World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Flying wing

Article Id: WHEBN0000191711
Reproduction Date:

Title: Flying wing  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Taras Kiceniuk, Jr., Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit, Northrop Corporation, Lifting body, Armstrong Whitworth A.W.52
Collection: Aircraft Wing Design, Flying Wings, Wing Configurations
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Flying wing

The Northrop B-2 Spirit stealth bomber

A flying wing is a tailless fixed-wing aircraft that has no definite fuselage. The crew, payload, fuel, and equipment are typically housed inside the main wing structure, although a flying wing may have various small protuberances such as pods, nacelles, blisters, booms, or vertical stabilizers.[1]

Similar aircraft designs that are not - strictly speaking - flying wings, are sometimes referred to as such. These types include Blended wing body aircraft, and Microlight aircraft which typically carry the pilot (and engine when fitted) below the wing.


  • History 1
  • Design issues 2
    • Directional stability 2.1
    • Yaw control 2.2
  • Bi-directional flying wing 3
  • Related designs 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The Northrop YB-35 was an experimental heavy bomber developed during World War II.

Tailless aircraft have been experimented with since the earliest attempts to fly. John William Dunne's swept-wing biplane designs displayed inherent stability. But it was not until the deep-chord monoplane wing, as first demonstrated by Hugo Junkers's firm as early as December 1915, became less experimental after World War I that the opportunity to discard any form of fuselage arose and the true flying wing could be realized.

Hugo Junkers patented a wing-only air transport concept in 1910. He saw it as a natural solution to the problem of building an airliner large enough to carry a reasonable passenger load and enough fuel to cross the Atlantic in regular service. He believed that the flying wing's potentially large internal volume and low drag made it an obvious design for this role. In 1919 he started work on his "Giant" JG1 design, intended to seat passengers within thick wings, but two years later the Allied Aeronautical Commission of Control ordered the incomplete JG1 destroyed for exceeding postwar size limits on German aircraft. Junkers conceived futuristic flying wings for up to 1,000 passengers; the nearest this came to realization was in the 1931 Junkers G.38 34-seater Grossflugzeug airliner, which featured a large thick-chord wing providing space for fuel, engines, and two passenger cabins. However, it still required a short fuselage to house the crew and additional passengers.

The flying wing configuration was studied extensively in the 1930s and 1940s, notably by Jack Northrop and Cheston L. Eshelman in the United States, and Alexander Lippisch and the Horten brothers in Germany.

Soviet designers such as Boris Ivanovich Cheranovsky started research independently and in secret under Stalin after the 1920s.[2] With significant breakthrough in materials and construction methods, aircraft such as the BICh-3,[3] BICh-14, BICh-7A and so on became possible. Men like Chizhevskij and Antonov also came into the spotlight of the Communist Party by designing aircraft like the tailless BOK-5[4] (Chizhevskij) and OKA-33[5] (the first ever built by Antonov) which were designated as "motorized gliders" due to their similarity to popular gliders of the time. The BICh-11[6] by Cheranovsky in 1932 was competing with the Horten brothers H1 (and Adolf Galland) at the Ninth Glider Competitions in 1933, but did not demonstrate in the 1936 summer Olympics in Berlin. The BICh-26[7] was one of the first attempts at a supersonic jet flying wing aircraft, ahead of its time in 1948[8] the airplane was not accepted by the military and the design died with Cheranovsky.

Northrop YB-49 flying wing bomber, the YB-35 converted to jet-power

Early examples of true flying wings include:

The Horten Ho 229, built by Nazi Germany late in World War II, was the first jet powered flying wing.
Part of a Ho 229 V3, unrestored as of 2007, at the Smithsonian's Paul Garber Facility

Several late-war German military designs were based on the flying wing concept (or variations of it) as a proposed solution to extend the range of the otherwise very short-range jet engined aircraft. Most famous of these would be the Horten Ho 229 fighter. This aircraft, first flown in 1944, combined a flying wing, or Nurflügel, design with twin jet engines in its second, or "V2" (V for Versuch) prototype airframe flown by Erwin Ziller, until a flameout in one of its Junkers Jumo 004 jet engines caused Ziller to lose his life in the crash. The unflown, nearly completed surviving "V3," or third prototype remains in storage at the Smithsonian Institution in an unrestored state.[16]

After the war, a number of experimental designs were based on the flying wing concept. Some general interest continued until the early 1950s, when the concept was proposed as a design solution for long-range bombers. Such trends culminated in the Northrop YB-35 and YB-49, which did not enter production. Those designs did not necessarily offer a great advantage in range and presented a number of technical problems, leading to the adoption of "conventional" solutions like the Convair B-36 and the B-52 Stratofortress. Early designs of the Avro Vulcan by Roy Chadwick also explored flying wing designs.[17]

Interest in flying wings was renewed in the 1980s due to their potentially low radar reflection cross-sections. Stealth technology relies on shapes that reflect only radar waves in certain directions, thus making the aircraft hard to detect unless the radar receiver is at a specific position relative to the aircraft—a position that changes continuously as the aircraft moves. This approach eventually led to the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. In this case, the aerodynamic advantages of the flying wing are not the primary reasons for the design's adoption. However, modern computer-controlled fly-by-wire systems allow for many of the aerodynamic drawbacks of the flying wing to be minimized, making for an efficient and stable long-range bomber.

Due to the practical need for a deep wing, the flying wing concept is most practical for designs in the slow-to-medium speed range, and there has been continual interest in using it as a tactical airlifter design. Boeing continues to work on paper projects for a blended wing body Lockheed C-130 Hercules-size transport with better range and about one third more load, while maintaining the same size characteristics. A number of companies, including Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, and de Havilland, did considerable design work on flying wing airliners, but to date none has entered production.

Design issues

A clean flying wing is sometimes presented as theoretically the most aerodynamically efficient (lowest drag) design configuration for a fixed wing aircraft. It also would offer high structural efficiency for a given wing depth, leading to light weight and high fuel efficiency.

Because it lacks conventional stabilizing surfaces and the associated control surfaces, in its purest form the flying wing suffers from the inherent disadvantages of being unstable and difficult to control. These compromises are difficult to reconcile, and efforts to do so can reduce or even negate the expected advantages of the flying wing design, such as reductions in weight and drag. Moreover, solutions may produce a final design that is still too unsafe for certain uses, such as commercial aviation.

Further difficulties arise from the problem of fitting the pilot, engines, flight equipment, and payload all within the depth of the wing section. A wing that is made deep enough to contain all these elements will have an increased frontal area, when compared with a conventional wing and fuselage, which in turn results in higher drag and thus slower speed than a conventional design. Typically the solution adopted in this case is to keep the wing reasonably thin, and the aircraft is then fitted with an assortment of blisters, pods, nacelles, fins, and so forth to accommodate all the needs of a practical aircraft.

Other known problems with the flying wing design relate to pitch and yaw. Pitch issues are discussed in the article on tailless aircraft. The problems of yaw are discussed below.

Directional stability

For any aircraft to fly without constant correction it must have directional stability in yaw.

Flying wings lack the long fuselage, the component that provides a convenient attachment point for an efficient vertical stabilizer or fin.

Any fin must attach directly on to the rear part of the wing, giving a small moment arm from the aerodynamic center, which in turn means that to be effective the fin area must be large. This large fin has weight and drag penalties, and can negate the advantages of the flying wing. The problem can be minimized by increasing the leading edge sweepback and placing twin fins outboard near the tips, as for example in a low-aspect-ratio delta wing, but many flying wings have gentler sweepback and consequently have, at best, marginal stability.

Another solution is to angle or crank the wing tip sections downward with significant anhedral, increasing the area at the rear of the aircraft when viewed from the side.

Yet another approach uses differential twist or wash out, together with a swept-back wing planform and a suitable airfoil section. Prandtl, Pankonin and others discovered this and it was fundamental to the yaw stability of the Horten brothers flying wings of the 1930s and 40s. The Hortens described a "bell shaped lift distribution" across the span of the wing, with more lift in the center section and less at the tips due to their reduced angle of incidence, or washing out. This creates a slightly forward-pointing lift vector for the rear (outer) section of the wing. When displaced, this vector essentially "pulls" the trailing wing forward to re-align the aircraft along its flight path.[18]

Yaw control

In some flying wing designs, any stabilizing fins and associated control rudders would be too far forward to have much effect, thus alternative means for yaw control are sometimes provided.

One solution to the control problem is differential drag: the drag near one wing tip is artificially increased, causing the aircraft to yaw in the direction of that wing. Typical methods include:

  • Split ailerons. The top surface moves up while the lower surface moves down, to create an air brake effect.
  • Spoilers. A spoiler surface in the upper wing skin is raised, to disrupt the airflow and increase drag. This effect is generally accompanied by a loss of lift, which must be compensated for either by the pilot or by complex design features.
  • Spoilerons. An upper surface spoiler that also acts to reduce lift (equivalent to deflecting an aileron upwards), so causing the aircraft to bank in the direction of the turn—the angle of roll causes the wing lift to act in the direction of turn, reducing the amount of drag required to turn the aircraft's longitudinal axis.

A consequence of the differential drag method is that if the aircraft maneuvers frequently then it will frequently create drag. So flying wings are at their best when cruising in still air: in turbulent air or when changing course, the aircraft may be less efficient than a conventional design.

Bi-directional flying wing

Bi-directional flying wing

The supersonic bi-directional flying wing design comprises a long-span low speed wing and a short-span high speed wing joined in the form of an unequal cross.

The proposed craft would take off and land with the low-speed wing across the airflow, then rotate a quarter-turn so that the high-speed wing faces the airflow for supersonic travel.[19] NASA has funded a study of the proposal.[20]

The design is claimed to feature low wave drag, high subsonic efficiency and little or no sonic boom.

The proposed low-speed wing would have a thick, rounded airfoil able to contain the payload and a long span for high efficiency, while the high-speed wing would have a thin, sharp-edged airfoil and a shorter span for low drag at supersonic speed.

Related designs

Some related aircraft that are not strictly flying wings have been described as such.

Some types, such as the Northrop Flying Wing (NX-216H), still have a tail stabilizer mounted on tail booms, although they lack a fuselage.

Many hang gliders and microlight aircraft are tailless. Although sometimes referred to as flying wings, these types carry the pilot (and engine where fitted) below the wing structure rather than inside it, and so are not true flying wings.

An aircraft of sharply swept delta planform and deep center section represents a borderline case between flying wing, blended wing body, and/or lifting body configurations.

See also


  1. ^ Crane, Dale: Dictionary of Aeronautical Terms, third edition, p. 224. Aviation Supplies & Academics, 1997. ISBN 1-56027-287-2.
  2. ^ "German flying wings". Retrieved 2012-03-30. 
  3. ^ "History of aircraft construction in the USSR" by V.B. Shavrov, Vol. 1 p. 431 (with images)
  4. ^ BOK-5, V.A.Chizhevskij
  5. ^ "History of aircraft construction in the USSR" by V.B. Shavrov, Vol.1 pp. 547–548
  6. ^ "Rocket fighter" by William Green, p.39-41
  7. ^ "History of aircraft construction in the USSR" by V.B. Shavrov, Vol. 2 p. 114
  8. ^ Gunston, Bill. "The Osprey Encyclopaedia of Russian Aircraft 1875–1995". London, Osprey. 1995.
  9. ^ Pelletier Air Enthusiast July–August 1996, p.15.
  10. ^ U.S. Naval Technical Mission in Europe. "Technical Report No. 76-45 on. Horten Tailless Aircraft" (PDF). Central Air Documents Office. p. 5. Retrieved 18 July 2010. Hor ten. H-II Both glider and powered version - (see figures 19 and 20) 
  11. ^ Gunston 1996, p. 26.
  12. ^ "The A.W. Flying Wing" (pdf). Flight: 464. 9 May 1946. Retrieved 18 July 2010. 
  13. ^ "Twin-jet A.W.52" (pdf). Flight: 674 following. 19 December 1946. Retrieved 18 July 2010. 
  14. ^ Kılıç,M. 2009. Uçan Kanat, THK basımevi, Ankara, p.5
  15. ^ "Turkish Aeronautical Association (THK)", Turkish Aircraft Production (English-language page).[2] (retrieved 15 May 2014)
  16. ^ Maksel, Rebecca (January 11, 2010). "Need to Know - The Luftwaffe's Flying Wing". Air & Space Smithsonian. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved June 11, 2013. 
  17. ^ Alliott Verdon Roe official web site - Avro Vulcan sketch
  18. ^ Guiler, R.W.; Control of a swept wing tailless aircraft through wing morphing, ICAS 2008: 26th Congress of International Council of the Aeronautical Sciences, Paper ICAS 2008-2.7.1, Pages 1–2.
  19. ^ Zha, Im & Espinal, Toward Zero Sonic-Boom and High Efficiency Supersonic Flight: A Novel Concept of Supersonic Bi-Directional Flying Wing
  20. ^ NIAC 2012 Phase I & Phase II Awards Announcement
  • Kohn, Leo J. The Flying Wings of Northrop (1974) Milwaukee, WI: Aviation Publications ISBN 0-87994-031-X
  • Maloney, Edward T. Northrop Flying Wings (1975) Buena Park, CA: Planes Of Fame Publishers ISBN 0-915464-00-4
  • Pelletier, Alain J. "Towards the Ideal Aircraft? The Life and Times of the Flying Wing Part One: Beginnings to 1945".  

External links

  • History of the Flying Wing at Century of Flight.
  • The Nurflügel page
  • Flight to the Future by Joe Mizrahi, Wings, April 1999, Vol. 29, No. 2
  • Glen Edwards and the Flying Wing
  • , March 1942Flying Wings Are Coming
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.