Flying Wings

In some alternate timeline, the skies are full of flying wing-type airplanes.

     Posted By: Paul - Fri Jul 22, 2016
     Category: Inventions | Air Travel and Airlines | 1940s | Armed Forces

The YB49 was not exactly a failure. It did suffer from a directional stability problem involving a violent pitch up if the pilot wasn't paying attention (this design is inherently unstable) and the power plants were not sufficiently advanced for the time (the original radial piston engines would overheat and the later jet engines used too much fuel) but overall the concept was not too far out on the fringe.

The current Northrop B2 "Spirit" is the direct descendant of the YB49. To overcome the original problems computers are employed to actually fly the plane and modern jet engines get the job done. I've seen concept art from Boeing for a blended flying wing transport that would dwarf the current Airbus A380. Just goes to show that some ideas are ahead of their time.
Posted by KDP on 07/22/16 at 08:37 AM
Great post, KDP! Thanks for the insights and further knowledge!
Posted by Paul on 07/22/16 at 10:59 AM
One of the problems with a flying wing design is balance. The cargo (including fuel) must have a weight distribution that keeps the center of mass within a narrow range, or the plane will become impossible to control. If the 'center of gravity' shifts too far forward, the plane's nose will go down and it will be impossible to bring it back up. Many planes have crashed because of this problem. Some investigators believe this may be what actually brought down Flight 93 in Pennsylvania on 9/11, when the passengers rushed the cockpit. Similarly if the CG shifts aft, the nose will pitch up and the plane will stall, with the same final result.
A flying wing also needs to concern itself with cargo shifting to either port or starboard. A CG too far off the mid-line will bank the plane too far for the ailerons to compensate, and the plane will 'spiral in.' If the lateral restraints on the cargo fail, or if the fuel is not drawn equally from the port and starboard tanks, you will lose the plane and all aboard.
Posted by tadchem on 07/23/16 at 07:18 AM
I fell in love with this the first time I ever read about it. I remember it said this was the first airplane in history which was unstable in all three axes (pitch, yaw, and roll) simultaneously.
Posted by Phideaux on 07/23/16 at 01:30 PM
Somebody help me out here. What are the incentives for developing such an unstable beast? More usable interior volume per lb. of metal or lb. of fuel burned? More taxpayer dollars spent per hour of testing?
Posted by Virtual on 07/23/16 at 07:14 PM
@Virtual -- One way of looking at airplanes is that the wings do all the work; everything else is just hung on for various reasons, detracting from the purity of the form.

The Germans during WWII took this to the extreme -- an airplane that was nothing but a wing. They figured if they did away with all the extraneous stuff, they'd get far greater range, speed, and payload. It's been years since I read about it, but I think their plan was non-stop bombing runs on NYC from bases in France (far beyond the capacity of any airplane at the time).
Posted by Phideaux on 07/24/16 at 01:29 AM
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.