Looking good in the sunshine...

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

The second trade day on the Tuesday and the weather started out gloriously sunny and only improved by the end of the day, bringing what seemed like the whole airshow out in the afternoon to enjoy the flying display. While visitors basked in the good weather, it was still another day of news, announcements and briefings. Let's take a look at some of the highlights.

Taking it to the MAX

Another order for the MAX... (Boeing)

The second day of the show saw Boeing add more orders to its 737 MAX backlog. Boeing announced the biggest deal at the show so far - a $10.7bn order for 100 737 MAX 8s from leasing company AerCap Holdings. Meanwhile, Ruili Airlines from China is to buy 30 737 MAXs while Chinese lessor Minsheng Financial Leasing signed an MoU for an unspecified split of 30 737 MAXs and NGs.

Enter the X6...

The next-generation Super Puma replacement revealed. (Airbus Helicopters)

Airbus Helicopters announced that it had begun the concept phase start-up for its new X6 heavy-lift rotorcraft – which will replace the Super Puma in the company's lineup. Tailored for the civil market, the X6 will initially target oil and gas missions, as well as search and rescue and VIP transport. First flight is expected in the early 2020s. The concept image released shows family similarities with the latest H160, which the company revealed had recently made its first flight on 12 June, ahead of the airshow.

Scramble the drone interceptors!

Who will be the first UAV ace?

The issue of UAVs (particularly smaller) ones becoming more and more attractive to those with nefarious ends, whether they be prying paparazzi, spies, terrorists or asymmetric opponents, is becoming a bigger and bigger concern. The disruptive technology is cheap, easy-to-use and ubiquitous. So a growing theme at this year's show is countermeasures to UAVs – ranging from protecting critical infrastructure to deployed troops from surveillance drones. Indeed the issue has become a high priority in France after mysterious multicopters were spotted over Paris at night, and near nuclear power stations.

One anti-drone solution comes from Thales and is being developed in two flavours. A critical infrastructure protection one aimed at the security market, and another aimed at the defence sector. The security one uses radar and EO/IR sensors to spot a small UAV and then a GPS jammer to cause the drone to lose control.

Meanwhile the defence anti-UAV system ties into air defence radars and command systems to detect small UAVs at 30km and micro-UAVs at 7km away, using the Thales GM200 radar. While the defence solution allows for more robust 'hard kills' such as close-in AAA, Thales revealed that it was also looking at lasers, along with hacking and even 'blue UAVs' - read 'interceptor drones' to close with a disable enemy UAVs. Could the best solution to downing a drone in the future, be another drone?

First customer for high-density ATR 72

In regional manufacturer news, ATR announced the first sale of its high density 78-seat ATR 72-600 turboprop to Philippine airline Cebu Pacific with an order for 16 aircraft plus 10 options. ATR also announced an order for five ATR 72-600s to Braathens Regional in Sweden.

'Begun, the civil cargo airship wars have'

Now two companies competing in hybrid airship tech. (Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin has revealed a design for a new heavy-lift hybrid airship as a transport solution for delivering cargoes to remote or difficult to access areas for less fuel than a helicopter. Capable of carrying up to 20 tonnes, the LMH-1 airship platform features a tri-lobed helium envelope fitted with external thrust vectors. The airship is fitted with an internal cargo bay and can land on land or water using an air cushion landing system (ACLS). The design is based on a demonstrator airship prototype– the P-791 developed at the Skunk Works.

The airship is to be marketed on Lockheed Martin’s behalf by Hybrid Enterprises. As well as selling the airship, the company will also provide technical analysis, facilitate financing, assist with international certification and  provide training and maintenance. Hybrid Enterprises said that it hoped that the new design would achieve FAA flight certification by the end of 2017.

It is interesting to note that Lockheed’s design is not dissimilar to the Airlander hybrid airship originally used by Northrop Grumman for the cancelled US Army Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) which was purchased back from the US two years ago by its UK designer Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV). HAV had news of its own this week when it was reported to have signed a partnership agreement with SelexES to demonstrate the capabilities of its Airlander 10 airship platform as a maritime patrol platform.

Korean Air hedges its bets

Korean Air is a brand new customer for Airbus. (Airbus)

There were smiles at both Airbus and Boeing on Tuesday as Korean Air placed orders with the two airframers. At Airbus, Korean Air signed an MoU for up to 50 A321neo - splitting into 30 firm orders and 20 options. Meanwhile over at Boeing, it signed a deal worth $3.9bn for 30 737 MAXs, (plus options for an additional 20) along with two 777-300ERs.

Meteor BVRAAM – don't bother running

If you have one of these heading your way, better just eject.

Over at MBDA, the company provided an update on its soon to be in service pan-European Meteor BVRAAM missile – a game-changer that was set to be the next evolution in air combat. There was, explained MBDA's defence advisor Russ Martin, (an ex-Tornado F3 pilot and air warfare instructor) a 'perfect storm' for Meteor now, with air forces looking to replace older medium range missiles such as AMRAAM and AA-12, coupled with new platforms entering (or having entered) service such as Typhoon, Gripen, Rafale and the F-35. He also noted that the right platforms, in the right place equipped with Meteor would be a significant deterrent. A subtle hint about current aerial encounters?

Key to the Meteors game-changing capability is its smarts and sustained performance – giving a 'no escape zone' three times bigger than legacy BVRs. "It mates the range of the Phoenix with the agility of AMRAAM" noted Martin. This means that extreme range shots are more likely to connect – as the missile will use its throttable ramjet to go into cruise mode and run a target down. In essence said Martin, "If you can see it on your system, you can kill it" – a leap from today's air combat where the pilot has to balance extreme range, but unlikely to kill shots, with closer, but more deadly (for themselves and their target) shots in the heart of the envelope.

Meteor is now in production, with the first fighter to field it, the Gripen in 2016. The Eurofighter will receive it in the 2018 timeframe.

Air Astana selects A321neo(LR)

Air Astana signed for two A320neos, one A321neo and four A321neo long range (LR) – which will replace its 757s in service. The new aircraft will be leased from Air Lease Corporation.

Turkey to develop regional airliner

Starting with the 328 will allow Turkish industry to learn before moving onto the bigger TRJ628 

Meanwhile over at Sierra Nevada Corporation's 328 project there was standing room only as the company announced it had formed a new subsidiary, TRJet. to produce the first indigenous Turkish regional airliner. The plan is to first locally build a modernised version of the 30-seat Dornier 328 as the TRJ328, before moving on to a larger clean-sheet design for 50-70 seats, the TRJ628. That way, say the company, they will avoid many of the pitfalls faced by countries starting their own airliner projects from scratch. The company believes that a significant gap exists in the market in the 30-50 seater airliner market with some 5,000 aging aircraft that will need replacing – along with demand for special mission/military and government variants. TRJet has already got a provision launch order commitment for 50 aircraft from the Turkish government to kick-start this project, and expects to assemble and deliver the first Turkish-built TRJ328 in 18-36 months. The larger TRJ628 is expected to roll out in 2023, with (like the 328) both jet and turboprop versions planned and TRJet are looking towards the P&W GTF engine for the jet version.

New focus for Piaggio at 100 years

Piaggio reduced the engine noise on the Avanti Evo by 70% with clever tweaks.

This year Italian aerospace firm Piaggio Aerospace celebrates its 100th anniversary – and is now looking to a brighter future thanks to Abu Dhabi investor Mubadala Aerospace. The company, the makers of the sleek Avanti business turbopro,p had faced a tough time, but is now refocused and reborn having had $153m injected into the firm. As well as launching the revamped Avanti Evo last year, it is also boosting its customer support with 'through-life' solutions, moving into a new state of the art factory in Villanova d'Alebenga, Italy and diversifying into new sectors, such as an Avanti-based MPA and the P1.HH Hammerhead UAS. The Hammerhead, which flew earlier this year) is now set to go into service with the Italian Air Force, which is buying two systems (each two air vehicles and a GCS) along with options on a third system.

While the European MALE 2020 system is still at the feasibility stage, the Hammerhead is thus the set to be the only European competitor to the US Predator and Israeli Heron UAVs. Said Francesomaria Tuccillo, CCO, Piaggio,"The P1.HH could be the gapfiller or testbed" for MALE2020. He also pointed out that with the designs roots in a business turboprop - the Hammerhead could be '9 years' ahead of the competition in achieving certification for a UAV to use civil airspace. But Piaggio are not just looking for military uses for the Hammerhead, he revealed, it could also find commercial applications such as an unmanned cargo aircraft.


Cool connected cockpit for E-Fan 2.0

Who says you can't be environmentally friendly and stylish?

While the full-scale mock-up of Airbus's electric GA aircraft, the E-Fan 2.0, was out on static, inside its pavilion was a cool 1:1 cockpit concept for the aircraft. Looking more like a sports car, than a training aircraft, the E-Fan 2.0 had a big glass displays as might be expected – but the difference was here that they undocked as tablet computers. This meant they could be used for flight planning, debriefing and other non-cockpit tasks, with the student (or instructor) plugging them back in the cockpit for the actual flight. Cleverly for an electric aircraft that relies on batteries, the E-Fan 2.0s flight planning and navigation is geared towards maximum efficiency. For example, the nearest diversion airfield against a strong headwind may not be the best choice. The E-Fan will provide best efficiency information to the pilot at all times.

More orders from EVA Air

EVA Air in Taiwan, which signed an LoI with Boeing on Monday for five Boeing 777Fs also ordered four additional Airbus A330-300s on the Tuesday.


International Rescue the first possible customer?

Among the stands in Hall 3 was this unusual concept of an aircraft with a detachable fuselage. Developed by research consortium Technoplane, the idea is that an aircraft frame consisting of wings and engines (and possibly not even a pilot) could carry a variety of different fuselages, for passengers, cargo, mobile hospitals or water containers for aerial fire-fighting. The fuselages (or ‘pollen baskets’ as Technoplane described them) would be fitted with wheels and could drive on the ground at airports between the departure gate or freight terminal and the taxiway. The empty aircraft frame would pick up and drop loads without actually stopping at the airport terminus (or ‘hive’ as the designers referred to it). Additional fuel for the aircraft could be carried in the passenger/freight fuselages. Technoplane had two designs for detachable fuselage aircraft, ranging from the twin boom Little Bee regional aircraft to the larger medium range Bee-Plane. Other innovative designs from Technoplane are the vertical take-off and landing GA Mini-Bee individual air vehicle fitted with four vertical take-off fans and two tilt rotor propellers and the larger Iso-Plane fitted with a similar array of lifting devices which would be capable of carrying an ISO freight container.

Technoplane claims that the detachable fuselage concept was inspired by the Fairchild X-120 from the 1950s, although those of us from a certain generation may be reminded of an international rescue aircraft by the name of Thunderbird 2 …

Engine choices round-up

Engine manufacturers also had a good day. Ruili Airlines ordered 60 CFM LEAP-1B engines to power for its 30 737 MAX aircraft order. AerCap Holdings N.V. today announced an order for 200 CFM LEAP-1B engines to power 100 737 MAXs. SMBC Aviation Capital, the world’s third largest aircraft lessors, today announced an order for CFM International’s LEAP-1B engines to power 10 additional Boeing 737 MAX
Turkish Airlines signed an MoU for Pratt & Whitney's PurePower PW1100G-JM engines to power its order of 72 A321neos.

Rolls-Royce signed a long-term TotalCare service support contract with Thai Airways for Trent 1000 engines power six Boeing 787-8s.

Wizz Air selected V2500 engines to power 17 previously announced Airbus A321ceo family aircraft.

Europe researches morphing wings

Mighty, morphing power wing?

German research organiser Fraunhofer held a series of technical presentations on its involvement with the European Union’s Cleansky and Cleansky 2 aerospace environmental technology programmes. This included a presentation by Dr Valerio Carlis from Fraunhofer Aviation on the Presentation on the ‘droop nose’ technology programme. Despite its name, the programme does not involve nose cones but is a morphing leading edge wing slat designed to enhance laminar flow. After conducting tests using simulation, Fraunhofer constructed a 3m wide full size demonstrator based on the wing of an ATR-42 regional turboprop which was tested in a climatic wind tunnel. Using an electromechanical actuator, the leading edge is able to change shape and deform while maintaining a smooth surface without gaps in the wing skin. The wing is fitted with a variety of sensors, including nearly 50 fibre-optical strain sensors. Also fitted on the wing are synthetic jet actuators designed to exert a positive effect on the airstream. As well as improving the flow of air, the wing also creates less noise during landing. The wing is also fitted with a flexible heating system based on carbon nano tubes design to prevent the build up of ice – the first time such a device has been fitted to a morphing wing.

Airline award winners

In other news Qatar Airways won three awards at the 2015 Skytrax World Airline Awards held at Le Bourget - Airline of the Year, Best Business Class Airline Seat and Best Airline in the Middle East - while Kazakhstan carrier Air Astana won Best Airline Central Asia / India and Best Airline Staff Service Central Asia/India.

Double celebration for TUI Group

New RAeS Fellow, Chris Browne receives certificates from Society President, Martin Broadhurst.

Dr Chris Browne, COO TUI Aviation receives certificates from newly appointed President of the Royal Aeronautical Society, Martin Broadhurst in light of her Fellowship of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and on behalf of TUI Group who join over 200 aerospace companies as Corporate Partners of the RAeS.

And finally....

What's in a name?

Finding a new monicker for your armed trainer/COIN/light strike turboprop can be a difficult task after over 100 years of manned aviation -and there are plenty of examples where combat aircraft are now using second (Typhoon) or even third (F-35 Lightning) hand names. So it was pleasing to see that Beechcraft had found an aggressive animal, the Wolverine, to name its armed AT-6 after and which as far as is known, hasn't been used before.

17 June 2015