Boeing-NASA to collaborate with US Airlines for Sustainable Flight Demonstrator Project

Boeing and NASA will collaborate with U.S. airlines to advise the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project and development of the X-66A research aircraft.

As part of a new sustainability coalition, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines will provide input on operational efficiencies, maintenance, handling characteristics and airport compatibility.

NASA and Boeing also unveiled the new X-66A livery today at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

Noteworthy, the X-66A will test the Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW) airframe configuration and will be built from a modified MD-90 aircraft at a Boeing facility in Palmdale, Calif. 

It is NASA’s first X-plane focused on helping achieve its goal of net-zero aviation greenhouse gas emissions.

When combined with expected advancements in propulsion systems, materials and systems architecture, a single-aisle airplane with a TTBW configuration could reduce fuel consumption and emissions up to 30% relative to today’s domestic fleet of airplanes.

Furthermore, the U.S. 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 airplanes 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.
  • Flight testing: Airline operations and maintenance teams will assess the X-66A as modifications are made to the airplane. Flight testing is slated for 2028 and 2029 out of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base.


About Sustainable Flight Demonstrator Project

The purpose of the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project is to engage with industry, academia, and other government organizations to identify, select, and mature key airframe technologies – such as new wing designs – that have a high probability of transition to the next generation single-aisle seat class airliner.

The centerpiece of the project is an experimental airplane, a demonstrator aircraft that will be produced under a partnership between NASA and The Boeing Company.

The goal of the full-scale research aircraft will be to prove the merits of its Transonic Truss Braced Wing design in a scale that has a high probability of being widely adopted by future commercial single-aisle transport aircraft.

Further, other advanced technologies will be introduced onto the demonstrator to help achieve fuel consumption and emissions reductions of up to 30%.

The aircraft is notionally planned to fly in 2028. Results of its flight tests will help inform industry decisions as to the design of new production single-aisle aircraft for the 2030s.

Moreover, flight tests of the vehicles and supporting systems will significantly flesh out the aviation industry’s knowledge of responsible aviation with the most current technologies onboard. 

This will facilitate validation of the nascent technologies and bring the single-aisle fleet closer toward the White House’s U.S. Aviation Climate Action Plan’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The demonstrator aircraft is one aspect of the multifaceted Sustainable Flight National Partnership that NASA has embarked on with industry.

Noteworthy, the Sustainable Flight Demonstration project is part of NASA’s Integrated Aviation Systems Program.