US airline coalition to join NASA and Boeing’s X-plane project

NASA Boeing X66A

A new sustainability coalition of United States (US) airlines will assist Boeing and NASA with advice on the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator (SFD) project and development of the X-66A research aircraft.   

Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines will all be involved in the collaboration, Boeing confirmed on July 25, 2023. 

The US carriers will provide input on operational efficiencies, maintenance, handling characteristics and airport compatibility. 

“Hearing directly from the operators during all phases of the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project will help us understand exact requirements and tradeoffs,” said Todd Citron, Boeing chief technology officer. “The airlines’ feedback will significantly contribute to the X-66A project learnings while furthering aviation sustainability.” 

At this year’s EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, Boeing and NASA also unveiled the livery that the X-66A will display.  

According to NASA, the X-66A is the first X-plane specifically focused on helping the US achieve the goal of net zero aviation greenhouse gas emissions, which was articulated in the White House’s Aviation Climate Action Plan

The SFD project seeks to inform a potential new generation of more sustainable single-aisle aircraft. 

The X-66A with extra-long, thin wings are stabilized by diagonal struts, known as the Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW) concept. 

The X-66A will be built from a modified MD-90 aircraft at a Boeing facility in Palmdale, California.  

The airlines will offer feedback throughout the project, including: 

Design: Airline participants will share feedback on sustainable operations and airport compatibility. While the X-66A will have a wingspan of 145 feet, the TTBW design could be used by planes of different sizes and missions and may benefit from folding wing tips to accommodate existing airport infrastructure. 

Simulation and lab testing: Airline pilots will have a chance to experience the X-66A through a flight simulator and assess the vehicle’s handling characteristics. 

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