There are X-Wings in Star Wars and I have been making a model recently. So can planes fly without wings but with a horizontal stabiliser?
This is a question about terminology more than aerodynamics. All horizontal surfaces can contribute lift, and also the fuselage does. Take missiles, for example. They create dynamic lift like an aircraft, but only with their fuselage and fins by inclining both against the oncoming flow. Speed compensates for the small area and poor lift efficiency of slender bodies. Since a fuselage is unstable in pitch and yaw, you need to either add fins or something else which creates perpendicular forces at the far end of the fuselage to control it. Like missiles do.
AIM-9L (picture source)
An X-wing will make a horrible model aircraft. But with enough thrust even this design will fly.
An aircraft needs sufficient force to overcome the force of gravity. This doesn't have to come from a wing.
A good example are helicopters, that generate sufficient force by using a propeller to push a column of air downwards.
The RAF Harrier Jump jet, which the British used in the 1982 Falklands war does have wings, but is able to continue flying in situations where the wings do not generate lift, by redirecting the air from its jet engines downwards.
There are classes of aircraft that generate sufficient lifting force by being lighter than the mass of the air they displace. Hot air balloons and airships fit in this category.
However, the most interesting category is where the shape of the aircraft body actually generates lift. Current examples are the high speed gliders being designed by companies designing orbital landing aircraft, where having a wing is problematic for re-entry into the earths atmosphere. These are mostly blended wing designs where the lift from the body allows the design to have a smaller wing.
I do not know about other airplanes, but, I can say that you can remove the wings on a Yack RC aerobatic plane and make a take off, climb to altitude, level off and perform level flight, perform barrel roles. inside loops, Cuban 8s, and perform high rate roles. Last you can land the plane safely. All this demonstrated on Real flight Simulator.
There are some techniques not normally used in winged flight that must be understood and used to make this wingless flight possible. (1) The props pulling vector must be high enough above level to the ground so that the lift component of the vector is larger quantity than the weight of the fuselage. Remember, the plane is vary light as there are no wings. Fuselages could be built much lighter as there is no wing stress on the fuselage, and the maneuvers, excluding high rate roles, are slow rate of turn and pitch attitude meaning g forces are much smaller and insignificant. Pulling out of a loop at the bottom is made possible by the tail pushing the back of the fuselage downward which raises the nose upward and causes the tail to fly below the axis of flight. Some of the lift for the pull up is distributed along the hull of the aircraft as wind hitting the bottom of the aircraft creates lift. This lift distribution along the entire fuselage distributes pull up g forces along the entire fuselage. Net vary low g force concentration. The center of lift of a wing is outboard of the fuselage, the outboard location causing a bending moment on the wing at the attachment to the fuselage. This creates a wing breaking stress under high g forces. Also, the stress is at the point of attachment of the wing and this stress is countered by the weight of the fuselage which is distributed in front of and behind. The fuselage thus must resist the front to back centralized stress to resist breaking up at the wing junction. No such problem with the wingless aircraft.
(2) With no wings to add weight, the wingless plane can take off in vary short space. The taller the landing gear (assuming a tail dragger design) the higher the angle of incidence of the fuselage and axis of propeller pull. Building taller and taller main landing gear allows the plane to take off in shorter and shorter distances to the point where if the axis of the fuselage was straight up, the plane would take off straight up. With no wing weight, the plane would climb vary quickly. (3) Until the plane's wheels leave the ground, the prop's wash and its axis of pull is in line with the fuselage, the wash hitting the elevator and rudder, the rudders upper part above the props axis. Right rudder turns the plane on the ground to the right but being above the fuselage axis, right rudder also induces left role. This role is against the turn and causes to be vary unstable, the plane susceptible to simply rolling over on its side if the width of the landing gear is not enough to counter the role vector. It is suggested that a wingless plane have wide landing gear for this reason.
(4) Once the wingless plane leaves the ground, the nose initially rises while the tail is still on the ground. This makes a steeper angle of the fuselage to the planes direction and the prop wash (as seen when a smoke screen is used on the front of the fuselage) completely misses the tail sections, the wash flying over them. The axis of role of the plane is concentric with the prop wash. Now, when the rudder is turned to the right, the vector of the rudder turns the plane to the right on the direction of flight axis. However when turning right, the rudder being below the axis of role, induces a role moment on the axis of flight that roles the plane to the right. In this nose up fuselage angled below the axis of flight, the rudder performs the turning function and the role function. If the flight speed is too fast, the axis of flight and the fuselage axis close together and the rudder behave in turn in a direction opposite the rudder input. This flying with the nose to low causes loss of control and can result in extremely fast roll rates. It thus becomes paramount that the wingless plane be flown with vary high nose up attitude. In level flight the speed building up will start leveling the fuselage and result in loss of control and stability. To counter this leveling off as speed builds up, simply lower the power setting. This also means that the wingless plane will not straight up as the fuselage angle to flight angle will be 0 and the rudder will cause loss of control. At the top of an inside loop, the tail will pull the tail over the top maintaining the rudder's role and turn function.
(5) Turning: The rudder in nose high attitude will swing the nose but it will also bank the plane. Initiating right rudder will bank the wingless plane to the right. At this time, the operator simply pulls back on the elevator which causes the plane to turn similar to a winged plane, a coordinated efficient turn.
(6) Landing: A few prayers help! To loose altitude don't push the nose down with the elevator as this will cause the tail to rise up onto the prop wash creating instability and loss of control. Rather, pull back on the power maintaining full up elevator. the plane will sink at your desired speed. The plane will appear to hit hard on touchdown, but the front wheels and the tail wheel hit together or tail wheel first absorbing impact. Also, remember that the weight of the wings is absent. The plane can land at a vary high sink rate without destruction of landing gear or broken fuselage. I have broken many main landing gears landing planes hard with wings. To date, I have not broken one landing gear landing many times wingless. Remember, when landing with no wings that the moment the tail and mains are on the ground, the prop wash and axis of flight are level with the rudder and the plane is prone to tipping over when rudder is actuated. Use rudder judiciously until the rolling speed has slowed down.
(7)I suggest that all aerobatic airplane have split control on the elevator. The elevator is in the prop wash and is effective in slow speed nose high flight. When right aereolon is initiated, the elevator's right side will turn down slightly and the left side will turn up. This splitting could be done by putting separate servo controls on each independent side of the elevator or 2 the push pole control servos could be run to each side of the elevator but the servos could be on attached to each other and a third servo could pull the two servos to actuate elevator function. This would give back to the airplane's operator the ability to control bank, the bank not dependent on being below the airflow of the prop and axis of flight direction of the flight.
Can the plane perform in the real world with the above modifications? I believe so. Wingless flight with split elevator would open a complete new world to freestyle Rc flight. Wings could be made to be easily removable before takeoff or could be made to be dropped off during flight. Pilots could develop no wing flying skills using the Real Flight Simulators, the skills developed while going through the inevitable crashes without having to rebuild expensive equipment. Just hit the reset button!
Bottom line, the answer is a surprising YES! Below is 17 minuet YouTube video I published with aerobatics and without wings:
Spike Selig Long time pilot and flight dynamics specialist