TIM ROBINSON and BILL READ report from the fourth and final trade day of the 2015 Paris Air Show. Analysis and summary.

The final trade day on the air show and the weather returned to what might be considered the Le Bourget norm – grey skies and a smattering rain. However the intermittent light showers were nothing like the deluge of two years ago. The trade days thus ended on a high, and the show was surprisingly busy for a Thursday when usually many people had already left. Lets take a look at the highlights and assess the week.

A quiet show?

Scores on the door at the Airbus wrap-up press conference

While talk beforehand seemed to indicate that it would be a quieter show than usual, the week (at least for some of the media chasing stories) was anything but. Previously unannounced press conferences kept popping up, at a frantic pace and though these were not the mega-deals of yesterday, they soon began to mount up.

By the end of the week, the big two giants, Airbus and Boeing had claimed some $107bn in orders, with Airbus pipping Boeing by securing commitments for 421 jets, to the US airframers 331. The Airbus sales were worth $57bn at list prices, with Boeing's worth $50bn.

Though the total sales of $107bn was down from the 2013 event in where they racked $134bn in orders, the numbers are still impressive give the seven-year production backlogs and the low expectations for the show. Speaking at the traditional Airbus wrap-up press conference on Thursday morning, chief executive officer Fabrice Brégier said the orders had been "higher than what I personally expected". Indeed, the MoU with Wizz Air was only inked 10mins before the press conference started. John Leahy, meanwhile, was more cutting in countering press remarks it had been 'quiet' "Its the fourth best airshow since Lindbergh landed at Le Bourget".

However, it is worth noting that many of the deals announced were of the 'up to' kind with options, MoUs and letters of intent. Actual firm orders booked by Airbus were worth $16.3bn for 124 aircraft, with Boeing slightly ahead with 145 aircraft, valued at $18.6bn.

ATR too had a good show, getting orders worth $2bn by the end of the week, while Embraer announced some $2.6bn worth of deals in a non-stop single press conference.

It was a good week too for air cargo, with Boeing announcing 747-8F orders and Airbus relaunching its single-aisle passenger to freighter conversions.

However, not all airliners being heavily marketed ended up being bought during the week. No sales at the show included any orders for the Airbus A380, Superjet 100 and the CSeries (although Swiss did convert up to a bigger model). Boeing too, had a setback when Russian flag carrier Aeroflot cancelled an order for 22 787 Deamliners.



Technology trends

Wearable technology was everywhere at the show.

As befits a trade show focused on cutting edge technology and equipment, the week saw and number of trends come centre stage. These included:

Wearables

From Oculus Rift on many stands, to Google glass-type augmented reality devices to help assemble aircraft, wearable technology – whether virtual or augmented reality was a big talking point at the show. With the devices getting smaller, lighter and cheaper thanks to consumer technology, military standard helmet/headset mounted displays are set to make the leap to civil aviation. Future cockpits too, may be simply docked tablet computers, with the pilot able to plan, simulate, fly and debrief on one device.

Drones, drones, drones

Meanwhile there was a every-growing number of new UAVs, RPAS, or drones at the show to keep track of, from almost all parts of the world, and a variety of sizes, configurations and purposes. Indeed, the 2015 Paris Air Show saw the first use of UAVs to capture aerial footage of the show itself, bot indoors and outdoors. But the proliferation of drones, especially in undesired hands meant while some exhibitors were showing off new drones, others (and sometimes even the same company) were demoing ways to take them down – from jamming, to lasers or even other drones.

3D printing

The show also saw the 3D printing revolution (or additive layer manufacturing ALM) continue apace and it is now common to hear that 3D printed parts will be used in new aircraft, spacecraft or engines in ever increasing numbers. At the moment these tend to be small and non-flight critical components, but it it clear that once certification hurdles are overcome and the technology becomes more mature, this could have big advantages for aerospace.

Big data and the connected aircraft

Finally the last big trend evident at the show was 'big data' and how it affects and can enhance the aviation and aerospace industry in a multitude of different ways. From iPads in the cockpit, to real-time health monitoring, to passenger connectivity, to sensor fusion, to airport optimisation – the list seems to be endless. It is thus no coincidence that Airbus recently announced it is to create an innovation lab in Silicon Valley. Information – perhaps almost as much as Jet A1 - is set to power the aerospace industry in the future.



Quiet CSeries the star of flying display

Will this translate into fresh sales?

With electric aircraft, fighters, airliners and helicopters all in the display – there was as usual something for everyone. However, the biggest star of the show turned out to be Bombardier's CSeries which performed a stunningly quiet display. Paris also provided the venue to see both the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787 in the air, with Boeing's maximum climb take-off wowing the crowds and proving a viral video hit. The A380, meanwhile, even 10 years after its entry into service, continues to be a show stopper with its slow flight routine.

On the military side of things, with Gripen, Eurofighter (and F-35) missing it, the Rafale almost had the skies to itself, with the only competition coming from a spirited display from a Pakistan Air Force JF-17 fighter.


Wizz Air gives Airbus last minute boost

Fast work by Wizz Air (Airbus)

In a last-minute deal signed 10 minutes before the press conference, fast growing central European airline Wizz Air handed Airbus its biggest deal of the week, when it signed an MoU for 110 A321neos. The deal, worth $13.7bn at list prices also included purchase rights for another 90. The A321neos for Wizz Air include the latest Airbus Cabin Flex configuration with 239 seats. The order was important for Airbus in another way, as it saw the A320neo family pass the 4,000th sale.

 

A-10 menaces on static

During the week, the A-10 was moved to the front of the DoD paddock.

At a show where everything from ultralight sport aircraft, trainers, converted cropdusters all seemed to have a COIN/CAS variant with ordnance hanging off them, it was good to see the ultimate close air support aircraft - the A-10C Warthog in the US DoD paddock. With USAF A-10s currently involved in exercises in Eastern Europe - the tank-killer is a reassuring sight for many NATO allies - given current tensions.

Yet even if the USAF does carry out its threat to axe the aircraft, it could live on in foreign air forces. Before the show Boeing revealed a proposal to upgrade any ex-USAF A-10s for international customers - with potential new/upgraded engines, new targeting pod and HMD. The USAF's loss, could then be another air forces gain.   

Strata blazes trail for UAE supply chain

After airlines and airports, what next for the aviation-mad Gulf nation of the United Arab Emirates? The answer, from the less-showy Abu Dhabi is building up its own aerospace manufacturing capability, one piece at a time. Leading this is the Mubadalla-owned Strata, which this week announced a key win building composite flap support fairings for the Airbus A350-1000 as a subcontractor to Saab Aerostructures. Only established five years ago, Strata has rapidly progressed winning wing work on the A330, A380 and A350-900, as well as composite work for Boeing 787 and 777s. The company, according to CEO Badr Al Olama is now aiming to move from 'build-to-print' to having its own in-house design and engineering capability.

Interestingly, says Al Olama, Strata was created not just with the intention to turn a profit, but also to provide 'social good' and create sustainable, high-skilled jobs for Emirati nationals -with the aim to get a 50/50 mix of Emiratis and foreign nationals in the very near future. It is also surprisingly a very mixed workforce with many of the team leaders being women.

Overwater safety boost from Aero Sekur 

Offshore rules have been tightened up (Aero Sekur)

With helicopter safety in offshore operations in the news in recent years and more stringent regulations, there was good news from inflatable structures specialists Aero Sekur, which announced it had recently completed tests of a family of emergency flotation bags for the AgustaWestland AW139, AW169 and AW189 helicopters. At the show, the company also announced it had received EASA certification for the AW169 flotation and life-raft escape system. 

'Your MOMs full of hot air'

 

The debate over the 757 replacement rumbles on..(Wikipedia)

No air show would be complete without the traditional trading of verbal barbs between the two big rival manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing. This year is centred around a notional 757 replacement, for long-range thin routes that Boeing describe as Middle of the Market (MOM) as it sits between the 737 and the 787. In the weeks leading up to the show, Boeing executives had hinted that they were now firming up ideas for MOM after gauging demand. However at an Airbus press briefing, chief salesman John Leahy was scathing about Boeing's MOM – describing it as 'hot air'. He noted "One of the non-events of the show was a lot of hot air about this." Pointing to this weeks order from Air Astana for A321neoLRs he said "the middle of the market airplane is this" adding, "when anyone at an airshow starts talking about an airplane they will bring out in 2025, that qualifies as hot air."


Optica eyes up production restart

One certificated light ISR/surveillance aircraft project ready to take-over?

Returning to the Paris Air Show after 30 years was the unique bug-eyed Optica observation aircraft, along with its designer John Edgley. The single UK-designed and built aircraft at Paris this year, Edgley is looking for a potential buyer of the project who is interested in restarting production. With surveillance, ISR configured-platforms big sellers, could the Opticas unparalleled vision and low operating costs compared to a rotorcraft give it a new lease of life?


Super durable coating tech targets aerospace

The end of primer?

The global aerospace industry is always a magnet for companies from other sectors, who have innovative technology that they think could be a winner. This year it was Cambridge, UK-based Keronite, specialists in electrolytic oxidation surface hardening which tursn the top layer of titanium, magnesium or aluminum into a ceramic, highly durable coating. To date this extreme-temperature resistant coating process has been mainly used for bicycle wheel rims, where unlike other treatments it does not wear down with heavy braking. It has also been tested in spacecraft – and its durability means it has yet to fail. A very green technology (there are no heavy metals used) Keronite now see potential applications in aerospace for this technology. Primer paint on airframes for example, could be done away with and a thin, yet tough Keronite coating used instead – potentially bringing weight savings.


Rockwell Collins debuts helicopter Pro Line Fusion

 

Now available on helicopters

Making its debut at Paris this year from Rockwell Collins was the company's popular Pro Line Fusion flight deck - now adapted for rotary wing applications. The touch-screen Pro Line Fusion, now on 17 fixed wing aircraft programmes from the King Air to the CSeries has been modified for the helicopter world. Either featuring three and four large displays, the helicopter version features NVG compatibility, specific HMI along with rotary wing patterns and approaches (such as oil rigs or ships) integrated into its moving map and navigation database. The cockpit features other tweaks for the helicopter user - for instance a rotary dial instead of a mouse/trackball allows the pilot to scroll around menus quickly at times of high workload.The company secured a major deal for the system for the retrofit market earlier this week when it signed an agreement with Airbus Helicopters and Vector Aerospace to market and upgrade Airbus Helicopter cockpits.


Viking invasion

 

Otters to China

Reignwood Aviation Group in China is to buy 50 Series 400 Twin Otters from Viking Air in Canada. Deliveries are to commence at the end of this year, with the first two aircraft to be fitted as a regional commuter landplane and an amphibious aircraft. The two companies signed an agreement at the show to set up a strategic partnership to develop the Chinese market in which Reignwood will have exclusive rights to market the Twin Otter in China while work will also be carried out to find a location for a Chinese completion and service centre. The agreement follows a recent announcement from Transport Canada that the Series 400 Twin Otter had received type certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).


Surfing the stratosphere

Taking a glider to the edge of space. (Airbus)

Over at Airbus, the not-for-profit Perlan II project gave reporters a technical insight into what must be the ultimate glider record attempt – a flight to the edge of space at 90,000ft. The Perlan II project, sponsored and supported by Airbus will use a specially-designed pressurised glider, now under construction to soar to extreme altitudes next summer in Argentina and smash the current 50,000ft glider altitude record.

The record attempt follows on from an earlier Perlan I project involving the late Steve Fossett and utilises an atmospheric phenomenon that happens when traditional mountain waves, (used by glider pilots to climb all over the world) interact with polar vortex winds to boost this lifting currents to the edge of space. At this altitude the Perlan II will be flying higher than U-2 and SR-71s in an extreme environment. The lack of air pressure and thin atmosphere also mean the gilder will be on the edge of Mach 1, as well as close to its stall speed.

This incredible project is not just a high-altitude adventure – the project aims to do atmospheric science at that height, and additionally inspire young people into aerospace and aeronautics with outreach STEM projects.


Immersive seat

Immerse yourself in this on a long-haul flight (Thales).

Is this the coolest aircraft seat ever? Among the many innovative products on display inside the Thales Pavilion was the ‘immersive business seat’ technology demonstrator. Designed as a future concept for business class passengers or executive jet users, the seat features a large high-definition video screen for the passenger to watch which can be controlled by a variety of different options, including eye tracking, hand gestures, touch pad or motion pointer. “With the eye tracking feature, the menus on the screen are highlighted just by looking at them,” explained Brett Bleacher, Thales’ Director Innovations/Research & Development.

So much for point but what about click? “To select the menu we experimented with a number of different options,” continued Bleacher. “One of the advanced technology ideas we tried was blinking to select preferred options but people blinked at different rates, so we found it better to use a touch pad instead. If you are watching a movie, it will stop if you look away or fall asleep and then restart when you start looking back at the screen again. Alternatively, we also have also developed a ‘motion pointer’ tethered remote control unit which can be operated from all angles and positions. This has the advantage that you don’t have to touch the screen to operate it. We are also looking at having the same function loaded as an app on your phone. The hand gesture function was one of the first ideas we looked at but the problem is that it’s tiring to wave your hands about all the time. For ergonomics, it’s not as effective as the pointer and it could be confusing for flight attendants to have passengers waving all the time.”

In addition to the screen control, the seat also features a directional and spacial sound system together with transducers built into the seat which can massage the seat. “So, if there is an explosion in the movie, the seat will vibrate,” said Bleacher. While your AEROSPACE correspondent was of the option that under-seat simulated explosions were perhaps not the best way to relax on an aircraft, a French TV journalist who was also at the presentation got quite enthusiastic on the possibilities offered by the seat during a romantic movie.

The seat also features a virtual window which can display exterior views outside the aircraft or completely different images, such as underwater scenes or family photos. “The aim is to make the passenger experience totally immersive,” says Bleacher. “We want to make the passenger comfortable and make them feel like they’re in their living room or their bedroom.”

 

Geodesic future bizjet concept

 

This lattice construction could offer great strength with low weight.

Meanwhile from Portugal, a consortium called newFACE had been looking into future flight in 2030, with three aircraft designs - a box-wing twin-aisle airliner, a STOL 'flying van' and a high-end business jet in the Gulfstream 550/650 class. Intriguingly the bizjet featured a geodesic composite construction, with traditional fuselage sections and panels replaced with a criss-crossing one-piece part. This, similar to the WW2 Vickers Wellington gives the bizjet concept its unique triangular windows.

Interestingly this is not just a paper concept. Significantly one of the consortium partners on newFACE is Embraer Composites and a half-scale composite geodesic fuselage demonstrator has already been constructed.



Return of the Scorpion

The Scorpion is now heading to the UK and other parts of Europe for trials.

Following its first appearance in Europe at Farnborough last year, Paris saw the return of Textron AirLand’s Scorpion prototype low-cost twin-engine tactical military jet (See Flight of the Scorpion, AEROSPACE, February 2014, p 30). AEROSPACE talked to its Chief Pilot Dan Hinson about what progress had been made on the aircraft over the past year. “We’ve been making a number of modification to the aircraft to improve various characteristics,” he explained. “We’ve added a speed brake. been trying out various different systems to demonstrate our flexibility with different sensors. We’ve added the Thales EyeMaster radar. We’ve also been modifying the rear cockpit, We’ve added a large 15in display so that we’re able to take full advantage of the high definition display to integrate a mission system. We haven’t fired any missiles from it yet but it’s one of the next things we need to do before the end of the year. We need to get racks onto the wing pylons and then test how they affect the handling characteristics

We’ve also started tooling to build a second airframe which we’re hoping to have flying between April and June in 12016. We’ve spent 18 months learning from the first aircraft and we’re going to make the second aircraft with a production configuration which will be lighter and have improved performance. We’ve going to have an autopilot. We’re going to move the engine intakes out a little and make them a little more round to help with the airflow. The first aircraft has a fixed horizontal tail which limits our speed to our 300kt before you get vibrations, so we’re going to make that trimmable which will allow us to get our speed envelope up to around 400kt. We’re also going to change the wing sweep and the landing gear and make the nose a little bit bigger to accommodate a wider range of radars. We’ve already used a weather radar but a lot of folks are now asking for tactical radars.

Regarding possible orders, Hinson could make no comment but he did say that there had been plenty of interest including an increased interest in the Scorpion’s potential as a fighter, as well as a surveillance and reconnaissance platform. “Helicopters can only go so fast and conventional fighters can only go so slow,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of interest in the Scorpion’s potential for maritime patrol missions. At present we can be on station for about five hours but we’re looking at ideas for fitting a probe for flight fuelling to extend mission times. We initially thought of fitting a retractable probe but then we thought if a fixed probe is good enough for a fighter like the Rafale, it’s good enough for us!” In a couple of weeks we’re going down to the south coast of England to conduct some maritime patrol trials in conjunction with the Royal Navy for a couple of week where we’ll be using the radar and the EOI sensor. We’ll be going to the Yeovilton air show. We’re then going to be visiting some other places in Europe and then returning to the UK for RIAT in July before returning back to the US.”


K-MAX is a phoenix to the flames

K-MAX - now looking to civil unmanned markets

There was good news on Kaman K-MAX stand, when after 13 years, the intermeshing heavy-lift helicopter is set to go back into production. The company revealed it took thre decision after fielding about two years of sales inquiries - since there is no second-hand K-MAX market. But interestingly, as well as the cargo, heavy applications for the manned K-MAX, there is potential for new civil unmanned roles - following the types trial deployment as an UAV cargo mover in Afghanistan. One mission in particular, is for a UAV forest firefighter - able to operate at night (as well as day) to quench fires when manned aircraft are grounded. Already one trial has been flown in late 2014 and another is set for this October.   

And finally...

"It looked like a Hind to me, honest"

If you are a major airline of aerospace company exhibiting at the worlds biggest aerospace trade exhibition, it always pays to double check what images or graphics your marketing department or PR agency has decided to use. Eagle-eyed spotters are everywhere and you definitely wouldn't want to use a A380 interior shot when extolling the 787 Dreamliner cabin. Nor, would there seem to be any advantage in using a line profile of a French-designed Aérospatiale Gazelle on the Russian Helicopters chalet....


19 June 2015