heavy lift and a very wide tolerant center of gravity. I think only one was made at 62% scale and flown and now is being restored for display at the Edwards AFB museum.
Ra1n 3
I thought flying wings were the future... now we're skipping that and going with six wings?
Tim Dyck 1
There is some work in that direction.
Rico van Dijk 7
It’s easy to be innovative in a conservative industry that’s decades, even nearly a century behind the rest of the world. But still hard to overcome the same bureaucracy and jungle of obstacles to bring this concept to commercial aviation. I wish them well!
Chris Bryant 7
That is one weird looking bird. But the concept is highly intriguing.
Sean Sims 4
They said the same thing about the B-2. And the N-1M and N-9M before it. Kudos to this team for trying to break the mold and see if something else is better than what we have today.
And just after this design drug testing wasn't so random anymore !
Another minor factoid of note is a speed of Mach .9 is given as 690.5 mph. That's the sea level speed of sound at sea level. Not a great cruising altitude.
Meant to say in second sentence: That's the Mach .9 speed at sea level.
How is it going to save 70% on fuel with all that surface area (six wings) hitting the air?
dodonfred 2
I wonder how that would handle turbulence.
patrick baker 2
It is not necessary to have to like or approve of the exterior of this bonkers tri-wing jumbo jet, as it may be the salvation of affordable tickets in years ahead.
George Pepe 2
That’s a pretty cool looking plane, actually. I would want to fly on it.
A. Highsmith 2
You can have my place:-)
Nice as a concept, but critical from several safety aspects:
- engines next to the place, where all control lines are converging,
- sitting below the tank, expecting a shower of kerosene in case of a leak,
- elevator seems to produce lift force instead of downforce with all the critical effects on controlability
are just some aspects beside the aerodynamical problems (flutter because of the thin design of the wings, interaction by the arrangements of wings, interaction of the flight controls for the same reason and so on).
Counting all these items together I have serious doubts that this has any chance to be realized in a somehow similar way...
Tim Dyck 6
Although it likely will never fly these kinds of experiments often lead to other innovations. It's worth the exercise even if it never makes production.
Steven Chaney 1
Self sealing bladders in the fuel tanks
bartmiller -1
While the aerodynamics might work (everything is simulated before it flies), I also worry about the fuel in the fuselage. In a crash, the fuel is going to just fill or coat the plane.
TERRY Smith 4
Take the fuel out of the wings and put it in a bladder above the passenger cabin. In a crash/rupture the fuel will flood into the cabin.

That works for me. NOT.
Then you're not old enough to have ever flown in a Short 330. They did that trick back in the 70s-80s.
garritt 3
I sold a customer 6 "Bosch fuel seats" for gyrocopters...your molded seat was the fuel tank.....I never saw a problem w/them
John Meyer 2
Alway concerned me when I owned and piloted a Lake Amphibian. Most fun ever under 500ft but having 40 gallons of Avgas in a tank right behind your head was problematic.
Tim Dyck 1
Yeah I was thinking the same thing. On a positive note the victims won't suffer as long and you won't have to worry about survivors going through years of recovery.
Boris Biggins 1
I thought the same thing. I wondered why they thought it was a good idea to put the fuel in the same container right above the passengers instead of in tanks outside the passenger compartment. I think I'd pass on a ride in that rig. Just because it may have been done before does not make me feel any better about the plan.

I love new concepts but have they even done any wind tunnel tests to prove that there would be a 70% reduction in fuel? A lot of things look good on paper, but then...
Steven Chaney 3
Whatever you think of this, it’s pretty embarrassing that a huge chunk of passenger traffic today is in a design that Boeing made 60 years ago using the best technology available 60 years ago (737.) And the A320 isn’t a spring chicken either.

With the best of today’s technology, fuel efficiency, comfort, noise, and safety could be so much better.

It would be time for the big airlines to commission a new design using the best technology available today in exchange for part of the profits from sales to other airlines. Everyone would win.
David Starr 5
Actually, Steve, it's more like 77 years old. That's when Boeing received the development contact for the B-47 (Boeing Model 405) and everything else is history. The wing shape, te podded, underslung engines, ec., etc. So many things on even the latest Dreaniner come right out of 1947. "if it ain't broke, don't fix it, we have ourselves a real cash cow here".
Matt Lacey 2
The main takeaway from this is that The Robb Report has no technical chops.
pketelaar 2
This will never fly. I will eat my hat if it does. It's a pipe dream. Wings like that aren't meant for mach .9. Where does all the fuel for a 10,500 mile range go? And why is it at cruise with the landing gear deployed? I love these "designers" who know absolutely nothing about aviation.
Aaron Hall 4
If you took the time to read the article, it explains where they intend to store the fuel. It also says they are shooting for 70% less fuel consumption, so a lot less fuel would be required in the first place.

All that being said, you're correct in that it probably won't ever fly.
bentwing60 3
Gene Roddenberry worthy fantasy! Imagine the service vehicles workin' that "pipe dream".
Rico van Dijk 0
This pipe dream is still a pipe with wings, hardly innovative :’)
A. Highsmith 1
The passengers would all be happy to know that they are sitting under tons of fuel.
Joe Birts 1
Only see 1 engine mounted above the V of the tail. Where's the second one?
ImperialEagle 1
I am reminded of the ages old saying "pioneering doesn't pay". Or at best they better have a "Plan B" and a "Plan C" because, as the wise old folks in aircraft design and manufacture will tell you "innovation comes at a price".
Edward Bardes 1
I find the lack of redundant engines disturbing.
chugheset 1
Can we all agree that the word "Bonkers" should be relegated to the vernacular trash heap? Even if we don't, the editors at Robb Report should know better. It's right up there with "One Weird Trick...".
Roy Hunte 1
Will it actually fly?
Rico van Dijk 13
Anything can fly if you put a strong enough engine on it, I once sent my table airborn with a model plane engine on a test stand ;)
I'm no engineer, but I DO know that having one wing in front of the other, "Ain't gonna fly".
yonian 1
The Robb Report’s seems to exist for the purpose of providing caviar fantasies and champagne dreams to adolescents. Lots of superficial pieces about actual exotic cars and yachts, with a good sprinkling of impossible project proposals.
robin cooper 1
wonder what its stall characteristics would be?
Peter Fuller 7
They’d need to design things so the forward wing stalled first, before the center and aft wings, thereby inducing a pitch-down moment to recover from the stall. The Piaggio P180 turboprop has this characteristic: its small forward wing stalls before its larger aft wing.

The design and engineering challenges in this thing are eminently solvable, with a large dose of the crucial element that makes aviation possible: MONEY !
Russ Brown 0
Don't insult sheep by comparing them to people. Woof!
Jesse Carroll -3
What difference does it make? Biden and the "Squad" babes will have it using electric motors so none of the projected stats will reflect the true performance projections!
I'll be the first to NOT buy a ticket to ride on this bozo!


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