KLM Building Student-Designed Airplane That Uses 20% Less Fuel

The firm and Delft University of Technology have joined forces to transform everything you thought you knew about planes.

KLM and Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) are teaming up to radically change the future of aviation. The two innovation leaders are joining forces to develop a flight concept known as the “Flying-V which they hope will lead the future of sustainable long-distance flight. The wild looking plane has a distinct ‘V’ shape that incorporates the passenger cabin, the cargo hold and, the fuel tanks in the wings.

“The new shape of the aircraft means we have exciting opportunities to design the interior, making flying more comfortable for passengers. For instance, as part of the Flying-V research, we’re looking into new options to having a rest or taking meals on a plane. Offering food from a buffet is one of the options we’re sinking our teeth in," says Peter Vink, Professor of Applied Ergonomics and Design at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering.

The plane’s aerodynamic shape means it uses 20% less fuel than the leading fuel efficient plane today, the Airbus A350. The collaborative partners will present a flying scale model and a full-size section of the interior of the Flying-V at the KLM Experience Days at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in October on the occasion of KLM’s 100th anniversary.

Standard wing span integrates into existing infrastructure

The plane has the same wingspan as the A350, which means it can integrate seamlessly into existing infrastructure at airports, such as gates and runways. Despite the planes weird shape it can fit into the same hangar as the A350. It can also carry about the same number of passengers as the A350 approximately 314 in the standard configuration at full capacity.

KLM Building Student-Designed Airplane That Uses 20% Less Fuel
Source: TU Delft

“In recent years, KLM has developed as a pioneer in sustainability within the airline industry. The development of aviation has given the world a great deal, offering us an opportunity to connect people. This privilege is paired with a huge responsibility for our planet.

KLM takes this very seriously and has therefore been investing in sustainability at different levels for many years, enabling it to develop a broad spectrum of sustainability initiatives. We are proud of our progressive cooperative relationship with TU Delft, which ties in well with KLM’s strategy and serves as an important milestone for us on the road to scaling-up sustainable aviation," explained KLM President & CEO Pieter Elbers.

Super-lightweight design means optimal fuel efficiency 

The plane is designed to be as light as possible. This means everything about the plane will be redesigned from scratch including interiors and seats. The team says passenger comfort will be a guiding design principle for improved long distance traveling experience.

The current design for the V-shaped plane uses traditional kerosene but it has the potential to be converted to more innovative propulsion systems such as electrically-boosted turbofans.

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"We are incredibly pleased to be able to cooperate with our trusted partner KLM on our combined mission to make aviation more sustainable. Radically new and highly energy-efficient aircraft designs such as the Flying-V are important in this respect, as are new forms of propulsion. Our ultimate aim is one of emission-free flight. Our cooperation with KLM offers a tremendous opportunity to bring about real change," says the Dean of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft Professor Henri Werij.

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