Dutch national airline KLM has partnered with Delft University to design an innovative new aircraft.
In the future, as more of the world demands to fly, we need planes that are less damaging to the environment – producing less noise, fewer harmful emissions and using more eco-friendly biofuels.
The AHEAD (Advanced Hybrid Engine Aircraft Development) programme, which is led by the Netherland’s Delft University in partnership with KLM’s engineering and maintenance team, is setting out to find a solution.
Unlike traditional commerical planes the have a cylindrical fuselage with two wings attached to it, the AHEAD aircraft has a “blended wing body”. This makes it more aerodynamic, reducing drag, meaning it burns less fuel as it requires less power.
This makes the plane more efficient and less expensive to operate – fuel is an airline’s biggest overhead. A typical B747 jumbo jet will use £40,000 worth for a single journey.
KLM reveals that the new blended wing body plane would carry 300 passengers and have a range of 14,000km (roughly the distance of flying from London to Perth). This is on a par with Boeing’s cutting-edge B787 Dreamliner.
The AHEAD jet would also incorporate new hybrid engines with two different combustion systems – the first burning cryogenic hydrogen or liquified natural gas, with the other burning kerosene or biofuel.
“By using two different combustor and fuel systems the engine’s total efficiency increases and emissions are reduced,” says KLM. Counter rotating fans will also improve thrust.
The design is part of a long-term study “with many aspects still to be researched”.