A new ten-year federal budget plan includes New Aviation Horizons—a NASA program to design, build, and fly a new generation of experimental aircraft known as “X-planes.” If the budget that President Obama recently proposed is approved, NASA would begin the program, which aims to redesign aircraft in order to reduce fuel emissions while making flights quieter and less expensive.
Since the 1940s, X-Planes have been known for pushing the limits of aviation and (literally) breaking new barriers. The X-1, for example, was the first plane to break the sound barrier. Previous X-Planes set records for speed, range, and altitude. Now, the proposed 21st century version of the program would focus on new goals.
We need the X-planes to prove, in an undeniable way, how that tech can make aviation more Earth friendly, reduce delays and maintain safety for the flying public, and support an industry that’s critical to our nation’s economic vitality.
The flight demonstration vehicles would be about half the size of production aircraft, and they are expected to be in the air by 2020. The research will take place primarily at the Ames Research Center and Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, the Glenn Research Center in Ohio and the Langley Research Center in Virginia. Some of the innovations would include: advancements in lightweight composite materials, special coatings, improved fan design, and dramatic changes in body shape. NASA predicts that this new technology “could save the airline industry $255 billion accrued during the first 25 years after being put into service.”