Automobile design has changed drastically over the last half century, and computers have gone from filling entire rooms to fitting neatly in our briefcases. The Boeing 737, however, has changed very little. An MIT team aims to bring aviation into the 21st century with two bold new designs for commercial airliners that could trim fuel use by up to 70 percent while increasing passenger capacity.
The designs — dubbed D series and H series — are part of a $2.1 million research contract from NASA to develop the next generation of subsonic airplanes (separate grants were given to Boeing and Lockheed Martin to design supersonic concepts). Competing with designs from GE Aviation, Boeing and Northrop Grumman, the object was to create a passenger jet that burns 70 percent less fuel, cuts emissions of nitrogen oxides by 75 percent, takes off from shorter runways, and reduces sound pollution.