TIM ROBINSON and BILL READ report from the third trade day of the 2015 Paris Air Show.

The third trade day on the Wednesday and visitors still enjoyed the fine sunny weather – a far cry from the thunderstorms remembered by some two years ago. In the chalets and halls, there was still no shortage of deals, announcements and intriguing projects to catch up with. What were the highlights on Day 3?

Civil pilot wearable displays look to the future

Resistance (to wearables) is futile. (Thales)

Over at Thales, the company was demoing what it believes will be standard equipment for civil pilots in the 2020s – the TopMax HMD. Helmet mounted displays (HMD)s are of course common now for fighter and attack helicopter pilots, but tend to be bulky and require a helmet. Thales' TopMax, however, leverages its previous HMD experience to produce an extremely lightweight, colour monocle 'headset' mounted display. The wearers head position is tracked, to thus overlay critical flight information, 'highways in the sky' and even virtual terrain below to give unparalleled situational awareness, wherever the pilot looks. Thales believe that this technology will be especially useful for crosswind landings, where traditional straight ahead HUDs are not aligned with aircraft 'crabbing in'. They also note that as well as colour symbology and flight path data, other feeds such as video or images could also be feed into the TopMax.

Smooth sailing for A350 entry into service, says Qatar boss

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker (left) chats to new RAeS President Martin Broadhurst

Visiting the show air show this week one cannot miss the line-up of five Qatar Airways airliners out of the static display – ranging from the Airbus A319, A320, Boeing 787, A380, and its latest, the A350XWB. We caught up with the Qatar Airways chief executive, Akbar Al-Baker himself. What made him decide to bring all five aircraft? "They are five distinct products all different" he said "we thought this would be the best venue to showcase them". With Qatar the launch customer for Airbus's #A350XWB, delivered six months ago in December, he praised the new types reliability, saying "dispatch reliability is very high - technically we've faced neligible problems". While he admitted that he is "not interested" in any proposed re-engined A380neo at the moment, he also appeared to leave a door open once the specifications and performance were firmed up: "once we know what neo is capable of, that is the time to consider it".

Finally with Qatar and other Gulf airlines locked in a bitter dispute with US airlines about alleged subsidies, he revealed that that airline was set to deliver a detailed response to the US DoT, State Department and Department of Commerce, "imminently".

Freight expectations (Chapter 1)

Air cargo is what the 747 loves. (Boeing)

In a boost to Boeing's slow-selling 747-8, the third trade day of the show saw air cargo group Volga Dnper sign an MoU for 20 of the -8F freighter variants. The group already has an existing order for six of the aircraft. The agreement also adds the Antonov-124-100 aircraft to the long-term logistics support for Boeing. With air cargo growth now returning, this could be good news for the Boeing's jumbo jet.

Freight Expectations (Chapter 2)

Second time lucky for the Airbus P2F? (Airbus)

Airbus too, evidently thinks that it is worth a fresh look at a rebounding air cargo market, for, on the Wednesday, it relaunched its P2F (passenger-to-freighter) for narrowbody conversions of A320/A321s. A previous attempt had been scrapped in 2011, due to difficulties of getting hold of heavily in demand A320s and a weak air cargo market. This time round, Airbus is partnered with Singapore-based ST Aerospace to offer passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversions for A320s and A321s. The freighters will be marketed and managed by Dresden-based freighter conversion specialists Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW).

A380neo re-engine? We have the tech, says Engine Alliance

EA is serving up a platter of GP7200 improvements.

To a morning briefing from GE/P&W's Engine Alliance, where the company an interesting update into the latest tweaks and improvements coming to its GP7200. EA President Dean Athans explained to reporters how the performance and efficiency numbers "got better & the best is ahead of us". With 385 engines in service with 5 A380 airlines, EA is testing upgrades such as tweaks to the high pressure turbine (HPT). Interestingly the company's trials include a test-rig with 'specially engineered' dust to simulate the sand and dust of the Middle East – home to so many A380s.

Athans finished his presentation with a slide depicting the numerous suite of advancements and improvements, all at TRL6 that could be included. These he suggested would either lead to a retrofit option, or a more advanced configuration. This would involve changing the aerofoil count – but could be an path to a new engine for the A380neo. While Athans refused to be drawn on specific fuel efficiency savings for this conceptual A380neo engine, he admitted that 2.5% was in the right region. With EA laying out some of its cards for the re-engined A380neo, the battle lines between it and R-R are now drawn.

Berlin to Australia in 90mins?

It'll probably take longer queuing in security than flying from Berlin to Melbourne in this...

Looking like a cross between a SR-71 and the PanAm Orbiter from '2001' was this suborbital transport concept from German aerospace research centre DLR. The 'Spaceliner' is envisaged for operation in the 2040s, and would be able to carry 50 passengers from Europe to Australia in 90minutes – by boosting up to 80km altitude at Mach 20+. Book your tickets now...

China adds to C919 orderbook

C919 is coming to market. (COMAC)

It was not just the established aircraft makers who saw deals this week. The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) announced that it has won an order for 50 C919 regional jets from Ping An Leasing, together with seven C1919s and seven ARJ21s from PuRen Germany Co, part of China’s Puren Group. However, the first C919 will not be delivered until late 2018 or 2019 due to delays with flight certification.


RAF returns A400M to flight

The A400M is returning to the skies. 

While the Airbus Defence and Space company A400M was displaying at Paris this week, there was good news for the UK as the RAF cleared it to resume training flights following the temporarily grounding after the types crash in Spain.

Every little helps – 50% lighter composite pipes

Sigma show off lightweight composite pipes

When reducing weight in aircraft, every single kg saved is critical. So the UK's Sigma Precision Components to happy to reveal that their project to development composite pipes, for Rolls-Royce as part of an EU-funded Clean Sky research had halved the weight of traditional metal pipes. The breakthrough, which has been worked on over the past two and a half years, could save 10kg per engine or 50kg for the empty weight of a twin-engine airliner. The company is now working to productionise this composite pipe technology, and already other applications are being suggested which could see it ripple throughout the airframe, saving additional weight.

Mitsubishi details MRJ flight deck

First flight will be later this year.

Mitsubishi announced that the first Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) is expected to make its maiden flight between September and October this year. Following tests of its PW1200G engine, the MRJ90 has conducted low speed taxi tests. Medium and high speed tests are to follow in August and September, respectively. Mitsubishi now plans to deliver the first aircraft in Q2 2017 to All Nippon Airways (ANA).

Mitsubishi also revealed details of the MRJ’s new Advanced Flight Deck from Rockwell Collins. Consisting of four 15in digital screens, the system provides enhanced situational awareness. Features include Cat IIIa head-up display, controller-pilot data link communications (CPDLC) (Future Air Navigation Systems (FANS) 1/A+ and aeronautical telecommunications network (ATN)), MultiScan weather radar, vertical situation display, required navigation performance authorisation (RNP AR) approach, localiser performance with vertical guidance (LPV), automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast (ADS-B) and satellite-based augmentation systems (SBAS) such as the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) and the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) capability.

France looks for new trainer

The French Air Force is to replace its aging Dassault AlphaJets in the training role – with a RfP expected later this year. The requirement for 20-25 jets trainers has already attracted attention from manufacturers at the show, with Alenia Aermacchi proposing the M345 and Czech manufacturer an updated L-39NG.

ATR takes stock

Colourful props.

Regional turboprop manufacturer ATR announced that it has now received a total of 46 orders plus 35 options at this week’s show. These comprise 11 orders for the ATR-42 600 from Japan Airlines (eight) and Bahamas Air (three) together with 35 orders for the ATR-72 600 from Cebu Pacific (16), Binter Canarias (six), Braathens (five), Bahamas Air (two), Air Madagascar (three), Air New Zealand (one) plus two aircraft for undisclosed customers.

SOAR evaluates FanWing potential

Is there a market for an ultra-STOL transport? (FanWing)

A workshop in the afternoon saw a progress report from the Europeans SOAR (diStributed Open-rotor AiRcraft) project which is investigating the feasibility and commercial prospects of the revolutionary FanWing flying vehicle. FanWing uses a horizontally-rotating fan to produce an aircraft with extremely benign flying qualities, such as enhanced stability, no appreciable stall and STOL.

While FanWing's inventor Pat Peebles had already flown the FanWing as a subscale UAV, SOAR had added partners University of Saarland, Von Karman Institute and DLR, to contribute expertise on the fan drive, CFD and wind tunnel tests, and commercial viability. Wind tunnel tests saw a quarter span 1.2m section tested in VKI, with the results now being tested and compared to CFD modelling.

The FanWing, which offers almost the flexibility of a helicopter for slow/STOL flight, yet operating costs close to a fixed wing aircraft has been described has number of potential applications – including crop-spraying, fire-fighting, disaster relief and as a ultra-STOL Short Skyvan type freight aircraft.

Mystery shopper hits Parisian airplane emporium

The Paris Air Show is usually the event where an airline placing a billion dollar order would be extremely disappointed not to get name checked in the announcement. However the Wednesday of the show saw a cryptic press release from Airbus that an 'unnamed customer' had placed an order for 60 A320neo Aircraft. The clue for those playing at home, is it is an airline based in Asia.

Boeing sells first BBJ MAX

I want this maxed out on the inside, too (Boeing)

With MAX orders piling up this week for Boeing, it perhaps was no surprise that eventually someone, somewhere would want a VIP version of the re-engined 737. So it was on the Wednesday that Boeing officially launched the BBJ MAX 9, with an order from an unnamed European buyer. Delivery to a completion centre is set for 2020.

Neo orderbook continues to swell...

More to add to the backlog (Airbus).

Avianca Brasil is to acquire 62 A320neo family aircraft. An MoU was signed with Airbus by Synergy Aerospace Corporation, Avianca’s largest shareholder and owner. 

Networking at RAeS Reception

Making contacts at the RAeS Paris Air Show Reception.

The networking opportunities are of course, why the aerospace industry loves the Paris Air Show. All the contacts in one place and the opportunity to mix with those outside your narrow specialisation, to share knowledge, swap ideas, forge business contacts and continue your professional development.

That, multidisciplinary approach, of course, is not just for one week a year, but all year round as a Member of the Royal Aeronautical Society's global network, so it was fitting that the RaeS Paris Branch and SIAE once again hosted the traditional Paris Air Show RAeS Reception on Wednesday morning. Where else can you mingle and network informally with other aviation professionals, be they aircraft mechanics, UAV company executives, low-cost trainer designers, radar system executives, airline pilot instructors, journalists and even a former Chief of the Air Staff?

If you are at Le Bourget on the trade days and you aren't a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society, why not?

And finally...

New Paris Air Show diet revealed

With Paris home to fine dining and cuisine, is it any wonder that during this week, some visitors waistlines started to expand?

18 June 2015