An updated preview of what to look forward to at this year’s Paris Air Show on 20-26 June
Transatlantic biofuel ‘race’ on!
As noted in the original preview, (below) biofuels are set to be a major theme at Paris this year. But the issue is about to get a lot more exciting with the news that two aircraft will be making the first biofuel flights across the Atlantic to the show – potentially ushering in a new age of sustainable air travel. Boeing was first to announce its biofuel flight at the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Sopwith Lecture on 15 June, when BCA chief, Jim Albaugh, revealed the company will fly a 747-8F using a 15% biofuel blend to Le Bourget.
The camelina-based biofuel, developed by Honeywell’s UOP subsidiary, will power (mixed with aviation kerosene in 15/85 mix) all four engines on the 747-8F with the aircraft scheduled to arrive in Paris on Monday at 5pm local time.
But hold on record breakers! – Honeywell themselves are set to pip Boeing to the post– with a surprise biofuel flight involving its Gulfstream G450 demonstrator aircraft using a 50/50 blend (on one engine) and taking off today (17 June) at 9pm from Morristown Municipal Airport in New Jersey. This, according to industry sources, will arrive ‘first thing’ in Paris on Saturday morning – becoming the very first aircraft to fly transatlantic using a biofuel blend – arriving two days ahead of the 747-8F. The G450 in this historic flight will be piloted by its chief pilot and the biofuel used is the same camelina-derived Green Jet Fuel from Honeywell.
So the race is on! Will Boeing revise their schedule and set off early? Will Honeywell depart on Friday on time? Is there anyone else secretly planning to fly an aircraft transatlantic with biofuel?
In a sense though, this is almost reminiscent of the golden age of ‘Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines’ it doesn’t really matter WHO gets their first. Demonstrations like these show that biofuels are a practical, proven solution for a drop-in replacement for Jet A1. While this ‘race’ may generate publicity, more significant is that the fuel standards authority, ATSM International, has provisionally approved biofuels for commercial air transport – a huge milestone.
As this Twitter conversation from deadly rivals Boeing and Airbus on 16 June shows – while the companies may argue about the merits of airliner X vs airliner Y (and who gets the most cash from respective governments), the one thing the aerospace industry does agree on is the environment and the need for aviation to continue its drive to a greener future.
Airbus: Good news from @boeingairplanes! Alt fuels are important industry issue, & Boeing’s demo flight is example of aviation’s commitment. #green
BoeingAirplanes:Thank you @Airbus. We both agree that sustainable biofuel is a key strategy for the aviation industry to reach carbon-neutral growth.
Airbus: @boeingairplanes Indeed, we agree. Safe travels, and see you in Paris. #PAS11
Pre-Paris order rush
Sustainable aviation will be needed to cope with the huge traffic growth as the world recovers from the downturn. Indeed, in Boeing’s annual commercial market outlook (CMO) released on the eve of Paris, it estimates that the commercial airliner market will be worth some $4trillion over the next 20 years. Some 33,500 new aircraft will be needed in the next two decades with the world fleet expected to double by 2030.
Some clue to this growth and rebound is the flurry of pre-Paris orders this week. For example, Philippine carrier Cebu Pacific has already signed an MoU with Airbus for 30 A321NEOs, as well as firming up seven standard A320s. Another neo deal has come from Indian carrier GoAir which has placed an order for 72 A320neos worth some $7.2bn.
But it is not all neo customers getting in early. Japan’s Mitsubishi also notched up a deal for five MRJ regional jets from Hong Kong leasing company ANI Group Holdings.
Boeing, too, is not being left out – with Thai Airways International announcing that its fleet revamp will see it purchase eight 787s, along with 12 Airbus A350s. Boeing though, as Randy Tinseth states on his blog, are refusing to be drawn into the airshow sales hype – preferring to look at the end of the year sales figures. However, if the phrase a rising tide lifts all boats is true – they too could have a few announcements. Yet for Boeing, many airlines are now in wait and see mode regarding their 737 replacement. Will it be an all new design? Or can they win over customers with an interim re-engined model? At the Sopwith Lecture at the RAeS, Jim Albaugh indicated they had a re-engined 737 design, ‘on the shelf, ready to go’ that could deliver an 8% efficiency gain over rival neo, by the middle of this decade.
So what big announcements are left? Airbus seems likely to win big at the show with an order for ‘five or six’ A380s from Hong Kong Airlines, now setting its sights on dethroning Cathay Pacific at the city’s prime carrier. Malaysian carrier AirAsia meanwhile is rumoured to be looking at an A320neo order that could top 200 aircraft. There could very well be other orders too – and privately Airbus PR folk have told aviation press ‘you might as well stay in our press conference all day’ – a hint perhaps of the numbers of announcements they expect. By Thursday morning we should better know Airbus’s final tally.
Finally, it is not just Airbus (and Boeing) who are going to be celebrating at Paris. Turboprop manufacturer ATR has said that this year’s Paris is likely to be a bumper year for them.
So what does this all mean? It means that the rebound is well and truly underway. However, note where the sales are coming from: the Asia-Pacific region. This powerhouse is massively growing in importance to aerospace – shifting the centre of gravity from the mature markets of US and Europe to new opportunities in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. In particular, the low-cost revolution, pioneered in the US by Southwest and in Europe by Ryanair and easyJet has massive growth in the region.
Airbus unveils 2050 future aircraft concept
Not strictly a Paris story – but Airbus did use the week in the run-up to the show to reveal its 2050 future cabin concept. Holographic displays, augmented reality and translucent cabin walls gave a wow factor that made good copy and gets people thinking about the possibilities of the future of flight.
However, at the event, Airbus revealed that one of the ideas for the future cabin, organically grown seats, had come from its annual student Fly Your Ideas competition. The winners of the 2011 Fly Your Ideas contest are set to be announced at Paris next week. Will we see their ideas move from dream, to concept, to reality in the next 40 years?
Mach 4 bizjet to break cover at Paris?
Hyperbole in Le Bourget press release statements is nothing new. “Come and see our revolutionary widget that will change the industry” you will often read, only to discover it is a slightly better version of last year’s widget, painted a different colour.
So when you receive an invite for something which will change the face of air travel as we know it, from a company you have never heard of you are naturally cautious. Arranging your press conference for prime time on a Monday morning too – against the big boys, if your news is not earth shattering – is a good way to get zero press attendance.
However – it comes from someone with a very well-known name in business aviation circles. Hmm. One piece of digging reveals an interesting fact: Hypermach the company in question has a CTO who gave a talk on late 2010 on a supersonic bizjet concept. Apart from that nothing else is online about the company – except a website with a tantilising countdown to the reveal on Monday morning.
However, a further email is even more intriguing – promising a Paris to New York in 1hr 45 round the world in 5hours – or Mach 4 – faster than the SR-71 Blackbird – still after its retirement, the air-breathing manned aircraft speed champion.
This is, if correct, nothing, short of revolutionary. Crucially, the invite mentions air travel – rather than an unmanned project. Given that NASA/USAF has tried this before and found it extremely difficult – is this just a pie-in-the sky dream?
One thing is certain – Hypermach will be remembered as either be the biggest Le Bourget flop the world has seen – or the unveiling of a whole new age of travel.
For all the highlights from Paris, remember to check back at media.aerosociety.com or follow Aerospace International Editor Tim Robinson on Twitter @RAeSTimR
In April at the Royal Aeronautical Society’s HQ in London, the organisers of the Paris Air Show held a press conference to preview the 49th International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget – the highlight of the aviation year. So what can we expect to look forward to?
First – let’s start by what you won’t expect to see at Paris. The biggest non-news at Paris is that Boeing has backed away from using the show to announce an all-new 737 replacement to leapfrog the Airbus A320neo. Instead it is expected to ‘clarify’ its thinking on a 737 successor. The company has had a lukewarm reception to the idea of a re-engined 737 as a me-too product – yet the timeline for next-generation engines remains stubbornly towards the end of this decade.
However, while a 737 replacement reveal or product launch may be out of the question for Boeing – it will still be interesting to see its current concepts. Will any new aircraft be conventional in appearance? Single-or twin-aisle? Incorporate open–rotors? Expect much ‘Seattleology’ as reporters pore through clues looking for which way Boeing may move.
Second, despite new stealth fighters taking to the air in Russia and China, neither the Sukhoi PAK-FA nor the Chengdu J-20 will be making the trip to Le Bourget. Though the J-20 was extremely unlikely, an appearance by the PAK-FA would have counted as a major coup – and brought back memories of the first appearance by the MiG-29 at a major airshow at Farnborough in 1988. However, those wanting to take a closer look at the PAK-FA, should head for Moscow’s MAKS show in August, where it will make its first public appearance.
However, while this year’s Paris may not have the cachet of a Dreamliner or A400M debut (though both will be there) there will be plenty to look forward to both in the flying display and on static. Boeing, for example, is planning to take its 747-8I and 747-8F to show it off at the show, although, as standard Boeing policy, neither it nor the Dreamliner will take part in the flying display. The appearance of the 787 and 747-8I is also dictated by the needs of Boeing’s flight test programme.
The show though has scooped the first public appearance and flying display by the Solar Impulse solar-powered aircraft as its ‘special guest’. Its appearance at Le Bourget will be the first time the prototype, currently working up to a series of record-breaking flights, will make a public airshow appearance outside home country of Switzerland. The organisers say that the Solar Impulse is planned to make a 10-15min flight every day (bar one), weather conditions permitting.
Although this demonstrator is a one-off, this quiet, green aircraft will provide an excellent advertisement for the aviation industry in tackling the environmental challenge.
This green focus will also be enhanced with a special pavilion focused on alternative fuels – enabling visitors to quickly see the main players in one place and helping others to understand and measure the ‘patchwork’ approach of biofuel tests and demonstrations underway across the whole globe.
Another exciting demonstrator to appear at the show will be Eurocopter’s X3 compound helicopter. This, too, is expected to take part in the flying display which, say the organisers, will see more than 40 aircraft taking part. For an exclusive technical presentation on the X3 from Eurocopters head of R&D given at the RAeS’s Future of Rotorcraft conference – click here.
[Update - according to this post here on Flight Global's 'The Dewline Blog', Sukhoi's Su-30 Flanker multirole fighter has been pulled from the show by Russia for unknown reasons - after the organisers previously annouced it would be attending.] However the airframer will still bring its SuperJet 100 airliner along – which has just entered revenue service.
Another fighter to appear will be the Sino-Pakistani JF-17 – which at paris this year will take part in the flying display – unlike last year’s Farnborough when it stayed on the ground in static area.
One type of aircraft that won’t be appearing en masse in the flying display yet are UAVs, though the Schiebel Camcopter will return after making its flight debut in the 2009 Le Bourget. Though the organisers acknowledge this is a fast growing sector, they argue that the smaller UAVs do not make for an impressive flying display, being too tiny to awe the crowds stood behind any display line. An indoor flying display, in the halls, meanwhile would mean giving up valuable exhibitor space.
For the larger UAVs, too, there is a problem – that of air show restrictions. Though Gilles Fournier, MD SIAE, said he would like a Global Hawk to attend Le Bourget – the limited airspace and nearby urban areas means that at the moment it is a no-no. However, he did hold out hope that by the time the next generation of European UAVS and UCAVs appear (for example the Dassault Neuron), the show may be able to host unmanned air vehicles. Watch this space.
A show for the recovery?
However, while the flying display and static line-up is undoubtedly a great pull – more important is how the show acts as a bell weather for the industry as a whole. Increased confidence at Le Bourget in June will ripple through the aerospace industry as a whole and accelerate recovery.
So far the signs are good. The organisers report that exhibition space has been fully booked since the end of January – the first time this has happened in the show’s history, with some 2,000 exhibitors set to attend. And the organisers say that the show will see some 340,000 visitors pass through the gates.
Organiser SIAE says it has invested some €10m in refurbishing facilities at the exhibition centre for this year’s show – as well as €2m in upgrading the 350 corporate chalets.
For the chalets the organisers admit that while some bigger companies have not booked this year, their chalets have been snapped up by SMEs looking to boost their profile and entertain customers and clients.
The shows status will also be boosted with international participation – especially in the emerging countries. China’s COMAC, for example, will be making its debut and bringing its model of the C919 airliner to a Western air show for the first time. All in all some 200 international delegations are registered and expected to attend.
Meanwhile the organisers have launched a special ELITE programme for companies to host VIPs in extra style and comfort. The ELITE programme, which features limited availability, features a fast track entrance, lounge area, unlimited refreshments and a concierge service among other advantages.
For the rest of the visitors the organisers promise improved access at the event, including more shuttle bus services, free WiFi across the show (including a dedicated smartphone show site) and free entry to the Air and Space Museum at Le Bourget for visitors.
Finally, they stressed that for the 3,000 press expected to attend there will be new ‘virtual pigeonholes’ allowing companies to deposit press packs, images and other material online for media.
This year’s Paris is likely to be more optimistic than the 2009 Le Bourget, where the early effects of the financial crisis left many executives stumbling round in something like collective shock. Increased growth and emerging markets in China and India signal a return to better times – with some predicting that the ‘bounce back’ will be even stronger than the most optimistic observers predict.
Yet there still remain grounds for caution. One industry insider said that it may be another couple of years of treading water – with a full recovery not expected until 2014. It is also worth remembering that while the civil sector may be ramping up, the military side remains gloomy. Cut defence budgets in the UK, France and other European nations means that programme opportunities are getting fewer and fewer. Even in the US, traditionally a high spender, is now facing severe difficulties and may be cutting back. For defence firms the bright spot is Asia-Pacific and especially India, now involved in a major military procurement spend.
Whatever the wider economic picture though – there will be no shortage of aviation news to come out of the show.
To follow all the news at Paris don’t forget to bookmark media.aerosociety.com. For those on Twitter the hashtag is #PAS11 and the Editor Tim Robinson will be tweeting live from the show on @RAeSTimR