KLM teams up with Dutch university to develop sustainable V-shaped plane

The Flying-V uses 20 per cent less fuel than the Airbus A350, today’s most advanced aircraft

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has made another step towards more sustainable air travel. Yesterday, the Netherlands’ flag carrier announced a collaboration with the Delft University of Technology. KLM will be contributing to TU Delft’s research into an innovative flight concept known as the Flying-V aircraft.

The design of such a plane integrates the passenger cabin, the cargo hold and the fuel tanks into its unusual wings. Its improved aerodynamic shape and reduced weight mean it uses 20 per cent less fuel than the Airbus A350, today’s most advanced aircraft.

What’s more, the Flying-V can carry the same number of passengers — 314 in the standard configuration. It also provides the same volume of cargo.

“In recent years, KLM has developed as a pioneer in sustainability within the airline industry,” said KLM president and CEO Pieter Elbers.

“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.”

The aircraft’s improved aerodynamic shape and reduced weight mean it uses 20 per cent less fuel than the Airbus A350 — KLM KLM teams up with Dutch university to develop sustainable V-shaped plane
The aircraft’s improved aerodynamic shape and reduced weight mean it uses 20 per cent less fuel than the Airbus A350 — KLM

The researchers also want the Flying-V to improve passenger experience in aircraft. From the seating layout in the wings to the design of the seats and bathrooms, flying will be a completely different activity. However, everything has to be as lightweight as possible.

The future of electric propulsion

According to KLM report, the Flying-V uses the most fuel-efficient turbofan engines that currently exist. In its present design, it still flies on kerosene. However, it can easily be adapted to make use of innovations in the propulsion system. For instance, it might use electrically boosted turbofans.

“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,” said dean of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft, Henri Werij.

The carrier will present a flying scale model and a full-size section of the interior at the KLM Experience Days at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in October on the occasion of KLM’s 100th anniversary.