Saab has completed the development of an advanced natural laminar flow wing that reduces aviation fuel consumption under the Europe’s Clean Sky Smart Fixed Wing Aircraft (SFWA) project.
The SFWA project launched in 2008 is the second-largest sub-project within Europe's Clean Sky 1 environmental research programme for aviation. Saab is co-leader for SFWA, together with the aircraft manufacturer Airbus.
Saab’s wing component will have a significant positive environmental impact. It is an integrated wing leading edge and upper wing cover, which forms part of the port wing of the BLADE (Breakthrough Laminar Aircraft Demonstrator in Europe) flight demonstrator.
“Our expertise in aerodynamics and carbon fiber composites has been crucial in the development of the wing panel. A great deal of effort has gone into improving the wing's aerodynamic properties in order to maintain the laminar flow and ensure less drag and reduced fuel consumption. We have also been able to reduce weight and cost by using the latest knowledge in composite design and manufacturing,” says Dan Jangblad, head of Saab business area Industrial Products and Services.
A team of stress engineers, design engineers composite engineers and aerodynamics experts at Saab have developed a new way to design and manufacture aircraft wings in carbon-fibre-reinforced composites. Unlike a standard wing, the panel is completely smooth – there are no joints or rivets. Everything is cured in a single piece, with a surface that is completely smooth and glossy. The attachment points that fix the panel to the wing box itself are all made of composite materials and integrated into the underside of the wing shell.
The completely smooth outer surface and wing leading edge reduces drag, thus facilitating natural laminar airflow over the wing.
This key part of the BLADE project will soon travel to Aernnova in Spain, for the assembly phase of the laminar wing – which will be eventually installed by Airbus on its A340-300 MSN001 flight test aircraft.
Clean Sky is Europe’s largest commercial aircraft research programme. It aims to make aviation more environmentally friendly and reduce carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and noise emissions from European air traffic by between 20-40 per cent by 2020.