The Blended Body Race


Several companies, from Airbus size down to entrepreneurial startups are developing blended body aircraft designs. (Think of an arrow head or a flattened lozenge with wings rather than a fat tube slung under the wings.) The reason for this development fever is that blended bodies could carry as much as 50% more cargo and the cargo would be easier to pack in a wide space rather than a long tube.  Combining that with continuing improvements in lighter materials and more efficient jet engines could increase total capabilities by not 50%, but 60 or 70%.

The likely financial result will be much cheaper (hence more profitable) shipping of perishable foodstuffs from long distances.  Present shipping routes would also produce less global-warming carbon dioxide than existing flights.

But, there are questions.

The biggest question is when will enough money be committed to take the development risk to build and market this radical new type of commercial craft?  Worse, might the attempt flop?  The joint British–French Concorde airliners flew supersonically for a number of years, but they never returned significant profits compared to the major development costs. 

More likely, the blended bodies will be fabulously successful, leading to much more aerial shipping.  That would be great, but there is no such thing as a free lunch.  Jet exhausts contain carbon dioxide and soot—both of which contribute to global warming, which we’ve all been warned about. 

A revolution in blended-body aircraft might only be “sustainable” if soot were removed from the exhaust and carbon dioxide emissions were decreased elsewhere.

Stay tuned to see what the future holds.

For some more details see’

Chris Young, “A new air freighter design could carry 60% more cargo. At half the cost? Interesting Engineering, Feb. 2, 2022.


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