Tim Robinson and Bill Read report from the second trade day of the Paris Air Show, held 20-26 June.
If Monday’s unveiling of hypersonic aircraft concepts allowed those at the show to daydream about high-speed travel, on Tuesday many were brought back to Earth with a bump with the chaos of a French train strike. The journey to and from the show every day from Paris can be hellish enough at the best of times – so this was added hassle was most unwelcome – and in some cases led to missed meetings.
That said, a round-up at the end of the day showed that train strikes and yet more rain had failed to dent airlines enthusiasm for placing orders. Most notably the day also saw a vote of confidence from Korean Air for the Bombardier CSeries – a sign that the aircraft is evolving into a growing threat for Airbus and Boeing. Airbus too continued to enjoy yet more orders for the neo, with an order from previous Boeing customer Garuda. It also promised to consider offering the fuel-saving’ Sharkets’ as a retrofit option for owners of standard A320s.
Also flying in at the end of day on the Tuesday was Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner – making its first Paris appearance.
Let’s take a look at just a few of the highlights.
New naval missile for 2030+ revealed
European missile house MDBA used the show to unveil its latest ‘Concept Visions’ future weapon – this time a supersonic Mach 2/3 naval missile called Perseus for the 2030 timeline. The missile, a ramjet powered weapon could be used in the sea-skimming mode, high angle manoeuvring attack, or against precision land targets. It would use a AESA radar seeker as well as LADAR (laser radar). These ‘future concepts’ (the first of which MDBA launched at Farnborough last year), are not just ‘air show gimmicks’ but as Steve Wadley UK MD notes, have unleashed creativity from the companys engineers. Indeed some of the rejected ideas from around 150 submitted MDBA has already put to one side and patented.
O’Leary looks East
Whilst he was not spotted on the show site, avowed anti-‘aerosexual’ and avgeek nemesis, Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary, did use the timing of the show to announce a cooperation agreement with China’s COMAC over its new C919 airliner. The cooperation agreement does not include any commitment to buy the C919, so the question on everyone’s lips is what is Ryanair up to?
Certainly taken at face value the C919 in Ryanair colours would give COMAC a massive breakthrough into the western airline market, with a big enough order catapulting itself into the big leagues with Boeing and Airbus. For his part, it might be expected too, that as a Western launch customer, O’Leary would be able to command a substantial discount. Counting against that of course would be the question of support (vital in the LCC carrier arena), unknown maintenance costs and residual values – important as Ryanair quickly sells on aircraft to maintain a young fleet.
Some observers, however, believe that given O’Leary’s past form for generating publicity – whether through charging for toilets, or sending aircraft to probe ash clouds, that this may just be an extreme bargaining chip to get a better deal from Boeing. COMAC too whether wittingly or unwittingly will be linked by association to Ryanair – and thus its image too will be boosted as a serious alternative to Airbus and Boeing.
Only time will tell – but should we eventually see a C919 in Ryanair colours – not only will Michael O’Leary have helped introduce low cost carriers to Europe, he could be remembered for introducing low cost aircraft manufacturers too.
Has the F-35 turned the corner?
At a Lockheed Martin press conference on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Deputy Director of the programme, Maj Gen CD Moore briefed journalists on flight test progress with the fighter. In particular he noted that they were beating targets set down previously for flight test to achieve. Most noticeable was a graph showing STOVL test progress which showed a barely flat line jumping almost vertically. Production is also ramping up from two aircraft per month to four in 2012.
Gen Moore also revealed that training of the first service pilots would soon start to begin, with Eglin AFB set to be the main training centre. Once up and running, Eglin is expected to churn out some 100 F-35 pilots a year.
However still the question of affordability still hangs over this project. Would it ever become more affordable? LM JSF chief Tom Burbage argued that as the predicted estimates were replaced by real cost data as serviceability, maintenance rates etc were known, then the aircraft should show cost savings over time.
Superjet unveils VIP version
The United Aircraft Company (UAC) in Russia announced that it will be producing a business jet variant of the Superjet 100 regional aircraft. Mikhail Pogosyan, ceo of the United Aircraft Company (UAC) in Russia gave details of the company’s plans for producing and marketing the SukhoiSuperjet 100 regional jet and the 150-seat Irkhut MS-21. Both aircraft are entering a crowded market – the Superjet is currently competing with new regional aircraft from companies such as Bombardier, Embraer and Mitsubishi while the still-under-development MD-21 will be up against the Airbus A320neo, COMAC’s CRJ919 and whatever revamped version of the 737 that Boeing decide to pursue.
To help it better compete in the international marketplace, UAC has been adopting western methods of management and production as well as setting up agreements with other companies. “We have changed in the last ten years,” says Mikhail Pogosyan. One example is on the production side where the Superjet 100 did not feature composite wings because this would have increased the development cost and time taken to produce the aircraft. However, the MS-21 is expected to be fitted with them. UAC’s future plans include producing larger version of both aircraft, possibly up to 200 seats. Finally Mikhail Pogosyan was unconcerned that MiG had been dropped from the Indian MRCA shortlist. “We feel quite comfortable in India. We still have plenty of work there.”
Hillary plugs the Tucano
Meanwhile Embraer was actively promoting the US footprint of the Super Tucano which is competing in the US Light Air Support (LAS) contract – stressing that it will be assembled in the US and over 50% of the components already come from there. The company has produced a promotional video for the US which includes a guest appearance from Hillary Clinton.
Order tally – Day 2
Day 2 of the show ended with yet more orders for the neo from CIT, and former Boeing customer Garuda. Meanwhile Bombardier landed commitments, options and purchase rights for 30 CSeries from Korean Air.
Garuda Indonesia – 15 A320s and 10 A320neos (plus 25 options)
CIT – 50 A320neos
JetBlue – 40 A320neos plus conversion of 30 A320s on order to A321s
TransAsia Airways – 6 A321neos
GECAS – 2 747-8F and 8 777-300ERs
Norwegian Air Shuttle – 15 737-800s and 3 787s firmed
MIAT Mongolian Airlines – 2 737-800s and 1 767-300ER
Aeroflot (previously undisclosed customer) 8 777-300ER
Malaysian Airline System (MAS) 10 737-800s (converted from options to firm)
Korean Air – 10 CSeries Letters of Intent, 10 options, 10 purchase rights
Sky Aviation – 12 SuperJet 100s
MRJ tests ditching qualities
Mitsubishi’s press conference on the progress of its new MRJ regional jet, included a unusual video clip of a ditching test in which a model MRJ was catapulted into a swimming pool to test how the aircraft would fair, if faced with the same situation as the famous incident in which an A320 crash landed on the Hudson River. The video was only a few seconds long but the model was still floating when it ended.
Astrium talks up Euro missile shield
One of Astrium’s many ongoing projects is the development of a European missile defence system which could intercept missiles in space above the Earth. While two Spiral satellites are already in orbit that could be used to detect incoming missiles, the rest of the system would still need consideration funding to be completed. If money was available, Astrium reckons that it could conduct a missile launch and intercept test in five years.
European open-rotor race
With much talk of future airliners from both Airbus and Boeing, there remains the small matter of how to power any future airliner. At a roundtable of engine experts from the European CleanSky JTI initiative, there was much discussion of the potential open-rotor/propfan solution. Currently CleanSky is pitting rival powerplant companies, Rolls-Royce and Safran to develop two open-rotor demonstrator engines, one of which will be selected, as the best technical solution for lowest risk, to fly on an A340 test aircraft in 2014. Another CleanSky open-rotor milestone is the choice of ‘pusher’ or ‘puller’ configuration – which is set to be made by the end of this year.
With the EU making this programme a priority and the huge potential market of any propulsion system for a new single-aisle airliner, the stakes could not be higher in this engine race.
Lighter than air cranes
While speed is back in fashion this year at Paris, another blast from the aviation past is airships. Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are working on military applications for airships. Tucked away at the show is a real airship – a two seat hydrogen-fuel cell powered craft from French lighter than air research network DiriSoft, which pioneers several new advances such as a lifting body shape. It is yet to fly, but the developers think that a market niche exists for airships to move heavy loads as bridges, power generators and the like.
If you have not seen this awesome teaser trailer for an upcoming animated Disney movie called Planes you really need to. In it what looks like a nervous Air Tractor agricultural spray aircraft gets catapulted off an aircraft carrier. Air Tractor it seems have decided that is the way to go for the armed version of the Air Tractor – hence this great cartoon spotted on the static line in front of their aircraft.
For all the highlights from Paris, remember to check back at www.aerosocietychannel.com or follow Aerospace International Editor Tim Robinson on Twitter @RAeSTimR