Tim Robinson and Bill Read report from the Paris Air Show, held 20-26 June.
Bad weather, grounded aircraft and the obligatory Le Bourget morning traffic chaos may have dampened aircraft enthusiast spirits on the first day of the show – but did little to dent the sound of waterproof wallets being opened as airlines signed up for new aircraft from Airbus, Boeing as well as ATR and Bombardier – who secured a mystery buyer for its CSeries – with some $35bn worth of business being conducted.
With so much aviation news just on day one – lets take a look at some of the highlights.
Racing greens touch down
As noted in our earlier preview, both Honeywell and Boeing flew aircraft transatlantic to the show (Honeywell a Gulfstream G450, Boeing its 747-8F) using biofuel blends – a common fuel developed by Honeywell’s UOP subsidiary.
We were lucky enough to get aboard the G450 at the show for a special demonstration flight of a new EVS/SVS synthetic vision system from Honeywell. This overlays video from a FLIR camera under the nose under the headdown primary flying display and synthetic environment – fusing the virtual with the real to provide precision approach information, day or night in all weather.
This flight was also unique in that it was partly powered by biofuel – with a 50/50 blend in the right engine – a first for a media flight at Paris.
On the flight we got to interview Jim Andersen, Business Director, UOP on that historic first biofuel flight over the Atlantic, UOPs green aviation fuel and what the next step is for the aviation industry is.
Check out the interview here.
As well as green theme with biofuels and Solar Impulse, Day 1 from this year’s Paris was also notable for not one, but two hypersonic aircraft concepts being unveiled.
EADS choose to reveal its concept for a future Mach 4+ airliner the Zero Emission Hypersonic Transport, or ZEHST that would use three engine systems (biofuel powered turbojets, rockets and ramjets) to get 50-100 passengers from Paris to Tokyo in two and a half hours.
This green ‘son of Concorde’ airliner could be flying by 2040 – and is one of the future concepts being studied as part of Europe’s Flightpath 2050 aerospace technology initiative.
Also revealed was the SonicStar SSBJ from secretive HyperMach – a Mach 3.5 20-seat business jet designed to generate no overland sonic boom – the stumbling point that help to doom Concorde and has so far kept bizjets under the speed of sound.
To achieve this performance, the SonicStar will use a revolutionary five-stage superconducting turbine engine from sister company SonicBlue. First flight, for such an advanced breakthrough in aviation could be as close as 2021.
If this sounds too good to be true, the project has support from the notoriously hard-headed UK Government. Watch this space for more news on this later this week.
On a briefing on progress with the Airbus A350 XWB, Didier Evrard, evp – head of A350 XWB programme confirmed that, although the A350-900 is still expected to commence operations in 2013, the stretched smaller -800 and larger -1000 version are not now expected until 2017 – a delay of two years. The delay on the -1000 will allow Airbus time to insert newer technology and capture the results of the -900 tests, as well as giving Rolls-Royce more time to work on an enhanced variant of the Trent XWB engine to power it.
737 successor? Still in the air
Boeing has perhaps its biggest presence in Paris for years with not only a 737-700 and a Qatar 777 on display but also the first 747-8 Intercontinental to fly to Europe. The freighter version of the 747-8 is also here, as is one of the flight test 787s (an example of which first appeared at Farnborough last year). There were rumours that Boeing might take advantage of the show to announce its own successor to the 737 to compete with Airbus’ re-engined A320neo (which now has 390 booked orders). However, Boeing ceo Jim Albaugh said that the company is currently consulting customers concerning two options – either a re-engined 737 or a completely new model for the end of the decade, using lessons learned from recent aircraft projects such as the 787. A decision on the 737 successor would be announced in the next few months.
A revamp of the 777 is also under consideration, although this programme would be timed that it did not run at the same time as a new 737. Albaugh also acknowledged that Boeing and Airbus no longer had a duopoly in the 100-150-seat aircraft market with new competition coming from companies such as Embraer, COMAC, Bombardier and Irkhut.
To listen to a podcast of Jim Albaugh giving the Sopwith Lecture at the Royal Aeronautical Society on 15 June click here.
Orders pile up
Despite making claims at previous shows that they did not use trade exhibitions as a vehicle to proclaim orders, both Boeing and Airbus spent the first day doing just that.
At the end of the first day the tally currently stood at:
60 A320neos from GE Capital Aviation Services
30 A320neo family from SAS
Four A330-300s for Saudi Arabian Airlines
36 A320neos plus 14 options, 11 A330s and one A321 from Air Lease Corporation
Six 777s for Qatar
15 747-8 Intercontinentals from undisclosed buyer
Two 747-8 Intercontinentals from second undisclosed buyer
33 aircraft (14 orders and four options for 737-800s, five 777-300ERs and four 787-9s) from Air Lease Group.
Embraer also had a good day with 39 orders for regional jets (ten orders plus ten options from Kenya Airways, 20 orders and ten options from Sriwijawa Air, two orders from GECAS, five orders from Air Lease Corp and two orders plus two options from Air Astana.
New orders were also announced for ten Bombardier CSeries (although the customer was not revealed) along with 15 ATR 72-600s plus 15 options from GECAS.
Lessons from Libya
While defence companies at the show were enviously watching the civil aerospace orders rise and rise, ongoing air operations in Libya meant that some took the opportunity to underline their product’s combat debut.
On a pre-show briefing at the Eurofighter pavilion, was RAF Typhoon pilot Sqn Ldr Rupert Joel, who described the fighter first combat sorties. He noted that the gruelling missions from Italy to Libya (an average of 5 hours with a maximum of 9 hours) was like “the hardest trail (long distance air-to-air refuelling) we’d ever done. The single seat Typhoon is being used in mixed pairs with the 1970s Tornado – bringing a synergy with each complementing the other.
These extra eyes in the Tornado are undoubtedly very welcome in this high-altitude precision bombing campaign. As Sqn Ldr Joel noted “Our aim is zero civilian casualties”. Missions are a mix of deliberate and dynamic targeting, with Enhanced Paveway II bombs mainly dropped in the GPS-guidance mode by Typhoons – with occasional buddy-lasing from Tornados when ultra –high accuracy is needed.
However the RAF were coy about where some of the targeting data was coming from when asked whether JTACS/FACs on the ground would improve matters – merely saying that targeting info came from a variety or range of ‘offboard sources’.
Wherefore art thou, Romeo?
Meanwhile at the Lockheed Martin chalet, US Navy Air Systems were on hand to explain the capabilities of the MH-60R ‘Romeo’ ASW/ASuW helicopter, which has been chosen by the Royal Australian Navy and which will acquire 24 examples.
Their choice, say the US Navy, will increase interoperability with the US fleet, as well as tapping into the massive -60 Seahawk/Blackhawk support network. The Romeo meanwhile will boost the US Navy’s ASW capabilities which are still smarting after an uninvited Chinese submarine got inside a carrier battle group in 2007. Its dipping sonar is estimated to be some 3-7 times more effective than current USN systems in service.
Does this mean a Chinese sub will never get inside a CBG again? “Well never say never but we’ve made it far more difficult”.
The US Navy is also looking at teaming Romeo and Sierra MH-60s in hunter-killer teams to share data, provide extra firepower, and pursue hostile contacts. Further in the future, this CONOPS (concept of operations) could also see shipboard helicopters like the Sierra or Romeo teamed with UAVs to protect the strike fleet.
Solar Impulse looks for bright spots
Impossible to get all into one photo because of its size is the 63.4m wingspan solar-powered aircraft Solar Impulse. The record–breaking aircraft, which flew to Le Bourget last week under its own power, is on display in a special temporary hangar. Solar Impulse was scheduled to fly each day, but did not do so on Monday due to poor weather conditions.
Airbus meanwhile suffered double bad luck with its two star products – the A400M and A380 – both of which were grounded – the A400M due to a gearbox problem and the A380 after it clipped a wingtip with a ‘structure’ whilst taxing. After hiding the company aircraft from view, Airbus managed to get customer Korean Air to step in to let it use its A380 in the flying display. After Air France had a well publicised A380 brush with a CRJ in New York, next Farnborough will we see the launch of a new wingtip proximity sensor?
For all the highlights from Paris, remember to check back at media.aerosociety.com or follow Aerospace International Editor Tim Robinson on Twitter @RAeSTimR