AN aircraft has been manoeuvred in flight using supersonically blown air for the first time - using East Lancashire knowhow.

Engineers from BAE Systems at Samlesbury have been working with Manchester University to pioneer 'flap-free' flights with their MAGMA unmanned aerial vehicle.

Test flights have taken place over the skies of north-west Wales involving the craft, which remove the need for complex movable flight control surfaces.

Experts say that by removing the need for flaps and similar devices, aircraft can be developed which are lighter, cheaper and more reliable.

The lessons learned from the groundbreaking flights over Llanbedr will now be applied to the aerospace giant's Future Combat Air Systems work.

One of the technologies demonstrated was wing circulation control, where air is taken from the craft's engine and blown supersonically through narrow slots around a shaped wing tailing edge.

Another innovation, fluidic thrust vectoring, sees air jets deflecting the exhaust jets to generate further control forces.

Julia Sutcliffe, chief technologist, at BAE Systems Air, said: “MAGMA is a great example of how collaborating with bright minds at British universities can deliver ground-breaking research and innovation.

"Our partnership has identified cutting-edge technology, in this case flap-free flight, and turned what began as a feasibility study into a proven capability in just a number of months.

"It demonstrates how STEM can be applied in the real world and I hope the success of these trials inspires the next generation of much-needed engineers and scientists."

Bill Crowther, leader of the university's MAGMA project, added: "We are excited to have been part of a long-standing effort to change the way in which aircraft can be controlled, going all the way back to the invention of wing warping by the Wright brothers.

"It's been a great project for students to be part of. Real innovation in engineering is more about finding practical solutions to...small technical challenges than having single moments of inspiration."