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Thread: Why no flying wings?

  1. #1

    Why no flying wings?

    Hi all,

    I was wondering why there aren't any flying wings on the market. For what I've read flying qualities are usually pretty good with them (if designed correctly). I'd imagine with modern control systems they could be made easier to control...

    I think the last one I've read about was the Horton HX-2 flying wing from 2019, however I haven't seen much info on it. Before that it was the Davis flying wings from the 80's.


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  2. #2
    Scooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AmazonChitlin View Post
    Hi all,

    I was wondering why there aren't any flying wings on the market. For what I've read flying qualities are usually pretty good with them (if designed correctly). I'd imagine with modern control systems they could be made easier to control...

    I think the last one I've read about was the Horton HX-2 flying wing from 2019, however I haven't seen much info on it. Before that it was the Davis flying wings from the 80's.


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    There are a number of books on the Horten brothers, but the one that really ventures into their quest for stability is "Only The Wing" by Russell E. Lee published in 2011 and has been out of print for years. A new paperback version is scheduled for release on September 1st for ~$25.

    Amazon books on the Horten flying wing:

    https://www.amazon.com/s?k=horten+fl...nb_sb_ss_i_4_7

    In the modern era, Northrop has produced the B2 and the forthcoming B21. There is no indication the Horten HX-2 2-place Rotax powered aircraft is in production. Stability and acceptable flight characteristics have always been problematic and control has to be augmented by some pretty sophisticated electronics in the Northrop-Grumman bombers.

    Then there's the Mitchell U-2 Superwing ultralight. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitchell_U-2_Superwing
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    Last edited by Scooper; 08-22-2020 at 04:57 PM.
    - Stan Cooper (K4DRD), Private Pilot ASEL, LSR-I, EAA 115792 Lifetime Member, EAA Chapter 124
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  3. #3
    Thanks for the heads up on the ultralight! I hadn't seen that one before! Sadly I don't think the plans are available anymore.

    I'm definitely going to have to check out that book.

    I always thought that the flight characteristics were well received by those that flew them. I think I've read that the xb35 and yb49 flew very well. The Davis flying wing also was said to fly well. I don't recall reading much about the other, smaller flying wings such as the old Horton gliders.

    The control systems i can imagine would be a pain...

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  4. #4
    Scooper's Avatar
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    Just a tip for online searches, the Horten brothers were German and spelled their last name Horten, not Horton.
    - Stan Cooper (K4DRD), Private Pilot ASEL, LSR-I, EAA 115792 Lifetime Member, EAA Chapter 124
    Experimental AMD CH601XLi-B, N601KE, KSTS



  5. #5
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    I think I've read that the xb35 and yb49 flew very well.
    And Capt. Glen Edwards died testing the YB-49, too. From Wikipedia:

    In May 1948, Edwards was selected to join the team of test pilots and engineers at Muroc who were then evaluating the Northrop YB-49, the all-jet version of the exotic flying wing bomber. After his first few flights, he was not favorably impressed, confiding to his diary that it was "the darndest airplane I've ever tried to do anything with. Quite uncontrollable at times." Then, on June 5, 1948, he was flying as co-pilot with Maj. Daniel Forbes when the airplane departed from controlled flight and broke apart in the sky northwest of the base. All five crew members were killed.

    Larry N.

  6. #6
    Mayhemxpc's Avatar
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    On the other hand, General (then Major) Cardenas, the Chief test pilot said he enjoyed flying the airplane, but it handled more like a fighter than a bomber.
    https://www.airspacemag.com/history-...775401/?page=2
    Chris Mayer
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  7. #7
    rwanttaja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mayhemxpc View Post
    On the other hand, General (then Major) Cardenas, the Chief test pilot said he enjoyed flying the airplane, but it handled more like a fighter than a bomber.
    https://www.airspacemag.com/history-...775401/?page=2
    IIRC, it had a tendency to hunt in one axis (yaw?). This ruined bombing accuracy. OK on an F-, not so good for a B-.

    Ron Wanttaja

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    Quote Originally Posted by rwanttaja View Post
    IIRC, it had a tendency to hunt in one axis (yaw?). This ruined bombing accuracy. OK on an F-, not so good for a B-.

    Ron Wanttaja
    I'm not sure it mattered when the real mission was to drop nukes.

    The challenge is/was that even with jets, the B-49 was 100 mph slower than the B-47. Mostly because of the thick airfoil which was designed for the B-35's prop driven speeds.

    A flying wing is a single point design. Actually, every aircraft is optimized for a single point. The problem with flying wings is that because of the limited CG range and associated trim drag, a flying wing's performance drops off more rapidly than a conventional planform the farther you get from the design point. In addition, the CG range for a flying wing is smaller than that of a conventional design, which restricts the aircraft's utility.

    The real application of a flying wing is to maximize stealth while having good (single point) performance. If you don't mind the expense/complication/weight, you can move fuel around in flight to maintain the CG you need and minimize trim drag. The military is one organization that finds these trade-offs acceptable.

    For the guy/gal flying on the weekend, a flying wing doesn't offer any advantages over conventional designs and has several disadvantages.

    Now, someone call the flying wing enthusiasts, many of whom are also into torches and pitchforks. ;-)

  9. #9
    Mayhemxpc's Avatar
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    “Hunting” In another article, Cardenas said that it stabilized out, but you needed a longer bomb run.

    utility, which I suspect goes with bomb load. The B-2 has the same bomb load as the B-52, and it can carry some ordnance that the B-52 cannot. As Kyle points out, that may be all well and good for unbelievably expensive Air Force planes, but not so much for the home builder/private pilot.

    But who am I to judge?
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  10. #10

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    Flying wing

    Quote Originally Posted by AmazonChitlin View Post
    Hi all,

    I was wondering why there aren't any flying wings on the market. For what I've read flying qualities are usually pretty good with them (if designed correctly). I'd imagine with modern control systems they could be made easier to control...

    I think the last one I've read about was the Horton HX-2 flying wing from 2019, however I haven't seen much info on it. Before that it was the Davis flying wings from the 80's.


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    I recall seeing a Flying Plank glider in the 50ís, a true flying wing bird. Some were modified adding a rear engine making it a motor glider. Only stability issue was never to stall the Plank. Vr.... Don
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backst...1_Flying_Plank

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