Product Idea

NASA X-29: Advanced Technology Demonstrator Aircraft

Take to the skies with the X-29 Advanced Technology Demonstrator Aircraft! Paying homage to the ingenuity and minds of those pushing conventional aircraft design to the limits, this model is built as accurately as possible to represent achievement and promise in future aircraft design.

A brief history of the aircraft included the development of 2 demonstrators, that investigated advanced concepts and technologies during a multi-phased program conducted from 1984 to 1992. The program provided an engineering database that is available for the design and development of future aircraft. These aircraft were flown at NASA Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility. 

The aircraft's forward-swept wings were mounted well back on the fuselage, while its canards (horizontal stabilizers to control pitch) were in front of the wings instead of on the tail. The complex geometries of the wings and canards combined to provide exceptional manoeuvrability, supersonic performance and a light structure. The X-29 also explored the use of advanced composites in aircraft construction; variable camber wing surfaces; the unique forward-swept wing and its thin supercritical airfoil; strake flaps; close-coupled canards; and a computerized fly-by-wire flight control system to maintain control of the otherwise unstable aircraft.

The aircraft showed promise in testing many systems and aerodynamic principles and has influenced many more in pushing forward the design of modern aircraft.

This representation is roughly a 1:40 scale model with accommodation for 1 minifigure. Due to keeping the size at a minimum and including a pilot modifications to the length of the fuselage were needed. Landing gear is housed internally with the ability to conceal them in the fuselage. The model has been design to sit on an adjustable stand and a plaque outlining the aircraft specifications has been made to suit. The minifigure has been modelled of a NASA pilot flight suit with flight patches included. At 563 bricks (including the stand), the set features also movable forward canards, rear flaps, and cockpit. A decal sticker sheet will be required to mimic the original paintjob as closely as possible where suitable sticker applicable elements are. I believe this set would be priced around the $60-70 USD mark.

It is an economical set to produce and serves all fans/enthusiasts of aircraft, technology, engineering and of course, Lego fans in general. I hope children also have fun playing with this as many adults would to have this on display (and fly it too). I want this set to be testament to pushing the boundaries and inspiring young and old to push the bounds and reach for the sky! 


Critical Notes:
This was a challenging build to replicate and yet again was a test to accurately replicate as best as possible key elements of the aircraft. Housing a pilot was important for me to include more elements of playability. Keeping proportions and scale relative some compromises were made the fuselage has slightly been shortened and accommodating the landing gear did prove quite the challenge with the elements available.

Getting a pilot and the forward gear housed in the same area did prove difficult as I had to squeeze in these elements in limited space. However a slight compromise was required to lower the gear which includes the removal of the two underside pieces behind the front gear housing doors, which can easily be replaced once back up or left out as I don’t believe it greatly interferes with the aesthetic of the aircraft.

Decals were a challenge to illustrate and were hand drawn and applied with photo editing software. Compromises were required to make it work and only could be applied to sticker friendly surfaces. In the end, it stays quite true to original paint scheme.

Keeping profiles of wings and the rear fin thin are a challenge as there was no pre manufactured piece to suit proportionately, and thus required one to be built. Wings are missing the control surfaces, but do represent the shape accurately. Allowing for smooth surface to place key decals also proved difficult due to the size so certain elements were cut due to size of lettering. Smooth surfaces needed to be provided to allow its paint scheme to be applied in sticker form.  

There is always room for improvement but my main criteria were:

  • Elements of playability (movable parts, pilot and place for the pilot to sit)
  • Low cost (low part count and reasonable size)
  • True to the original design (decals and key elements)
     

Hopefully there is much fun to be had with this set, and that it inspires children and adults!