New Plane Design Could Use 70 Percent Less Fuel


A NASA-sponsored competition to design futuristic, fuel-efficient airplanes has led to a jet prototype that would burn roughly 70 percent less fuel than current aircraft.

Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology designed what they called a D-series “double bubble” jet, which features a wide fuselage composed of two partial cylinders fused together in an aerodynamic shape.

The prototype also has a smaller tail, skinnier wings, and engines mounted on the rear of the fuselage instead of the wings, which allows the engines to suck in slower-moving air and increase efficiency.

These changes and use of lighter materials help the plane burn 70 percent less fuel, the MIT team said. In addition to designing this subsonic model, the MIT team designed a supersonic model, as well, that they said would also sharply cut fuel consumption.

The NASA competition — known as “N+3” to denote three generations beyond today’s commercial fleet — also included designs from Boeing, GE Aviation, and Northrop Grumman. Air traffic is expected to double by 2035, and one MIT engineer said new designs were needed because “aircraft silhouettes have basically remained the same over the past 50 years.”

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

photo: MIT

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.


  1. Finally, now to make a 2 – 4 seat version! I wonder how far out this is from me sitting in one?

  2. While this is nice, it’s still a long way away. Still won’t stop the crowded airports or super long lines. I’m far more interested in Bombardier’s Zefiro 380 high speed train. That thing looks pretty sweet. Granted, that type of HSR in the US is also a “long way away”.

  3. These new planes are the way of the future. From now on high flying jets are just obselete gas guzzling dinosaurs that distribute harmful green house gases high in the atmosphere and they should be replced with economical sub sonic low flying jets as soon as possible. Besides saving our atmosphere, these lower flying sub sonic planes will also have a significant health benefit to passingers who are currently prone to developing life threatning blood clots on or after high altitude flights.