By Cailey Rizzo
January 10, 2019
TTBW Boeing Design NASA Wings
Credit: Courtesy of Boeing

On Tuesday, Boeing gave us a glimpse into the future.

The aircraft manufacturer revealed a new aircraft wing design it’s been working on with NASA through the Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research (SUGAR) program.

The wing is not too drastically different from what we see normally on the sides of planes. But underneath the wing is a “truss” (basically a support) that holds the wing up from the bottom. The truss would allow an aircraft to fly at speeds up to 0.8 Mach (about 615 miles per hour).

The Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW, as the project is known) has been under development for several years. But previous versions of the wing only allowed speeds from 0.70 to 0.75 Mach.

The wingspan measure about 170 feet and gets incredibly thin at the tip. It’s thanks to the truss that the thin wing is able to sustain the high speeds. (Current commercial jets fly at a speed of anywhere from about 460 to 570 miles per hour.)

Compared to aircraft from the early 2000s, this type of plane would reduce fuel burn by up to 60 percent.

The joint research between Boeing and NASA aims to develop “innovative concepts that reduce noise and emissions while enhancing performance,” according to the manufacturer.

Although the project is still at the conceptual phase, it’s not unlikely that we could see it take to the skies within the coming years. Boeing and NASA aren’t the only entities working on a truss-based wing concept.

Comac, a new aircraft manufacturer, is developing a concept called the V1plus Truss-Braced Wing Demonstrator. The plane first flew in August 2018 and was deemed a success by the company. It’s uncertain whether or not truss-braced wings will become a common reality, but as more manufacturers enter the competition, it seems to become more likely.