Boeing’s Sustainable Flight Demonstrator with NASA is now the X-66A

Boeing & NASA begin detailing the attributes of the truss-braced X-Plane that aims to lay the foundation for replacing the 737 in the 2030s.

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Release Date
June 12, 2023
Boeing's Sustainable Flight Demonstrator with NASA is now the X-66A

Boeing has five years to go before it flies its Sustainable Flight Demonstrator with long slender wings supported by a pair of lift generating trusses. Thirty years ago that half decade would’ve been nearly enough to develop an all-new airplane from start to finish. But the upcoming NASA X-Plane, now officially dubbed the X-66A by the U.S. Air Force, is no ordinary effort at no ordinary time.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in April declared the SFD a precursor to replacing the 737 Max, which right now has orders that stretch as far out as 2034. “We’ve got a program going with Boeing right now on what will ultimately be the replacement for the Boeing 737, the workhorse of commercial aviation for medium-haul single-aisle passenger aircraft,” he recently told a congressional committee.

Related: NASA gives Boeing a second shot at reshaping commercial aviation

While Nelson doesn’t get a say in the launch of Boeing products coming to market in 2035, his view is one that also aligns with that of the company’s chief executive, David Calhoun.

While Calhoun has sought to position Boeing to regain its financial footing in the medium term, his message to reporters in South Carolina recently was that the outcome of the X-66A test campaign that begins in 2028 will ultimately let his successor — or his successor’s successor — decide on Boeing’s next all-new airplane.

“We think we have a real shot at bringing that technology to bear on the next airplane,” said Calhoun, who called the transonic truss-braced wing configuration “very important technology to us as we go forward.“

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