'Flying wing' prototype plane makes its debut
(CNN) — We all know a plane can’t fly without wings — but can wings fly without a body?
A new fuselage-free “flying wing” prototype has proved that it can, and it made its global debut at Germany’s AERO Friedrichshafen airshow on April 11.
The Horten HX-2 light aircraft has been three years in development and is undergoing flight testing.
Its wing span is a sweeping 10 meters, with lifted tips, but its tailless, tiny two-seater cabin has a maximum length of just two meters.
Bernhard Mattlener, managing director of Horten Aircraft, a part of the LIFT Air group, says that “due to its low aerodynamic resistance, the flying wing flies farther and faster than a comparable aircraft with a fuselage.
“The design of the airframe makes it easily adaptable for installing new propulsion technologies we anticipate will become available in the future,” he adds.
As outlandishly modern as the HX-2 might look, the flying wing concept is almost as old as aviation itself.
Hugo Junkers patented his “nurflügel” flying wing concept back in 1910 and Horten Aircraft’s name is a reference to German aircraft designer Ing Reimar Horten, a pioneer in the field.
Horten and his brother Walter designed the world’s first jet-powered flying wing, the Horten Ho 229, towards the end of World War II. The aircraft is sometimes referred to as “Hitler’s Stealth Fighter.”
It was a prototype fighter/bomber and its low-drag flying wing design was a response to a call by Hermann Göring, commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe, for craft capable of meeting the “3 x 1,000” requirement: to carry 1,000 kilos of bombs a distance of 1,000 kilometers with a speed of 1,000 kilometers by hour.
It didn’t achieve those demands, but it was the only design to come close.
Old meets new
Horten Aircraft says that its craft is based on Reimar Horten’s original revolutionary all-wing concept, while incorporating new blended-wing body technology.
It’s powered by a Rotax 912 engine with two 120-liter fuel tanks, and it’s made of carbon/glass-fiber materials.
It’s a propeller-driven “pusher” plane, meaning that the propeller pushes the plane forward, instead of pulling it through the air.
The prototype was built by Horten Aircraft at its headquarters near Eisenach in central Germany.
The public will be able to get their first look at the craft at the AERO Friedrichshafen, on the shores of Lake Constance in southern Germany, until April 13.
Horten Aircraft’s plans for the future include unmanned or multi-seat versions of the current prototype.
“Aviation is moving more and more towards alternative propulsion systems. The flying wing aircraft is an ideal platform for the upcoming technology.”