Boeing has unveiled the latest super-thin wing concept that has been designed to enhance the performance of transonic aircraft cruising at speeds of Mach 0.8 (593 mph). The newest version of the company’s Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW) can fly faster and higher than its previous versions. This is possible because of the calibrated wing-sweep angle and the optimized support truss.
Although there’s a lot of talk going on about the commercial supersonic air travel and the development of hypersonic flight, however; the truth is that the actual modern technology in aerospace engineering is in transonic flight. Almost all of the flying carried out outside of the military circles takes place in the subsonic realm – that is speeds that are under Mach 0.8. However, when it comes to the exceptionally competitive world of commercial passengers and freight hauling, this speed is just not enough.
The speed between Mach 1 and Mach 0.8 is considered transonic. This is the range of speeds before breaking the sound barrier and above the speeds where an increase in the air resistance and other factors can be a bit harsh on the aircraft.
Although not easy, engineers do aim to get as close to transonic as is possible without breaking the sound barrier. It is complicated because the whole aircraft doesn’t transition from subsonic to transonic. Wait, what? Yes, when you approach the transition point, some parts of the aircraft are over the limit while the others are below it.
As per Boeing, the TTBW was engineered to operate, originally, in a range of Mach 0.70 to 0.75. However, the new truss, wing sweep, and the integrated design allow for enhanced speed and altitude performance by forming a slim and foldable wing with a span of 52 meters.
The aim of it is not only to create a better wing for transonic flight but to come up with one that is eco-friendly. It was created as a part of NASA’s Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research (SUGAR) program. The program aimed at creating transonic and subsonic aircraft that are 71dB quieter than the current FAA noise standards, and offer a 71% reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions while burning 70% less fuel.