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Tiny Engines, Big Rewards
Tiny Engines, Big Rewards:
A Cruise-Efficient, Short Takeoff & Landing Vehicle is Analyzed

A novel, low-noise, short takeoff and landing vehicle concept with a distributed propulsion system was investigated to meet the growing future aviation market. For this concept, a blended wingbody configuration was selected for its cruise-efficient airframe with sufficient wing volume available for an embedded wing, distributed propulsion system.

The saturation of airports and the impact to the surrounding airspace and terrestrial communities are rapidly increasing limits to world aviation travel. Breakthrough concepts that enable increased air traffic and performance and decreased noise are required for growing future aviation markets. Subsonic commercial concepts appearing on the 25-year horizon must facilitate an increase in air traffic more than 4 times greater than current levels, while complying with more stringent respect for the surrounding communities across the expanding world market. Attacking these issues holistically is the concept of a short takeoff and landing (STOL) high-speed subsonic transport, which enables 24-hr expanded use of the untapped regional airspace. The concept is a high lift- capable airframe, which employs embedded wing, spanwise-distributed propulsion to meet rigorously defined airport operation requirements while maintaining efficient cruise capability.

The initial concept was conceived by NASA Glenn Research Center's Propulsion System Analysis Branch, and a proposal was submitted to NASA Headquarters' Revolutionary System Concepts for Aeronautics project. The proposal was competed among NASA's aeronautics centers and selected for funding. For the vehicle configuration, Boeing's Phantom Works Division (Huntington Beach, CA) was selected to develop a conceptual aircraft. The current vehicle concept has a 40,000 lb payload capability with a 3000 nautical mile range at a cruise mach number of 0.8. Because of its STOL characteristics, the vehicle will be able to take off and land within a 5000 foot field length, which captures 84 percent of all U.S. regional airports. Diversitech, Inc. (Cincinnati, OH) investigated the benefits of this concept for the Revolutionary System Concepts for Aeronautics Project. To reduce the aircraft noise well below the current requirements, designers have employed noise shielding using the large blended wingbody upper surface, acoustic treatment of inlets and nozzles, and distribution of the thrust streams next to each other to attenuate noise propagation.

At the end of this conceptual study, a final report was written and presented at NASA Langley Research Center. The report includes a technology assessment to determine technology gaps and identifies relevant technology challenges and investments for future research.

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Authors and Contacts:
Hyun D. Kim, 216.433.8344,
Jeffrey J. Berton, 216.977.7031,
Scott M. Jones, 216.977.7015,

Headquarters Program Office: Aeronautics Research

Programs/Projects: Revolutionary System Concepts for Aeronautics

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Last Updated: November 4, 2016