Before we look at Bombardier's blended-wing EcoJet and how it could be the future of sustainable aviation, let's first look at the innovative Canadian aircraft manufacturer and see how it came to be. Headquartered in Dorval, Quebec, Canada, Bombardier was founded by Joseph-Armand Bombardier in 1942. Initially, Bombardier manufactured snowmobiles before diversifying into public service vehicles and aircraft.
Able to grow by purchasing failing government companies at rock-bottom prices, everything went well for Bombardier until it became involved in the CSeries jet project. Now deep in debt and looking for bankruptcy in the face in 2015, Bombardier sold all its assets except for its business jet business. Airbus came to the rescue by buying 50.01% of the CSeries program and renaming the CSeries jet the Airbus A220.
The Bombardier Global 8000 will be the world's fastest business jet
Following the deal with Airbus, Bombardier continued to be a world leader in business jets and plans to start selling the world's fastest plane of its type, the Global 8000, in 2025. For years now, Bombardier has been working on solutions to become a world leader in sustainable aviation. The blended wing body EcoJet aims to reduce emissions using a more efficient plane powered by new propulsion technology.
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What is a blended jet wing?
Also known as a blended body wing, the aircraft is a fixed-wing plane with no dividing line between the fuselage and the wing. The main advantage over a conventional wing aircraft is a considerable reduction of drag and to use the entire plane to help create lift.
The concept is by no means new, with NASA and McDonnell Douglas looking at building a blended-wing aircraft in the 1990s. Currently, Airbus is also studying the idea of a new, more economical aircraft to replace the Airbus A320neo.
The potential advantages of a blended-wing aircraft are:
- The ability to carry a larger payload.
- An increase in fuel efficiency.
- A noise reduction.
The potential disadvantages of a blended-wing aircraft are:
- Instead of being tubular like a conventional aircraft, the seating would be like a theater which could pose a problem if the plane needed to be evacuated during an emergency.
- The potential for passengers seated on the edge of the plane to feel ill due to wing role.
- The plane may not be economical for short-haul flights.
- Its large wing may not work with conventional airport infrastructure. It might need to have a folding wing like the Boeing 777X.
- Studies show that blended wing designs pose challenges at lower speeds.
Is hydrogen the solution?
Besides the aerodynamic shape, Bombardier is looking at new propulsion systems that include engines powered by hydrogen. Already used for rocket fuel, hydrogen is the smallest, lightest molecule known to man. It does not occur naturally on Earth but can be extracted from water or hydrocarbon compounds like gas and oil.
While hydrogen appears to be the perfect solution in helping to create a greener planet, the problem is that extracting hydrogen is energy intensive. The ideal solution would be to produce hydrogen using renewable energy from solar and wind. Experts say this is purely a marketing ploy by the gas and oil industries and would not be possible given the current conditions.
When speaking about its EcoJet in a company statement, Senior Vice President of Engineering and Product Development Stephen McCullough said:
"Bombardier has taken a leadership position in the industry's efforts to reduce its environmental footprint, and the EcoJet research project is paramount to developing the technologies that will bring us toward the goal of net zero emissions by 2050,
"We are very pleased to see the highly engaging results yielded so far and to continue our trailblazing work as we kick off the next phase of this game-changing research project. The EcoJet research project has garnered a high level of interest across the industry, and we are looking forward to mobilizing partners as we continue to define the future of business aviation."
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