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This New Blended-Wing Jetliner Was Just Cleared for Test Flights

JetZero is one step closer to launching its futuristic blended-wing Jetliner.

The California-based aerospace company just announced that its Pathfinder demonstrator received an airworthiness certificate from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), meaning that the aircraft can now partake in flight tests at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

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With a wingspan of 23 feet, Pathfinder is a 1:8 scale model of the full-size aircraft but features the same wonderfully unconventional body. (A blended-wing jet, or “flying wing,” seamlessly combines the wing and fuselage into one construction, while regular planes have a definitive fuselage.) The aerodynamic design provides the lift necessary for flight and also greatly increases efficiency. In fact, JetZero claims its blended-wing beauty will burn half the fuel of a similar-sized commercial jet. The two engines are also positioned on top of the body so it will emit four times less noise than its conventional competitors, too.

JetZero Blended-Wing Jetliner
The Jetliner on the ground.

“Traditional tube-and-wing designs have reached the end of the road on efficiency gains,” Tom O’Leary, JetZero cofounder and CEO, previously told Robb Report. “Our new airframe meets both the climate challenge and the demands of an underserved mid-market segment.”

Flight tests of Pathfinder were originally scheduled to start in late 2023 but were delayed by late delivery of some parts. The initial flight test phase is expected to last around three months, with the small demonstrator used to evaluate flight controls and the nose landing gear.

JetZero Blended-Wing Jetliner
The Jetliner in the skies.

The tests will pave the way for other bigger models to follow. JetZero is currently developing a full-scale prototype after it was awarded a $235 million contract from the U.S. Air Force last year. The large demonstrator, which will built and tested in collaboration with Northrop Grumman, will have the capacity of a Boeing 767 and the wingspan of an Airbus A330. It is expected to begin test flights in the first quarter of 2027, demonstrating the capabilities of the technology that could lead to a new class of military transports.

JetZero is working with the USAF, NASA, and the FAA to get a blended-wing Jetliner into service by 2030. It won’t be alone, though: The Flying V and the Airbus Maveric are two other famous blended-wing designs expected to be in the air by 2035.

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