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The Flying Wing. Idea : To achieve the highest possible L/D in a transport or a bomber, eliminate everything but the wing itself! Pioneers : Northrop, DeHavilland, Handley Page, Lippisch. Northrop XB-35 (nothing but a wing) Design driven by PL – R requirements.

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the flying wing
The Flying Wing
  • Idea: To achieve the highest possible L/D in a transport or a bomber, eliminate everything but the wing itself!
  • Pioneers: Northrop, DeHavilland, Handley Page, Lippisch
the flying wing1
The Flying Wing


  • No other components to create D
    • Very low CD0 : comparing a FW w. a CW of equal volume and PL density, both have roughly the same Swet but FW has greater span + buried engines, hence lower D
      • flying wing ac: 0.008 – 0.011
      • conventional ac: 0.015 – 0.02
    • Very high L / D [ L / D is inversely proportional to CD0 ] For a given A, L / D may be increased by 40%, resulting in a 40% increase in R for similar WF, TOW, and V. OR gain in fc reduction, engine P and TOW for a specified PL and R.
  • Wwing is lower [ favorable mass distribution within the wing, reduced BM @ wing root ]
the flying wing2
The Flying Wing


  • Higher PL weight fractions
  • Stealth advantage: FW is difficult to detect visually or by radar (Ho IX, B2, F-117)


  • Ingress / egress.
  • Shape of FW is far from ideal for a pressure vessel; W penalty to pressurize the cabin.
  • Difficult to integrate a pressurized passenger compartment, a cargo compartment and fuel bays.
  • For small FW, the size of the human body dictates the inclusion of a fuselage, unless pilot sits in supine position.
  • For large FW the size and type of PL determines whether or not a FW is a suitable configuration.
the flying wing3
The Flying Wing


  • Not very good loading flexibility, especially in the case of low density PL. Loading restrictions are necessary both in longitudinal and lateral position.
  • Nil stretch potential (cannot increase PL).
  • S of a FW tends to be larger than S of conventional ac (defeats part of the L/D advantage).
  • Incapable of producing high CLmax (flaps @ TE cause nose-down PM, which cannot be trimmed; must use low W/S for TO and LND, which results in low cruise efficiency).
  • High load factors in turbulent air result in uncomfortable ride + heavy workload for the pilot. FW response to control surface deflections and bumps is accompanied by a poorly damped phugoid and an oscillatory short period motion.
  • Difficult to achieve good W & B + S & C characteristics:
    • Lack of moment arm
    • Difficult to have cg ahead of ac (entire PL must be in the forward part of the wing). Solutions: Reflex airfoils, wing sweep, tip-mounted fins. Problem: reduced L/D.
    • Good news: for high-performance ac can use SAS (Stability Augmentation System); w. enough power to drive the SAS a FW can be made to behave quite nicely!
span loader1

Idea: PL is distributed along the wing span (Lockheed concept: TOW = 2,354,000 lbs).


  • Reduced wing structural W.


  • Need to support PL throughout the wing span to the tips. Requires very large taxiways, not available at current airports. Solution: air-cushion LND system @ each wing tip and @ centerbody.
  • Adverse ground effects result in low flap effectiveness.