Earlier this week, Boeing’s liquid hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye demonstrator successfully completed its second flight. While still well short of the four day flight time and 65,000 foot altitude Boeing says the aircraft is capable of, the second flight is a step in the right direction from the Phantom Eye's first flight that ended – not quite as successfully – on June 1, 2012.
Like the first, the Phantom Eye’s second flight took place at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. It was conducted on Feb. 25 and saw the unmanned autonomous aircraft climb to an altitude of over 8,000 feet and remain in the air for 66 minutes traveling at a cruising speed of 62 knots. This improved upon the first flight, on which the aircraft stayed aloft for 28 minutes and reached an altitude of 4,080 feet.
The first flight ended with the Phantom Eye’s landing gear digging into the Edwards Air Force Base lakebed and breaking. The landing system, along with its autonomous flight systems and engine oil pumps, were subsequently upgraded, resulting in what Boeing called a “picture-perfect landing” after its second flight.
"This flight, in a more demanding high-altitude flight envelope, successfully demonstrated Phantom Eye's maneuverability, endurance and landing capabilities," said Drew Mallow, Phantom Eye program manager.