Led by Airbus subsidiary and technology incubator UpNext, the eXtra Performance Wing project aims to improve flight performance and respond to environmental concerns by completely re-thinking aircraft wings as we know them today.
Using biomimicry – biologically inspired engineering – the project seeks to develop a wing that can change shape and form during flight to maximise its aerodynamic efficiency. If the concept is successful and integrated into new aircraft, it has the potential to significantly reduce fuel consumption.
The November first flight was an important milestone for the project because the demonstrator is fitted with the exact systems that it will have when the eXtra Performance Wings are installed for flight testing starting in 2025. The data gleaned from this and subsequent flight tests will allow Airbus engineers to measure important baseline performance metrics that will be used to determine the impact of the new wing design, such as reductions in CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.
While the eXtra Performance Wing technologies could be applicable to any kind of aircraft and propulsion system, the chosen demonstrator is a modified Cessna Citation VII business jet. As the targeted wingspan of the eXtra Performance Wing is more than 50 metres (that’s long: an A320 wingspan is 35.8 metres), the Cessna’s 16 metre wingspan represents an approximately one-third scale model of the final design.
“Things are evidently simpler at a smaller scale,” said Sebastien Blanc, eXtra Performance Wing Technical Director. “But we chose the Cessna specifically because it constituted the best trade-off between project complexity and representativeness of the final design.”
Launched in September 2021 the eXtra Performance Wing project is part of Airbus’ Wing Research portfolio. This project explores some of the many technologies that could one day be integrated into the next generation of Airbus aircraft and complements the Wing of Tomorrow programme. Airbus UpNext seeks to fast-track future technologies by developing radical technological breakthroughs in an agile environment.