Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

"Double Bubble" Airplane

PostedSeptember 18, 2011

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Randy Atkins: A plane in early development would replace single-aisle 737s, with a “double bubble” configuration.

Mark Drela: If you look at it from the front it looks like two soap bubbles stuck together, side-by-side…and it’s twin aisle.

Randy Atkins: Mark Drela, an M-I-T aeronautical engineer leading the design, says two aisles will dramatically speed boarding on this shorter, wider plane. With more weight shifted to the fuselage, engines can be mounted in the rear, reducing drag…and wings can be smaller and lighter. It also gets upward lift from…

Mark Drela: … a funny upturned nose, which means you can use less downward force on the tail, and that makes the tail lighter.

Randy Atkins: Drela says foreseeable technology advances could allow the plane to have fuel savings of up to seventy-percent.

Mark Drela: In the near term you could still maybe get twenty, thirty percent, which is still very attractive.

Randy Atkins: With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.