An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

100th Anniversary Logo with the 100 in large letters and the museum logo
Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.
FREE Admission & Parking

Scaled Composites Long-EZ "Borealis"

In January 2008, this modified Scaled Composites Long-EZ completed the first manned flight of an aircraft powered by a pulsed detonation engine (PDE). The flight was the result of a five-year cooperative effort between the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Innovative Scientific Solutions Incorporated (ISSI). The project used the popular homebuilt Long-EZ designed by Burt Rutan as a platform.

Engines normally burn fuel and air at subsonic speeds to provide propulsion. Pulsed detonation engines detonate the fuel-air mixture to produce repeated, controlled explosions. The resulting supersonic shockwaves create thrust. In this PDE, the thrust is expelled through four tubes out the back of the aircraft. Remarkably, the PDE engine in this aircraft was made in part from off-the-shelf automotive parts.

Pulsed detonation engines are much less complicated and promise to be less expensive to operate than jet engines. Moreover, they offer a fuel savings of between 5-20 percent over traditional turbojet engines. Although still in development, PDEs may become more common as the technology matures.

This aircraft was delivered to the museum in 2008.

Click here to return to the Research & Development Gallery.

Find Out More
Related Fact Sheets
AFRL Pulsed Detonation Engine
Cockpit360 Images
View the Long-EZ Cockpit