New Airbus Blended-Wing Airplane Concept Looks Very Similar to a 1940s Design for a Futuristic Flyer

Illustration for article titled New Airbus Blended-Wing Airplane Concept Looks Very Similar to a 1940s Design for a Futuristic Flyer
Photo: Airbus

Earlier this year, Airbus unveiled a sleek new concept aircraft with a blended wing that looked incredibly futuristic. And while it looks like it could have been ripped out of a sci-fi movie from the 2010s, the plane concept also has many elements of retro-futurism. Specifically, the plane looks similar to the proposed Northrop Flying Wing of the 1940s.

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The new Airbus concept is called MAVERIC (Model Aircraft for Validation and Experimentation of Robust Innovative Controls) and was unveiled back in February by the company’s designers in Singapore.

The company has built a scale model that’s about 6.5 feet long and 10.5 feet wide and Airbus even posted a concept video of the aircraft to YouTube.

The MAVERIC looks cool, but if the design looks familiar to you, there might be a good reason. After World War II, Jack Northrop, designed something called the Northrop Flying Wing which promised Americans a highly futuristic flying experience was right around the corner.

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In the 1930s, flying was still very much seen as an exceptional and expensive endeavor, albeit one filled with plenty of luxury. Why fly and throw away all of that money when trains could get you there just as well?

Aircraft designers wanted to change all that and provide an incredible flying experience to all Americans, promising that wealth and prosperity was coming to everyone. Enter the Flying Wing, which could seat 80 passengers and could put all of those newly idled airplane factories from World War II into good use for commercial passenger flights.

Popular Science even released an informative short film in 1948 about the hypothetical aircraft, which you can see looks very similar to the new Airbus design.

The cabin of the new Airbus concept looks even more futuristic than the exterior and isn’t like any aircraft that U.S. travelers may have seen domestically. Designed before the coronavirus pandemic became a problem for the entire world, the seats look uncomfortably close together.

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But don’t get your hopes up too much, especially in the era of covid. Even before the coronavirus pandemic started to spread, Airbus acknowledged that the design is very much a concept at this stage.

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“Airbus is leveraging emerging technologies to pioneer the future of flight. By testing disruptive aircraft configurations, Airbus is able to evaluate their potential as viable future products,” Jean-Brice Dumont, EVP of Engineering at Airbus said in a statement posted online.

“Although there is no specific timeline for entry-into-service, this technological demonstrator could be instrumental in bringing about change in commercial aircraft architectures for an environmentally sustainable future for the aviation industry.”

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In the end, the Northrop Flying Wing wasn’t developed into a mass commercial aircraft for domestic use, though the YB-49 was produced as a prototype for a heavy bomber. Sadly, an N-9M version of the Flying Wing crashed in April of 2019 into a prison facility in California, killing the pilot, an employee at the Planes of Fame Museum.

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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