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Airplanes with windowless cockpits are here. Are you ready to fly in one?

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02.07.2019

Airplane design has basically remained unchanged for decades. The vast majority of planes are variations on the same basic design: A cigar-shaped body with a cockpit where pilots can see the front of the craft. That form factor may be about to change. Last month, the Dutch airline KLM announced it would fund research into an unconventional, V-shaped aircraft body. And now, a new prototype airplane being developed by aerospace contractor Lockheed Martin for NASA will change the latter.

The plane is called the X-59, and its design aims to greatly reduce the supersonic “boom,” the loud explosive noise that airplanes cause when they break the speed of sound. This noise has been one of the barriers facing commercial supersonic airplanes (along with fuel efficiency and expensive heat-resistant construction materials like titanium), which is why airplanes like the now-retired Concorde were only allowed to go over Mach 1—the speed of sound—while flying over the ocean.

[Photo: NASA]The X-59 is designed to turn that literal window-shattering boom into “a gentle thump,” as NASA puts it. How? By reshaping the nose of the plane. The prototype’s nose has a very gentle curve that smoothly fuses itself with the cockpit in one single surface that looks like an extremely elongated version of Daffy Duck’s beak.

The angle is so shallow, in fact, that it’s impossible to install any forward-facing glass for the pilot to see........

© Fast Company