Boeing's updated transonic wing concept offers 'unprecedented' efficiency

Boeing has taken the wraps of its latest Transonic Truss-Braced Wing, a new configuration that the company says offers an unprecedented efficiency at Mach 0.80 speeds during flight. The new design paves the way for faster flights at higher altitudes, though the entire development process is still in its conceptual phase. Among other things, the wing is ultra-thin and braced with a truss, which helps support the extra length.

This is the latest version of Boeing's transonic plane concept, one that features a 170-foot wingspan braced with trusses, hence the design's name. When the plane is flying at Mach 0.80, the new type of wing would provide an unprecedented degree of aerodynamic efficiency, the company said in an announcement today.

The truss component makes this ultra-long wingspan possible, also opening the door to faster speeds than previous Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW) designs. Originally, according to the company, the TTBWs were designed for flight speeds of Mach 0.70 to 0.75.

A faster Mach 0.80 speed is made possible by a modified wing sweep and truss optimization. The new wing sweep angle, meanwhile, makes it possible for the truss to more efficiently carry lift, the company explains, resulting in "significantly improved" performance coupled with a more integrated design.

All of this has been made possible, in part, by NASA Ames Research Center's wind tunnels, where Boeing has performed extensive testing. The space agency and private aerospace company have been working together on the transonic concept for almost a decade under a program called Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research.