The Long-haul aircraft

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)


Outlook: Comfortable long-haul aircraft connect all continents quickly, save resources and are low in emissions.

Requirements: The continuously increasing volume in global passenger traffic is mainly performed by long-haul aircraft. As energy resources worldwide are dwindling and carbon dioxide emissions are rising, long-haul aircraft are expected to ensure global mobility in an efficient, environmentally friendly, economical and convenient way. To be able to do so, airlines require aircraft with efficient maintenance and fast ground handling processes to further reduce costs. In addition, intercontinental air traffic across time zones relies on destination airports that are accessible at any time – day and night. However, people living near airports want less aircraft noise, especially at night, and quieter aircraft. DLR wants to contribute ideas and solutions for a new generation of aircraft.

Objective: DLR will conceive and consider new aircraft designs which will meet all expectations, if possible. Aircraft configurations should no longer be limited to the combination of fuselage, wings and tail section as currently established in civil aircraft construction. New aircraft configurations and fewer resources will need to achieve the maximum transport capacity and carry more passengers per flight.

To accomplish this objective, a series of identified key technologies will be examined. The concept of More Electric Aircraft (MLA), for example, opens up prospects for the use of hybrid propulsion technologies. To further reduce the drag on longdistance flights, it is necessary to refine solutions for laminar airflow control such as boundary layer suction. With new aircraft configurations, the question arises whether engines should be integrated into the fuselage. If so, it will become necessary to develop new designs and enhance existing ones.

It remains crucial to limit the weight of future aircraft. Unconventional measures, such as active load control and the development of a 1-g wing, open new ways into the future. In addition, alternative fuels may be a challenge for the development of future engines.

At the same time, cabins of long-haul aircraft will need to become more versatile and comfortable in the future. DLR is planning to develop concepts for variable freight/passenger combinations and for adjustable cabin use tailored to the desired purpose. In this context, the requirements of specific passenger groups such as elderly people need to be taken more into consideration.

New types of low-emission and comfortable long-haul aircraft with new designs, technology and materials must pay off for airlines. It is expected that these innovations as opposed to conventional aircraft will also further reduce maintenance and operating costs. To ensure a high level of operational readiness for new long-haul aircraft, ground handling processes need to become more efficient. In the field of maintenance, it is DLR’s aim to investigate potentials for structural health monitoring and vehicle health management. Ground operations can be optimised by interconnecting the ground infrastructure even further. Detailed technical solutions need to be developed in this context. In addition, it needs to be determined how processes in flight operations and maintenance can be automated by means of intelligent technologies. And finally, the question arises to which extent the requirements for cruising speeds and altitudes can be modified to further reduce fuel consumption and environmental impact. When these specifications are changed, they will have a direct impact on aircraft configuration and operational use.

Last modified:
15/11/2017 11:24:44