Tim Robinson and Bill Read report from the third trade day of the Paris Air Show, held 20-26 June.
A brief glimpse of the sun in the morning proved a Parisian tease on the third day of the show – with it soon replaced by buckets and buckets of heavy rain. Orders for airliners however, continued to flood in, dominated by the Airbus’s neo, which scored the largest single order ever when IndiGo confirmed a $16bn order for 180 aircraft. This however, could be yet be topped by an even bigger AirAsia order for 200 or more aircraft that is yet to be placed.
Let’s take a look at some of the other highlights and news.
Revealed earlier in the week was Hypermach’s SonicStar – a green, ultra efficient business jet – might be could whisk 20 VIPs to across the globe at Mach 3.5 at 62,000ft.
The concept was developed by Richard Lugg, who had originally worked on a number of high-speed projects such as NASA’s Mach 10 X-30 and the aborted Lockheed Martin VentureStar SSTO vehicle. Intriguingly he was also involved in DARPA’s QSP (Quiet Supersonic Platform) which was an attempt to develop a long-range low sonic boom vehicle.
Of course the dream of supersonic flight, and supersonic bizjets has previously attracted companies both large and small, who (mostly) have either given up or put it on the back burner. Only Aerion in the US is still continuing with the dream.
But Lugg maintains that these previous attempts went at things the wrong way round – developing the airframe first and then trying to solve the sonic boom and efficiency equation. His approach is a radical rethinking of the jet turbine using superconducting magnets to eliminate the central shaft – which he calls the ‘flaw’ from 60 years of jet design. Freed from this the engine can run at more optimised speeds, delivering greater efficiency and lowering noise. Sounds too good to be true? As a by product the spare electrical energy this hybrid engine, called the S-MAGJET generates, can power an electrical plasma field which can ‘shape’ the sonic boom – to the extent that it could effectively permit overland supersonic flight – which has so far held SSBJs back. This electrical sonic boom shaping Lugg admits in similar to concepts that the Russia was once believed to be dabbling in as a form of ‘plasma stealth’.
Lugg says that the first flight of the SonicStar is set for June 2021, and hardware tests will begin soon – with a planned subscale UAV demonstrator to be flown by 2014 to prove the concept is viable.
Crucially the project has also secured UK Government backing – which sees the establishment of Hypermach’s global HQ a chance for the UK to regain the lead in aviation. Could this project, (and perhaps Reaction Engines Skylon splaceplane) be the disruptive technology that ushers in a new golden age for British aviation, or will it be the aerospace equivalent of the DeLorean? Perhaps, perhaps not – and it is nothing if ambitious, combining an entirely new aero-engine technology with plasma fields and the challenges of Mach 3.5 flight. It will certainly be interesting keeping a close eye on this project.
For an interview with Richard Lugg – see below.
New coatings could promise composite damage ‘bruises’
One of the issues with composite structures is that internal damage is very often hard to detect. With the introduction of the 787,and then the A350, identifying areas where outwardly it may appear intact, but inside may be a problem will become a priority as these airliners meet the reality of busy airports. However GKN Aerospace thinks it may have a solution – coatings that ‘bruise’ when hit – and which could even change colour to indicate the severity of the underlying damage. Rich Oldfield, GKN’s Technical Director thinks it unlikely you would see a sorry-looking airliner with purple and black visible ‘bruises’ at the gate – but the colour change could be visible using infared. Next-gen coating technology, says Oldfield, developed from GKNs transparency business, could also provide micro ‘ribblets’ to retain laminar flow and reduce drag, anti-lighting strike protection, and ice-phobic surfaces.
Day 3 orders tally
Wednesday was yet another day dominated by the A320neo – with India’s IndiGo confirming a whopping 180 order – the biggest single order, say Airbus in aviation history.
So what does this mean? Firstly it is confirmation as noted in our earlier entries of the rise of Asia-Pacific – compounded by US and Europe’s financial crisis. The second factor is that these extra orders revealed at the show puts extra pressure on Boeing to respond and respond decisively. The neo, remember, was just originally mean to be an interim ‘mid-life’ update to the A320 to fill a gap before any new next generation airliner – in the 2020s. This huge backlog of neo orders will give Airbus valuable breathing space to work on and develop the next generation single-aisle. For Boeing the problem is more acute as if this flood of orders is kept up, it could see more valuable customers like Garuda switch sides while their wait for Boeing to bring its product to market. Boeing says it has a re-engined 737 design ‘on the shelf’ waiting to go. Will this Paris prove the tipping point for them to hit that ‘go’ button?
Here is the orders tally from Day 3
CIT group – 50 A320neos
IndiGo – 150 A320neos plus 30 A320s (confirmed)
LAN Airways – 20 A320neos
ALAFCO – 30 A320neos
Frontier Airways – 40 A320neos, 40 A319neos
TransAsia Airways – 6 A320neos
AviancaTaca – 19 A320 family aircraft, 32 A320neos
TAME – 3 x ATR 42-500
Nordic Aviation Capital – 10 ATR 72-600s plus 10 options
UT Air – 33 x 737-800s, 7 x 737-900ERs
Hong Kong Airlines – 15 747-8Is (previously unidentified customer)
Blue Panorama – 12 SSJ100s
A possible solution to loss-of-control situations?
Could active inceptors (stick) technology, developed by BAE Systems for use in military aircraft and helicopters, such as the F-35, T-50 and Black Hawk, to provide tactile cues, feedback and warnings at the edge of the envelope, also have a role in civil aerospace? This question might have special relevance when viewed in the light of AF447, where pilots pulled passive sidesticks back even when the aircraft was in a stall. Using this active technology, in modern fly-by-wire airliners, then could perhaps alert pilots by providing cues to the edge of stalls or envelope limitations that may be more intuitive in emergencies.
Oklahoma sets sights on becoming UAS powerhouse
The fastest growing career option in aerospace? Apart from becoming an IndiGo airline pilot (see above) it is probably in unmanned air systems (UAS). To that end, the US State of Oklahoma is aiming to become a UAV ‘fly-to’ location with test flying ranges, backed by academic excellence. It now has a dedicated UAV airfield inside the Fort Sill ranges – with access to mock towns, threat facilities, IED trails to tests UAVs and sensors. Indeed even armed UAVs can be tested there. In addition, the State has prioritised UAS in education too, by creating the first Masters and PhDs in UAS Design at Oklahoma State University. Indeed the students there have already made a made for themselves in UAS excellence, beating MIT in an AAIA, ‘design- build-fly’ contest. The aim now will be to expose student teams to real world problems, such as urban navigation, for example, as well as bringing in those from other discliplines like software to give experience of designed a whole ‘system’ rather than the airframe itself.
New VTOL UAV unveiled
Brig. David Wills and Meinhard Schwaiger pose beneath the D-Dalus – a revolutionary vertical take-off, hovering and fast propulsion UAV design – a concept presented at the RAeS on 16 June.
Qatar scoops top airline title
Qatar Airways was named Airline of the Year at the Skytrax World Airline Awards 2011 which was held during the show.
A sign of how close the Anglo-French defence co-operation is getting was the sight of BAE Systems’ Mantis UAV mock-up on Dassault’s stand. Not content with this cross-channel love-in, a large picture in front of the aircraft showed French President Nicolas Sarkozy and UK PM David Cameron making gooey eyes at each other having just signed the defence co-operation agreement. Just nobody mention to the lovebirds who has the best UCAV demonstrator…
For all the highlights from Paris, remember to check back at www.aerosocietychannel.com or follow Aerospace International Editor Tim Robinson on Twitter @RAeSTimR