A report of the highlights from the fourth and final trade day of the 2012 Farnborough Air Show on 9-15 July
Day 4 of the Farnborough show, the final trade day saw Boeing leave the best to last, plus more sales from Airbus, and a look at progress in autonomous ‘airmanship’.
MAX-hester United score winning goal
Day 4 of any trade show is usually when things start to wind down, but this Thursday saw Boeing celebrating with a much-anticipated order that clearly put Airbus on warning that the MAX was in town. The order from United Air Lines saw the US carrier sign for 100 737 MAX 9s, along with 50 737-900ERs, with both combined worth $14.7bn at list prices. Added to earlier sales this week, the final tally gave saw Boeing book orders and commitments for 396 aircraft, valued at a total of $37billlion, more than double its European rivals sales.
The order was also notably for another reason, as it pushed the total 737 orders of the entire family from classic, to NG, to MAX to 10,0039, making it the best-selling jet airliner ever.
ASTRAEA reveal key UAV ‘airmanship’ technologies
If you are a daytime VFR pilot and you see some dark clouds ahead, this immediately tells you to start thinking about altering your route or diverting. Building this natural ‘airmanship’ instilled in human pilots from their first flight, into UAVs is a key aim of the UK’s ASTRAEA (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation & Assessments) progamme. This project, described in more detail here, seeks to unlock civil airspace for safe use of UAS. At a briefing at the show, BAE Systems revealed three core ‘airmanship’ technologies now being tested with its surrogate UAV, a converted Jetstream testbed. First up was a bad weather (or cloud detection system) which, without weather radar, used a combination of a simple video camera and some very clever maths to detect and avoid them. Second was ‘sense and avoid’ – or in simple terms, keeping a visual lookout for other traffic. Note that this traffic may or may not have transponders so the system incorporates a visual system as well. See it in action above, in this exclusive video and see if you can spot the traffic before it can. Pilots who assessed this said it “well outperforms their ability to see in traffic”. The final technology, is that of looking for forced landings. Here the computer is constantly scanning for a suitable site to land – but checking with sensors that suitable landing areas have not suddenly got a campsite, music festival or jumble sale on them.
ASTRAEA is set to conclude in March 2013 – but is a valuable step in understanding and unlocking the potentially huge civil UAS market. “It’s the dawn of a new era in aviation -it really is a new market” says BAE. Additionally the technologies described above may have a role increasing GA safety to the level of commercial airliners, by providing a ‘instructor pilot in a box’ that could aid and assist human pilots flying light aircraft.
Airbus reveals tally
While Boeing triumphed this year at Farnborough, for a company that had come second, Airbus had not done too badly. It announced that that it had won $16.9bn of new commitments for a total of 115 aircraft (61 MoUs and 54 firm purchase orders). Chief salesman John Leahy refuted charges that Airbus always ‘saved up’ orders to announce at airshows, noting that the last neo order placed had been thrashed out all night and signed only 28 minutes before the press conference began.
He also noted A320neos and 737MAXs will be around a lot longer than people expected, since the engine technology needed for a true next gen airliner such as unducted open rotor, was still off in 2030. Meanwhile, new Airbus chief, Fabrice Bregier as well as stressing the company’s recruitment drive, also confirmed that with its new Alabama facility, Airbus would be applying to join US trade body Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) – “we will be one of biggest US aircraft manufacturers” he said.
Airport security demonstrated
FLIR Systems had a large stand featuring mock-ups of different parts of airports to demonstrate its integrated threat detection systems, including check-in desk, baggage screening, departure lounge and security control room (pictured above). The company has developed an number of innovative ways to detect potential security threats from terrorists, including advance detection and identification of radioactive, narcotic and biological materials.
Thales, too was demonstrating its airport security solutions, including an interactive pilots-checklist style approach to building in standard operating procedures for security controllers into the system, along with boosting camera coverage by using ubiquitous smart phones carried by staff to send or receive video and images.
Q400 order for Bombardier
Bombardier announced that Chorus Aviation, the Nova Scotia-based parent company of Jazz Aviation, has placed a firm order for six Q400 NextGen aircraft. The order represents a conversion of six of the 15 options placed with an order for 15 aircraft in 2010. At current list prices, the order is valued at approximately $189m. Jazz is the world’s largest operator of Dash 8/Q-Series aircraft although the aircraft ordered will be operated under the Air Canada Express banner.
Business aircraft out in force
In addition to commercial airliners and military aircraft, the airshow also boasts a diverse array of business and general aviation aircraft on static display ranging from Very Light Jets to Bombardier Global Express aircraft. Heading the line-up however is Farnborough-based management company Acropolis Aviation’s A319CJ. The 2009-built aircraft can accommodate up to 19 passengers and incorporates an Alberto Pinto cabin design featuring a forward lounge, dining area, stateroom, private master bedroom and en-suite bathroom. The 180-minute ETOPS certified aircraft may typically fly up 10 hour sectors non-stop due to additional capacity tanks at the rear of the aircraft, significantly increasing the A319’s standard range. According to Airbus Marketing Director David Velupillai, narrow-bodies remain the most popular of the Airbus Corporate Jets; accounting for 110 of the 170 sales of the manufacturer’s corporate jets.
Out of the Shadows
In addition to showing off helicopters and light aircraft, the Textron outdoor exhibits include the AAI Shadow M2 multi-mission tactical UAS. Powered by Lycoming propeller engine, the Shadow M2 can carry the same payload as a RG-7B Shadow TUAS but at, what the manufacturer claims to be, an ‘evolutionary price tag’.
Snakes on a plane
In the trade halls, Bristol-based OC Robotics demonstrated the applicability of its snake-arm technology to the aerospace industry. With a focus toward aircraft assembly, the equipment allows for a wide range of tasks to be conducted in confined spaces including component placement, hole drilling and cleaning in addition to quality assurance. Having already proved the technology in other sectors, OC Robotics has worked with Airbus to develop the tool for low access, automated processes on the assembly line.
High power jammer
Advanced Technologies Group had what looked like a missile but was in fact, a high-powered ram air turbine (HiRAT) from Advanced Technologies Group which can generate up to 120kW of extra electrical power for US Navy tactical aircraft in flight when jamming enemy radars. The system has been tested in wind tunnels at the University of Maryland and NASA Langley and is expected to be deployed on USN EA-18G Growlers by 2018.
Two different solutions to the problem of using up fuel running aircraft engines while taxiing to and from the runway. WheelTug can fit a motor powered by the APU to the front nose wheel (which they demonstrated at their stand using a polystyrene model aircraft) while TaxiBot can tow an aircraft using a tug supporting the nose wheel.
Relentless mock-up here
Bell Helicopter is exhibiting a mock-up of its new super medium –sized helicopter design the Bell 525 Relentless. Designed for missions such as oil and gas facility transport, parapublic or VIP transport missions. The 525 can carry up to 16 passengers at speeds of 140kt over a range of up to 400nm.
Drumming up orders?
In contrast to Paris last year, Airbus chose to reinvent the flash mob concept with ‘flash drums’. Hundreds of participants from across the airfield came together under the wing of the A380 to deliver a drum finale and raise awareness of Airbus’ recruitment campaign.
Spotted on the RAeS/Boeing School’s Build a Plane stand at the launch of the Falcon Initiative was this professional aviator – who appeared to be taking an interest in RAeS magazines…
Stay ahead of all the news!
To follow all the news at Farnborough don’t forget to bookmark www.aerosociety.com and follow the daily airshow news on the Insight blog. For those on Twitter the hashtag is #FIA12 and the Editor Tim Robinson will be tweeting live from the show on @RAeSTimR