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Airbus tests new smooth wing to cut fuel use by 4%

Company says after French test flight that saving may ‘sound little, but for us this is huge’

Airbus has flown the first test flight of new wings for its A340 that will cut CO2 emissions by 5% while maintaining all other flying characteristics of the plane.

The EU-sponsored Clean Sky ‘Blade’ project tests ‘laminar flow’ over the wings and involved fitting new end segments to the A340 demonstrator that cut air friction on the wing by 50%.

If proved successful, the wings could produce fuel savings of 4% for short-haul aircraft and Charles Champion of Airbus said “It sounds little, but for us this is huge.”

The test aircraft, nicknamed Flight Lab, took off from Tarbes (Hautes-Pyrénées) where the 9m outer wing sections – one wing made by Saab and the other wing by GKN Aerospace – were fitted. It landed in Toulouse after the three-hour, 38-minute test.

Part of the aim is to replicate glider wings where the air flows evenly and parallel across the top of the wing – meaning no rivets or any other obstructions – and to use carbon fibre composites to cut the weight of the wing panel to further reduce fuel needs.

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