TIM ROBINSON and BILL READ provide a look at some of the most exciting news and and highlights ahead of the first trade day at the Paris Air Show 2017.

This Paris Air Show 2017 coverage brought to you with the kind support of Gulf Aviation 

Onboard the KC-390

Journalists check out the KC-390 ahead of first demo flight. 

For journalists willing to give up their Sunday lie-in, this year Brazil's Embraer had a special treat – the first ever media demo flight on its new KC-390 tanker/transport which is making its Paris Air Show debut and also flying in the air display this week.

Particularly noteworthy on the one-hour demo flight was the KC-390s. spacious cockpit with its Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion flightdeck. The KC-390 has a FBW system with 'no bank angle limits' according to a company test pilot. It also boasts another innovation in BAE Systems 'active sticks' which enhance crew situational awareness and give tactile safety cues about the edges of the flight envelope. Despite being a jet, the KC-390 is also capable of steep tactical descents to minimise exposure to enemy fire.

Cargo handling too is extremely easy, according to an ex-C-130 loadmaster, with the floor rollers able to be flipped over to change configuration in just three minutes.

KC-390 flightdeck. 

Embraer say that the KC-390 has now racked up over 1,000 hours in the flight test campaign, which has included AAR, parachute and cargo drops, water ingestion, as well as testing loading of military vehicles using a special ground rig. The two prototypes have thus been extremely busy, with Embraer saying they are flying daily at an “unprecedented flight rate”.

Launch customer for the KC-390 is set to be the Brazilian AF with 28 aircraft on order. Deliveries of the first two production examples to the AF are set begin in 2018, with Embraer and the Brazilian AF working together to deliver an initial operational capability (IOC) by the end of 2017. The company also hopes to secure its first export sale by the end of 2017, with Portugal hotly tipped to be that sale, after its government approved negotiations to acquire five KC-390s.

Interestingly, aviation journalists are not the only ones to be wowed by the KC-390. According an Embraer test pilot, a Swedish military test pilot, with experience of C-130s was also stunned by the ease in which the FBW system handled an 'engine out' situation – automatically trimming the aircraft. The KC-390 spent two days in Sweden being evaluated and it is notable that the Swedish Air Force operates four C-130Hs – a soon-to-retire airlifter market that Embraer is firmly aiming the KC-390 at.

A380plus could be Double Plus Good for airlines

Fins can only get better..? (Airbus)

Hints of winglet upgrades and the Musee du Air's A380 sporting unusual wingtip devices were confirmed on Sunday when Airbus revealed the A380plus - a development plan to boost the flagging superjumbos appeal. The new winglets (which have yet to fly), just on their own, say Airbus can give up to 4% in fuel savings. Additionally, the A380plus will see 80 extra seats crammed in to boost profits thanks to some clever internal rejigging, and an increased MTOW. Optimism maintenance too will help airlines save money. All in all, say Airbus the A380plus should be able to offer airlines a 13% per seat cost reduction. While not the 'A380neo' that one particular A380 customer was pressing for, the could these new figures cause some wavering airline customers to think again about the possibilities of buying A380s?      

Leonardo's M346 to be Master-at-Arms

The new M346FA now features 7 weapon stations, including wingtip rails for AAMs. (Leonardo)

Over at Leonardo's chalet the company detailed progress with two of its 'new' aircraft - the M345 and M346. The M345 (based on the earlier M311) saw the Italian Air Force sign a contract to acquire the aircraft back in January - with the aircraft now having a new Williams FJ44 powerplant as well as a sophisticated simulation, embedded training package to go with it.

Meanwhile Leonardo is developing its M346 advanced trainer into a fighter attack aircraft, with a radar, sensors and a wide range of weapon options, including Brimstone missiles and MARTE-ER. The concept is that a baseline aircraft will provide for a family on increasingly lethal light attack/fighters. This combat aircraft them could be useful for homeland defence missions, COIN, or 'Red Air' or aggressor type operators. In addition with the spiraling costs of defence equipment and training, there is also a emerging requirement for 'companion trainers'. This would see the M346 used in a post-OCU role to keep aircrews skills sharp, without having to fly the most expensive fighters.        

Boeing set to turn MAX up to 10 

MAX waves a winglet at the 787...

On Sunday Boeing invited journalists to view its new 737 MAX 9 and 787-10 Dreamliners, both of which are taking time off from their busy test flight schedules to be at Paris. The 737 MAX 9 flew for the first time in April while the 787-10 made its maiden flight in March.

The company is widely expected to use the first day of the show to launch a new, larger model of the 737 MAX  - the 10 - aimed at recapturing lost market share from Airbus A321. Will we see a bumper launch order or two to go with it?    

Rising sun - MRJ makes debut

The MRJ90 is flying the flag for Japanese aerospace at Le Bourget.

Another newcomer this year was the long-awaited Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) which is making its first public appearance at the show. Painted in the livery of its launch customer All Nippon Airlines (ANA), the aircraft on show this week is the third from a total of five MRJ90 test aircraft which are currently being flown at Moses Lake, Washington, US.

“It is a great honour to be in Paris on this landmark occasion,” said Osamu Shinobe, Vice Chairman of ANA. “My deep congratulations to everyone at MHI and Mitsubishi Aircarft Corporation who have been working on this aircraft since 2008. The MRJ will set new standard in economy and environmental performance together with passenger comfort and we are looking forward to taking delivery of our first aircraft in 2020.”

Shunichi Miyanga, President and CEO MHI, Osamu Shinobe, Vice Chairman, ANA and Hisakazu Mizutani, President, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation outside the new MRJ.

Elbit to debut staring wide-area sensor

You can run, but you can't hide (Elbit)

This year at Le Bourget Israel's Elbit Systems is set to unveil an advanced persistent wide-angle ISR sensor the SkEye. Roughly similar to the US 'Gorgon Stare' payload the SkEye uses several EO sensors working together to cover a far wider field of view than existing targeting pods or sensor balls. This along with sophisticated algorithms and automated alerts allows operators to monitor bigger areas than ever before, without missing anything. 'Rewinding' footage using sensors like this also allows intelligence analysts to 'follow' suspects or bomb makers, for example, back to safe houses or meeting places. 

Escaping safely


Martin Baker Mk 18 ejection seat (Martin-Baker) 

New this year from ejection seat specialists is the company’s Mk18 seat. The M-B having successfully adapted the Mk16 to the Pentagon’s demanding requirements for F-35, the Mk18 is aimed at the USAF’s T-X advanced trainer – a requirement that is, according to Boeing’s T-X team even more demanding than the F-35. Development of the Mk18 seat is set to conclude in 2017, with qualification in 2018.

China's Wing Loong II on display

Choose your weapons...

Only last year at another air show, a model of an armed Chinese UAV was quickly and mysteriously removed from display after eagle-eyed observers started taking pictures and sharing.

Today, there is no such shyness, and at Le Bourget, not only are there armed UAVs on the AVIC stand in the halls, but a Wing Loong II actually on static, with a impressive range of precision weapons.

With the US extremely careful about who it sells armed Predator/Reaper UAVs to (UAE for example has been allowed to buy a Predator XP that cannot be weaponised) China is now aggressively pursuing UAV exports to a wider set of customers. The armed, persistent HALE UAV is no longer an American-only weapon.

Airliner fleet to double in 20 years, says Airbus

While expectations of bumper airliner deals are low going into this years Paris Air Show, market forecasts from Airbus show that there is no let up in the appetite for air travel across the globe. It predicts that some 35,000 aircraft valued at US$5.3 trillion will be required in the next 20 years. And, for those thinking of entering the aerospace industry, airlines will also need 530,000 pilots and 550,000 technicians too.

Budget COIN from Bulgaria

If your defence budget doesn't run to an A-10, or even a Super Tucano - you might need this...

This year at Le Bourget sees not just one, but two armed agricultural aircraft on display at the show - as militaries around the world look for low-cost attack aircraft to fight insurgencies. From Bulgaria, comes this modified LASA's Thrush 510G which interestingly is equipped with Russian rocket pods and twin-barrel cannon - as well as a sensor pod from Austria's Airborne Technologies.  

Honey I shrunk your radar!

Big things come in small packages. (Leonardo)

Another new sensor for UAVs to be unveiled at this year's Paris Air Show comes from Leonardo, which is set to unveil its Gabbiano TS ultra-light radar. This tiny multi-mode radar, with 'grown-up' modes such as SAR, GMTI, maritime, search, air-to-air search and track weighs less than 24kg – opening up applications for 'mini' UAVs. At the show, Leonardo will display the Gabbiano TS UL radar integrated with its 'Hero' mini rotary-wing UAV.

GKN signs research partnership for large scale 3D printing

With additive manufacturing (or 3D printing) becoming more and more common as aerospace companies and OEMs seek to exploit this promising technology, one of the next challenges is in scaling it up. Small components are easy – but how big could structures be 3D printed? To answer this, GKN Aerospace has signed a five-year research agreement with on of he worlds most advanced physical science research establishments – the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The research agreement will see GKN and Oak Ridge focus on laser-metal deposition with wire (LMD-w) process for additive manufacturing, with the goal of developing a machine that could 3D print medium or large structures in titanium. With additive manufacturing promising to cut material waste by 50% and well as halve manafuacturing times – could the next generation of airliners feature large-scale 3D printed components?

Personal aerial vehicle on display


Just the thing for avoiding the Paris traffic...

One of the more unusual aircraft spotted in the static park was the SureFly electric quadrcopter from US technology company Workhorse Group Inc which is being unveiled for the first time at Paris. The SureFly features four propeller arms with two fixed contra-rotating propellers on each arm, a backup battery to drive the electric motors in the event of engine failure and a ballistic parachute that will safely land the craft in the event of an emergency. The early models will be piloted but Workhorse’s aim is to introduce future versions capable of autonomous flight carrying payloads of up to 400lbs. SureFly is hoping for interest from precision agriculture, emergency responders, city commuters and the military. Test flights are to begin this year with eventual Federal Aviation Administration certification planned for the end of 2019.

New electric concept breaks cover

Just plug it in, please (Eviation)

The possible unveiled Eviation Aircraft from Israel promises that its 6-9 passenger aircraft is all-electric, requires no new certification and has a range of up to 600miles. Eviation says it expects certification in 2018, with first commercial operations in 2021.

Airbus launches global A400M photo contest

The competition will launch at the Paris Air Show 2017 where the A400M will take part in the static display and will run until 24th November, with winners set to be announced in December. 

For more details and terms go to www.A400m-photocompetition.com to enter.

Follow the A400M Annual Photography Contest online with #InPlaneSight #A400M

And Finally…

Could this Lexus flying car concept be on the static line-up? (Lexus)

There has been no shortage on science-fiction ‘flying car’ concepts being revealed by aerospace companies and start-ups, this year’s Paris Air Show will see science-fiction invade aerospace, in the form of French movie blockbuster ‘Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets’ - which according to film insiders is set to reveal something big at the show on Friday. Eyes to the skies!

Download your copy of June AEROSPACE

Sample a taste of RAeS Membership with a free PDF download of the June 2017 issue of AEROSPACE magazine here.  

Stay ahead of all the news!

To follow all the news at Paris don’’t forget to bookmark www.aerosociety.com and follow the daily airshow news on the Insight blog. For those on Twitter, follow @AeroSociety and use the hashtag #PAS17. Editor-in-Chief Tim Robinson will be tweeting live from the show on @RAeSTimR


News Team
19 June