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Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner has been making headlines for years. The much-anticipated, much-touted airplane is among Boeing's most well known designs in history and it has yet to hit the market. But what about the hundreds of other designs created by the legendary manufacturer?
From planes that never made it to market to spy planes that human eyes aren't supposed to spot, we take a look at some of the amazing Boeing designs you've likely never seen. Click ahead to take a gander and learn more.
Posted 21 Sept., 2011
By Constance Parten
Dreamliner: Inside the World's Most Anticipated Airplane
The A160 Hummingbird Unmanned Aerial Vehicle looks like a helicopter but is unlike any other on the market today. It can reach higher altitudes, hover for longer periods of time, go greater distances and operate much more quietly than current helicopters.
The A160 is a verticle take-off-and-landing aircraft and has been designed for long-endurance and long-range missions. Its modular payload design can carry up to 1,000 pounds. And it features a unique optimum speed rotor technology that enables the Hummingbird to adjust the RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) of the rotor blades at different altitudes and cruise speeds.
Design of commercial supersonic aircraft began in the early 1960s when U.S. companies coupled experience from military vehicles and commercial jetliner programs to design the prototype U.S. SST.
Almost concurrently, the U.S.S.R. initiated its SST program leading to the TU-144, and a British and French consortium initiated work on the Concorde. Boeing continued development of the U.S. SST until 1971, when the U.S. government canceled the prototype program because of increasing concerns over its economic viability and environmental issues.
Ultimately, no U.S. manufacturer was willing to continue the program without government funding because of the market risks associated with the unsolved problems of poor economics and possible environmental problems.
The DragonFly demonstrator, also known as the X-50A, is propelled by a conventional turbofan engine combined with a Boeing reaction drive rotor system. During rotary-wing flight the engine powers the rotor system using thrust ducted to nozzles near the rotor tips.
During conversion, a canard wing and horizontal tail provide the lift necessary to remain aloft until the rotor blade stops and functions as a fixed wing. Engine power is redirected aft to provide forward thrust. The aircraft requires no gearbox, transmission or tail rotor.
The Dragonfly completed its first hover flight Dec. 3, 2003, at the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Yuma, Ariz.
This hydrogen-powered demonstrator will stay aloft at 65,000 feet for up to four days and is a key part of Phantom Works’ rapid prototyping initiative.
Powered by two two-liter, four-cylinder engines that provide 150 horsepower each, and a 150-foot wing span, Phantom Eye will cruise at approximately 150 knots and can carry up to a 450-pound payload. Primary missions for the aircraft include persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance as well as communications for customers in the defense, civil and commercial markets.
Phantom Eye is being designed and built at Boeing facilities in St. Louis and Seattle as well as Irvine and Huntington Beach in California. While the propulsion system is key to Phantom Eye’s success, the airframe is deceptively simple. Several composite materials technologies for the prototype are being used, allowing for low-cost manufacturing without compromising performance.
The McDonnell Douglas MD-12 was an all-new, double-deck, four-engined, ultra-large airliner design that could seat 430 to 511 passengers. The aircraft length was 208 feet (63 meters) and the wingspan was 213 feet (64.5 meters), with a fuselage 24 feet 3 inches (7.4 meters) high and nearly 28 feet (8.5 meters) wide.
The design was unveiled in April 1992, with its first flight targeted for late 1995 and customer delivery in 1997. MDC was unable to find enough customer interest in the $5.5 billion project and it was cancelled without receiving any orders.
Weighing 11,000 pounds at launch and measuring just over 29 feet long with a wing span of nearly 15 feet, Boeing's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is an experimental vehicle that was built for the United States Air Force and may be used for future space exploration missions. Its first space flight took place in December 2010.
At left, the X-37B is shown during fairing encapsulation at the Astrotech launch processing facility near Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida.
This new family of aircraft launched in August and includes the 737 MAX 7, 737 MAX 8 and 737 MAX 9. The new 737 MAX family will be powered by CFM International LEAP-1B engines optimized for the 737.
Boeing says it will have the lowest operating costs in the single-aisle segment with a 7 percent advantage over competitors' planes. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2017.
With a 50-foot wingspan and measuring 36 feet long, this unmanned combat air vehicle was designed and developed by Boeing Phantom Works based on a prototype the company had originally created less than a decade ago for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)/U.S. Air Force/U.S. Navy Joint-Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS) program. The one plane built so far took its maiden flight in April at Edwards Air Force Base.
Financed entirely by Boeing, the Phantom Ray is still under development. It was designed to support potential missions that may include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack; strike; and autonomous aerial refueling.
The U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy are using ScanEagle to loiter over trouble spots and provide real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information. This low-cost, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle was developed and built by Boeing and the Insitu Group.
The UAV, which is four feet long with a 10-foot wingspan, carries either an inertially stabilized electro-optical or an infrared camera. The camera allows the operator to easily track both stationary and moving targets. ScanEagle is launched autonomously via a pneumatic wedge catapult launcher (shown, left) and flies pre-programmed or operator-initiated missions guided by GPS and its onboard flight-control system. It is retrieved using a "Skyhook" system in which the UAV catches a rope hanging from a 50-foot high pole. The patented system allows ScanEagle to be runway-independent and operate from forward fields, mobile vehicles or small ships.
Boeing's Sonic Cruiser topped the company's product-development agenda when it was unveiled in March 2001. The concept featured canards, a unique "gloved" delta wing, rear-mounted engines and two horizontal fins at the back of the airplane instead of the standard horizontal and vertical tail section found on other jetliners.
The initial design accommodated 200 to 250 passengers, flying between 6,000 and 9,000 nautical miles, and traveling at speeds between Mach 0.95 and Mach 0.98 — 15 percent to 20 percent faster than what was currently possible. It also was to have a cruising altitude in the mid-40,000-foot level.
Boeing ended the Sonic Cruiser project in December 2002, shifting focus to the slower but more fuel-efficient 7E7 (later renamed the 787 Dreamliner) airliner.
Boeing, one of the crown jewels of the American economy, is unveiling the long-awaited 787 Dreamliner, a daring and controversial new plane that carries an incredible profit potential.
CNBC’s Phil LeBeau will take viewers inside Boeing to see whether this enormously important American company, one of the nation's largest employers, can rise to the challenge of a rapidly changing global aviation market.