In a first, Airbus C295 demonstrator makes its maiden flight with a “semi-morphic” wing

Conducted from Airbus Defence & Space’s San Pablo final assembly site in Seville, Spain, the airplane manufacturer has performed the first flight of a modified C295 military transport aircraft.

Airbus Media Centre

What is striking about this modified version is that the aircraft boasts of a new and innovative high-efficiency “semi-morphing wing” and “dynamic winglets”, coupled with the addition of a new flight control system.

The aircraft is to now start a flight campaign to test the new semi-morphing wing, the new affordable flight control system, as well as a SatCom antenna embedded within the aircraft’s fuselage.

The first flight of the C295 FTB2 is a key milestone that represents an important step forward in the programme, following the successful integration of the new aero structures, power-on and ground tests. A few years ago this programme was just a dream of a more sustainable future for aviation. Today we are at the final stage and we finally made it fly

said Francisco Javier Sánchez Segura, Executive Vice President Engineering Airbus Defence and Space

Taking forward the European Clean Sky 2 (CS2) and the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, the modified Airbus C295 flight test-bed is, what can be called an in-flight demonstrator of the aforementioned programme.

Tech and Specs

The Airbus C295 is a new-generation tactical airlifter in the light and medium segment, with multi-role capabilities ranging from air-to-air refuelling, VIP transport, emergency medical transport to functioning as a water bomber as well.

The Drive

This modified C295 features state-of-the-art technology fused with advanced features that enable it to achieve 70% NOx reductions and up to 43% CO2 reductions.

The main modifications in the aircraft are a new high-efficiency semi-morphing wing, new dynamic winglets and a flat panel SATCOM antenna integrated within the top of the fuselage.  In addition, innovative flight controls for primary control surfaces, including ailerons, flaps and flap tabs with improved aerodynamics, are capable of adjusting in-flight and contribute to a more efficient high lift system.

The Airbus C295 technology demonstrator of Clean Sky 2 makes its maiden flight | Youtube

The new flight control system leverages digital control systems to optimise the aerodynamic shape of the wing in flight, while a new multifunctional flap has been completely redesigned and includes flap tabs in the trailing edge controlled by electromechanical actuators.

Morphic wings- a brief history and why it could be the next gamechanger

Reportedly, commercial airlines spend about one-fourth of their operating expenses on fuel. Modern aircraft engines and aircraft design have already reached near-peak levels of efficiency, where could we focus to improve performance?

For over decades, aerospace engineers have been working on twistable aircraft wings that could be instantaneously and minutely adjusted to improve fuel efficiency. While this might sound something out of a sci-fi movie, the concept of a “morphic wing” has been around since the mid-1980s, when the U.S. Air Force tested Mission Adaptive Wings that were built by Boeing and installed on an F-111 aircraft. Although the technology was intended only for fighter jets, it soon faded away in the dark of the night.

F-111 Aardvark | Representative | Wikipedia

The flexible wing concept has advanced greatly from then to now. How does it work?

Technically, an aircraft’s wings are designed to produce minimum drag at only one particular flight condition. ”Morphic wings” with shape-changing control surfaces can minimize drag for a wide range of conditions—a feat that has never before been achieved in commercial flight.

Nanotube-based skins could make morphing wing technology soar | National Research Council Canada

The flexible surface adjusts the curvature of the wings’ trailing edges to deliver an optimal lift-to-drag ratio throughout the test flights, whereas flaps on today’s airplanes pivot to generate lift or drag only during takeoffs and landings. Additionally, an analysis by NASA has also shown that this surface could lead to quieter landings and possibly even less turbulent flights.

Did you know? India has formalised the acquisition of 56 Airbus C295 aircraft to replace the Indian Air Force (IAF) legacy AVRO fleet