KLM to support research by TU Delft on the Flying-V future long-distance aircraft concept
(Image: Edwin Wallet, Studio OSO)
Tue 11 June 2019 – KLM and Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) have signed a cooperative agreement under which the airline will contribute towards TU Delft’s research into a future new aircraft concept called the Flying-V. The v-shaped design integrates the passenger cabin, cargo hold and the fuel tanks in the wings and the researchers believe the improved aerodynamics and reduced weight will enable the aircraft to use 20 per cent less fuel than the Airbus A350 while carrying the same number of passengers and volume of cargo. The aircraft would have the same wingspan as an A350 and be shorter in length so it would be able to use existing airport infrastructure. Meanwhile, KLM’s ground support subsidiary at Amsterdam Schiphol, KLM Equipment Services, is to switch its vehicles to using gas-to-liquid (GTL) fuel supplied by Shell this month to help improve air quality at the airport.
The long-distance Flying-V concept aircraft would carry 314 passengers in the standard configuration and 160 cubic metres of cargo, the same as a typical A350, and would be able to use existing gates, runways and hangars at airports. Under its present design, it would be propelled using the most fuel-efficient turbofan engines powered by kerosene that currently exist but the researchers say it could be easily adapted to make use of future innovations in propulsion systems, such as electrically-boosted turbofans.
“The Flying-V is smaller than the A350 and has less inflow surface area compared to the available amount of volume. The result is less resistance and that means the Flying-V needs less fuel for the same distance,” explained TU Delft Project Leader Dr Roelof Vos.
With the seating layout in the wings and the need for aircraft weight to be as light as possible to maximise efficiency gain, the researchers are also looking to improve the passenger experience through new interior design concepts.
“We are incredibly pleased to be able to cooperate with our trusted partner KLM on our combined mission to make aviation more sustainable,” said Henri Werij, Dean of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft. “Radically new and highly energy-efficient aircraft designs such as the Flying-V are important in this respect, as are new forms of propulsion. Our ultimate aim is one of emission-free flight. Our cooperation with KLM offers a tremendous opportunity to bring about real change.”
A flying prototype is due to be unveiled in October that will be used to test whether the Flying-V can remain stable and reliable while being flown at low speeds such as during take-off and landing. The flying scale model and a full-size section of the aircraft’s interior will be presented at the KLM Experience Days at Schiphol to coincide with KLM’s centenary celebrations.
Announcing the involvement with the Flying-V project at the recent IATA AGM in Seoul, KLM CEO Pieter Elbers said: “In recent years, KLM has developed as a pioneer in sustainability within the airline industry. The development of aviation has given the world a great deal, offering us an opportunity to connect people. This privilege is paired with a huge responsibility for our planet. KLM takes this very seriously and has therefore been investing in sustainability at different levels for many years, enabling it to develop a broad spectrum of sustainability initiatives. We are proud of our progressive cooperative relationship with TU Delft, which ties in well with KLM’s strategy and serves as an important milestone for us on the road to scaling-up sustainable aviation.”
Last October, the Dutch aviation sector presented an action plan to government that aims to decrease aviation CO2 emissions originating in the Netherlands by 35% by the end of 2030.
Around 4,000 vehicles and ground support equipment service aircraft at Schiphol, with 60% belonging to KLM. KLM Equipment Services (KES) says around 30,000 litres of fuel a day are consumed during operations. This month, almost all the operational fleet is switching from Shell Fuelsave Diesel to Shell GTL fuel to improve air quality.
“Many staff complained about smoke and soot,” said Gerwin te Hennepe of KES. “GTL burns a lot cleaner than conventional diesel. As a result, there are fewer local emissions, less visible black smoke and less odour. Local air quality has improved considerably and with it, the well-being of our staff.”
Shell GTL fuel is also being used at Hamburg and Copenhagen airports.