Boeing Ferries MD-90 to Palmdale for NASA X-66A Conversion

Boeing has ferried an MD-90 to Palmdale in preparation for its conversion to NASA's X-66A demonstrator.



August 18, 2023

DALLAS - The joint venture between NASA and Boeing to develop a Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW) configuration as part of NASA's Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project has moved a step forward after Boeing ferried an MD-90 aircraft from Victorville to nearby Palmdale for modification work.

The aircraft, registration N931TB was initially delivered new to China Northern Airlines (CJ) in 1995 before moving to Delta Air Lines (DL) in 2011. It will now be converted into the X-66A demonstrator before ground and flight testing, which is expected to commence in 2028.

Boeing, NASA and community leaders were at the Palmdale facility to welcome the jet's arrival. Boeing Chief Technology Officer Todd Citron said, "This marks an important step in the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project, advances Boeing's commitment to sustainability and brings us closer to testing and validating the TTBW design."

Boeing/NASA MD-90 X-66A conversion.
The aircraft was ferried to Palmdale on August 15. Photo: Boeing.

The Concept

The MD-90s low wings will be replaced by longer, ultra-thin wings mounted atop the fuselage and braced by trusses. NASA has said these are expected to create less drag than conventional wings, bringing fuel savings of up to 10%. These savings could be extended to up to 30% when combined with improved power plants and other technologies.

"We at NASA are excited to be working with Boeing on the X-66A Sustainable Flight Demonstrator making critical contributions to accelerate aviation towards its 2050 net-zero greenhouse gas emission goal," said Ed Waggoner, deputy associate administrator for programs in the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.

Featured Image: MD-90 N931TB. Photo: Boeing.