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U.S. Air Force Awards Contract to Electra and MIT for eSTOL Flight Controls

Electra.aero, in partnership with MIT, will be working to advance development of flight control systems that enable precise landings for its eSTOL aircraft. (Electra.aero)

Electra.aero, the hybrid-electric ultra-short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft developer, was awarded a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase II contract by the U.S. Air Force. Electra will work in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop enhanced flight control systems for landing its eSTOL vehicle. This follows several other contracts that have been awarded to the company, including a Phase I STTR contract which was awarded to the Electra-MIT team in 2021 to develop an eSTOL aero-propulsive model in addition to a flight control performance simulation and a vehicle sizing tool.

Electra was awarded a Phase III Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the U.S. Air Force (USAF) just last month as part of the USAF’s Agility Prime program. This contract provided continued support in development of Electra’s hybrid-electric vehicle. The company has also received an investment from Lockheed Martin, who will collaborate with Electra in the development of potential solutions for the U.S. government. Another SBIR contract from the Air Force for $1.5 million—a direct-to-phase II contract—was awarded to Electra last year and will conclude in July 2022.

Now partnering with MIT, Electra will quickly develop “enhanced precision flight control systems for repeatable low-speed, ultra-STOL landings,” enabling safe operation of the eSTOL aircraft in spaces as small as 300 feet by 100 feet, according to the company’s announcement. The team plans to demonstrate said flight control system on a full-scale technology demonstrator later this year. Ben Marchionna, Electra’s Director of Technology and Innovation, told Avionics last month that the team is currently performing ground tests of the hybrid-electric propulsion system at their facility in Switzerland.

Part of the team at MIT that will be participating in this project is Dr. Steven Hall, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He stated that he is looking forward to the opportunity to work in conjunction with both Electra and the USAF on the hybrid-electric eSTOL aircraft. “Electra’s distributed electric propulsion approach has great promise to improve STOL aircraft performance,” Hall remarked.

Chris Courtin, Lead Engineer of Flight Physics and Controls for Electra, commented, “We are delighted to continue working with MIT and the U.S. Air Force to develop state-of-the-art flight control systems for ultra-STOL aircraft. Reliable precision landings are key to Electra’s ability to deliver runway-independent operations with increased payload, range, and safety for both military and commercial uses.”

The eSTOL aircraft developed by Electra is designed with distributed electric propulsion and blown lift technology, and it will be capable of transporting nine passengers—or up to 1,800 pounds of cargo—at a range of up to 500 miles. It is also being developed to have greatly reduced noise emissions compared to conventional helicopters. The design of the vehicle includes a small turbine-powered generator, which can recharge the batteries mid-flight, meaning that construction of new ground charging infrastructure will not be necessary to support its operations.

The post U.S. Air Force Awards Contract to Electra and MIT for eSTOL Flight Controls appeared first on Aviation Today.

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PODCAST: IAMA Talks Connectivity, Navigating Crisis and Labor Challenges for Aircraft Modifications

The International Aircraft Modifier Alliance (IAMA) is the guest on this episode of the podcast.

On this episode of the Connected Aviation Intelligence Podcast, we’re joined by the new managing director of the Independent Aircraft Modifier Alliance (IAMA), Nina Schulz, and IAMA’s Alliance Manager, Annelouise van Dijke, to discuss some of the organization’s latest progress advancing their goal of making independently provided aircraft maintenance more competitive against offerings provided by OEMs.

IAMA was first launched in 2019, and has grown its membership and subscribers to include Collins Aerospace, CarlisleIT, Envoy Aerospace, Etihad Engineering, and Lufthansa Technik, among others. The organization has been striving to improve the aftermarket supplemental type certification process for airlines and lessors since its inception. Schulz provides some progress updates after the first IAMA member completed the first IAMA audit process, an outlook for 2022, and some thoughts on how the process for acquiring, modifying, and operating in-flight connectivity on aircraft continues to evolve.

IAMA is hosting its next Virtual Think Tank (IVTT) on March 16 at 3 PM CET, registration is free for airlines and lessors.

Have suggestions or topics we should focus on in the next episode? Email the host, Woodrow Bellamy, at wbellamy@accessintel.com, or drop him a line on Twitter @WbellamyIIIAC. Also, check out the agenda for the 2022 Connected Aviation Intelligence Summit just posted to our event website!

Listen to this episode below, or check it out on iTunes or Google Play. If you like the show, subscribe on your favorite podcast app to get new episodes as soon as they’re released.

The post PODCAST: IAMA Talks Connectivity, Navigating Crisis and Labor Challenges for Aircraft Modifications appeared first on Aviation Today.

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The Quiet eVTOL Revolution: Designing Acoustics for Public Acceptance

A panel discussion on eVTOL acoustics at Heli-Expo 2022 featured Juliet Page of Blue Ridge Research and Consulting, Ben Goldman of Archer Aviation, Mark Moore of Whisper Aero, and Rex Alexander of Five-Alpha LLC.

A panel discussion at this year’s Heli-Expo in Dallas, Texas, covered perspectives on acoustics of eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) aircraft from several industry leaders including Ben Goldman of Archer Aviation, Mark Moore of Whisper Aero, and Juliet Page of Blue Ridge Research and Consulting.

The panel started with a presentation by Juliet Page on acoustic source modeling and the role that acoustics should play in development of eVTOL aircraft. Page is a Principal Engineer at Blue Ridge with over 35 years of experience consulting and directing research related to transportation noise, including acoustic measurement and modeling. She emphasized that manufacturers and designers of eVTOL aircraft, as well as operational designers, need to understand and be able to analyze what’s going on with their vehicle acoustically. “We need to have confidence in these tools, models, and techniques and understand the best way to provide feedback to the designers,” Page explained.

One factor that makes eVTOLs different, and more complex than conventional helicopters is that they have more rotors, which means there are more opportunities for wake interaction and potentially increased noise. The way that the RPM of the rotors on an eVTOL is controlled is also different, says Page. “They may not emit a steady sound; it may be varying in response to what the rotors and control systems are doing.”

She has observed a positive trend in the developing eVTOL industry which is that manufacturers and operators tend to bring noise to the forefront of their consideration. “Often, it is placed second-fiddle to other performance goals on aviation vehicles, so seeing noise and community acceptance as a critical parameter for this industry is really heartwarming.”

An informed approach to eVTOL acoustics should consider sound in three dimensions and should use the available tools and technologies that enable views of full simulations of the aircraft. Many eVTOL manufacturers are targeting urban air mobility (UAM), and designing for urban environments means taking into account the tall buildings present in the soundscape. It’s especially important to understand what an eVTOL aircraft will sound like in the environments where it will operate and to consider the time of day—ambient noise levels will be greater during rush hour, for example, so a louder vehicle may blend more into the background.

Page described “a need for assessing metrics for human response and human acceptability: we tend to talk more about acceptability rather than reducing the percent that are ‘highly annoyed’—the old paradigm. There is a lot of research going on regarding how to quantify that, how to measure it.”

Flight testing, she noted, is incredibly important for measuring source emissions and for informing the development of standards and regulations in the industry. NASA performed multiple flight tests in 2021, including its AAM (advanced air mobility) National Campaign with Joby Aviation, where they collected vehicle performance and acoustic data from Joby’s aircraft. They used a two-dimensional ground array of microphones, which allowed them to characterize the source emissions. “Having the data allows us to come up with best practices of how you measure these vehicles, where you put the microphones, how many you need, how dependent it is on the particular vehicle.”

Joby was the first eVTOL company to test with NASA’s AAM National Campaign. (Joby Aviation)

Ben Goldman, acoustics manager at Archer Aviation, shared that the noise emissions of their eVTOL vehicle have been a focal point for the company since the start. Goldman, who has previously worked on acoustics at both Bell Helicopter and Joby Aviation, stated, “It is a critical aspect of the design of this vehicle, in terms of integrating it into the market. The most important thing to focus on is a gap that exists right now in quantifying the value of these changes that we have. We’re slowly learning how to quantify public acceptance and annoyance, but the question becomes how much is a percent, a dB, worth to the design of the vehicle? That’s been a challenge in driving the noise down as low as it can go while still being able to close the business case.”

Archer Aviation’s Maker eVTOL was unveiled in June 2021. (Archer)

At Archer, much consideration is put into mixing the noise sources in such a way that there are no dominant tones. “We’re really focused on trying to make this vehicle blend into the background,” Goldman explained. “This is very much dependent on understanding not just how tools coming out of the industry can inform us and support the design, but understanding how our testing can feed back. It’s been a challenge to get companies to share that information outright. It’s an intellectual property issue, it’s very much a competitive market, so everyone is interested in keeping this sort of information close to the chest.”

Mark Moore, CEO of Whisper Aero, shared that the company’s mission is “propelling quiet electric technologies from fans to flight,” and that its electric aircraft design was always intended to be a community-friendly solution. Although Whisper Aero was just founded a couple of years ago, Moore has extensive experience in urban air mobility (UAM) and was an engineer at NASA for 32 years in addition to co-founding the Uber Elevate program. He observes that the world is becoming increasingly urbanized, and people are living and working closer and closer together. When neighborhoods and communities spring up around small airports, sometimes the noise complaints from the community result in the airport shutting down. “For any existing heliport and small airport where operators are trying to fundamentally change the nature of the operations and go to scale, it requires a new level of buy-in from the community,” Moore said. “We live in a future—especially in Europe—where noise will be budgeted.”

Whisper Aero is headquartered in rural Tennessee near a small airport. (Whisper Aero)

Moore expects that in advancing eVTOL aircraft and integrating them into communities, there are multiple obstacles to overcome, including customer bias. Based on survey results, he said, “People are uncomfortable with big spinning things in close proximity to them, and with flying in an aircraft that is dependent on a single engine.” Noise is often a catch-all for the many community complaints against helicopters. “When one of these helicopters flies over and they hear it, they can lodge a complaint relating to that noise. Often that noise is being used as a proxy for another complaint—’There’s some rich guy flying overhead, inconveniencing me with his noise, and I will never be able to take advantage of that.’ There’s no derived benefit from the risk of aircraft flying overhead. We have to fix all of these things together to make a difference.”

In addition to customer bias, other challenges are that production volumes for helicopters and eVTOLs are very low, the vehicles themselves are very expensive, and operating costs are high. Moore believes that a way to overcome these challenges is by focusing on solutions that can scale up. “Maximum revenues and cost-effectiveness come with scaled operations. If we’re really going to take eVTOLs or regional air mobility aircraft into the mainstream, we need to be doing a lot more operations than 20 times a day,” he concluded.

The post The Quiet eVTOL Revolution: Designing Acoustics for Public Acceptance appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Textron Achieves FAA Type Certification on Cessna SkyCourier

The FAA’s Paul (Vu) Nguyen, acting manager of the Wichita ACO Branch (left), presents type certification of the Cessna SkyCourier to Chris Hearne, Textron Aviation’s senior vice president of Engineering. (Textron Aviation)

Less than five years after announcing FedEx Express as its launch air cargo airline customer, Textron Aviation Inc. has received type certification from the Federal Aviation Administration for its large-utility turboprop twin Cessna SkyCourier.

Textron first launched the SkyCourier in 2017, originally targeting a 2020 entry-into-service date, with FedEx agreeing to purchase 50 SkyCouriers to become its launch customer, with options to purchase 50 more. The high-wing twin-engine turboprop has a cargo variant—that FedEx Express will operate—with a 6,000-pound maximum payload, a maximum cruise speed of up to 200 knots true airspeed, and a 900 nm [nautical mile] maximum range.

SkyCourier’s freighter version is capable of transporting up to three LD3 shipping containers. The SkyCourier passenger variant can seat up to 19 passengers and a 5,000-pound maximum payload.

Ron Draper, president and CEO, Textron Aviation, said receiving the SkyCourier’s type certification “demonstrates the expertise and hard work of our employees.”

Representatives from the FAA and Textron Aviation stand in front of the Cessna SkyCourier as they celebrate the aircraft’s certification. (Textron Aviation)

“Our clean-sheet design brings to this segment what customers said they need: the ability to load, fly, unload and repeat with low operating costs and maximum cabin flexibility and efficiency. We expect the SkyCourier to be a workhorse of the fleet for FedEx and many other customers around the globe for decades to come,” Draper said in a March 14 press release.

The SkyCourier cockpit features the Garmin G1000 NXi avionics suite, under a January 2020 agreement between Textron and Garmin. Textron has also stated that it is using some of the latest “advancements in aircraft manufacturing, including the use of monolithic machining throughout the airframe” in the SkyCourier production process.

Textron rolled the first production SkyCourier out of its Wichita facility last month. (Textron Aviation)

“With this technique, major assemblies are milled from a single piece of metal rather than assembled from smaller pieces, reducing the overall number of parts and resulting in more precise tolerances for easier assembly,” according to a Feb. 4 press release from Textron marking the rollout of the first production SkyCourier from the company’s manufacturing facility in Wichita.

Three SkyCourier aircraft accumulated more than 2,100 hours throughout the flight test program, which formally started with an inaugural flight in May 2020. Textron previously stated that the first SkyCourier delivery to FedEx will occur following certification, sometime within the first half of the year.

The post Textron Achieves FAA Type Certification on Cessna SkyCourier appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Embraer CEO Sees Major Future UAM Market Potential for Eve

Embraer highlighted the future market potential of Eve, its wholly-owned eVTOL development subsidiary, with a booth at Farnborough International’s 2022 Global Urban & Advanced Air Summit held in London early this month. (Eve Air Mobility)

While Embraer CEO Francisco Gomes Neto fielded no questions from analysts or investors about the future potential of their electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) development arm Eve during their annual results call last week, the Brazilian executive emphasized his enthusiasm about the future market potential presented by urban air mobility (UAM).

“The listing at New York Stock Exchange in closing is expected for this second quarter with total investments of about $500 million, which includes special and strategic investors. The anticipated pro forma enterprise value is $2.4 billion,” Neto said in his remarks. “Eve has the strategic support from Embraer, with access to infrastructure, extensive aircraft certification and manufacturing experience, and already established global network of services and support, intellectual property, and engineers as major differentiators from other projects.”

Eve is the independent eVTOL development company, the first launched by the joint ventures firm EmbraerX, that in December announced a new business combination agreement with Zanite Acquisition Corp., the Cleveland, Ohio-based aviation investment and acquisition firm co-founded by private aviation entrepreneur Kenn Ricci. Under the business combination agreement, Eve will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Zanite.

Neto also highlighted Eve’s various airline partnerships and future purchase agreements that include SkyWest, Republic Airways, and partnerships with Rolls Royce and BAE Systems, among others, to develop the future services and infrastructure necessary to enable UAM operations. Eve has also found funding in commercial aircraft leasing companies. Azorra, the Florida-based aircraft leasing company that specializes in Embraer regional jets, signed an LOI with Eve for up to 200 eVTOL aircraft in December.

Although Brazil’s civilian aviation authority, ANAC, recently accepted Eve’s formal process for obtaining a Type Certificate for its eVTOL, the company has not yet unveiled any images of a real subscale prototype or demonstrator of the aircraft that it is promoting as under development. Instead, computer-generated images of what Eve’s conceptual eVTOL could eventually become have appeared in press releases over the last year, such as the one above in branding. (Eve Air Mobility)

In the near term, Embraer will be focused on serving existing demand for its first- and second-generation regional E-jets, which have increased in popularity and utilization due to the COVID-19 related air travel restrictions forcing the majority of passenger-carrying flights to operate domestic and regional routes.

Embraer reported overall $4.2 billion in revenue last year, up from $3.7 billion in 2020. The company delivered a total of 141 jets last year, including 48 commercial aircraft and 93 executive jets (62 light and 31 mid-size), according to their reported delivery results. Last week, Embraer launched its new E-190F and E-195F Passenger to Freight Conversions (P2F) program, with conversions of existing E-jets to occur in Brazil.

Embraer has also experienced some of the same supply chain shortages for semiconductors and raw materials that other aviation companies have reported in annual results calls and reports in recent weeks—however, not to the extent that they’re impacting delivery schedules for the company in a major way.

“I think it is also important to mention that the Russia-Ukraine conflict should not bring supply disruption in the midterm because we have worked on stocking some strategic items,” Neto said.

One area that is concerning to Embraer Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Antonio Garcia is defense, as they finished 2021 with $594 million in revenue for its defense segment, compared to $654 million in the previous year.

“We are going to suffer a little bit in 2022, and we do see a zero in 2022 because all budgets were cut, especially in front of the Brazilian government here; therefore, we are going to suffer in 2022,” Garcia said. “That’s one of our headwinds we have in our guidance.”

The post Embraer CEO Sees Major Future UAM Market Potential for Eve appeared first on Aviation Today.

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PODCAST: PLAY CEO Talks Iceland’s New Low Cost Transatlantic Airline

PLAY CEO Birgir Jónsson is the guest on this episode of the Connected Aviation Intelligence Podcast.

On this episode of the Connected Aviation Intelligence Podcast, PLAY CEO Birgir Jónsson explains how his team plans to use a no-frills approach to operating a growing fleet of A321neo family aircraft, and whether he would ever consider adding in-flight connectivity (IFC) to the all-economy cabins.

Jónsson and a team of fellow former colleagues of Wow Air, the Icelandic low-cost carrier that ceased operations, first established PLAY in 2019. According to Jónsson, several of PLAY’s current executives were working on a new operational structure and air operator’s certificate (AOC) right before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic with the support of some investors they were able to secure.

Have suggestions or topics we should focus on in the next episode? Email the host, Woodrow Bellamy, at wbellamy@accessintel.com, or drop him a line on Twitter @WbellamyIIIAC. Also, check out the agenda for the 2022 Connected Aviation Intelligence Summit just posted to our event website!

Listen to this episode below, or check it out on iTunes or Google Play. If you like the show, subscribe on your favorite podcast app to get new episodes as soon as they’re released.

The post PODCAST: PLAY CEO Talks Iceland’s New Low Cost Transatlantic Airline appeared first on Aviation Today.

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GKN Aerospace Completes Feasibility Studies of 30-Person eVTOL, Tests New Turbine Rear Structure Concept

Engineers at GKN Aerospace’s facility in Sweden completed testing of a new concept of a lightweight Turbine Rear Structure (TRS). (GKN Aerospace)

GKN Aerospace, leading airframe supplier to commercial and military aviation OEMs, has successfully completed several urban air mobility (UAM) feasibility studies through leading a Skybus research project. In collaboration with Swanson Aviation Consultancy, Pascall+Watson, and Connected Places Catapult, the Skybus project explored a concept of a 30-person eVTOL aircraft that would not only reduce congestion in urban environments but would also aid in decarbonization.

The feasibility studies found that these aircraft, referred to as “air buses,” could carry out operations in the same airspace as air taxis in the future. In addition to determining opportunities for “air bus” operations, the Skybus consortium created a concept for a vertiport—along with economic models and demand forecasts—for a future UAM system based in London.

GKN Aerospace offers an extensive range of advanced aerospace systems and technologies. Just last week, the company announced that their team of engineers at the Global Technology Centre in Trollhättan, Sweden, completed testing of a new lightweight Turbine Rear Structure (TRS) concept. The TRS serves to manage flow from an engine’s low-pressure turbine and maximize the axial thrust, according to GKN, and it helps to improve the engine’s efficiency. The engineers utilized a novel metallic alloy that possessed higher temperature capability in designing and manufacturing the lightweight structure, and the team demonstrated a weight reduction potential of 14% with the TRS.

The TRS has the potential to achieve a 14% weight reduction and it improves engine efficiency. (Photo: GKN Aerospace)

The findings from the GKN Aerospace-led Skybus program’s research will provide guidelines for integrating mass-transit eVTOL aircraft to improve access to remote or difficult-to-access regions. According to the announcement from GKN Aerospace, “A successful zero emissions mass transit system in the air would also ease congestion on the road network, reducing overall travel time, cost and emissions for all travelers.”

Skybus was started as a research initiative in January 2021 as part of the Future Flight Challenge that provides funding for development of sustainable aviation solutions. Neuron, an aviation technology company, also recently began a series of trials as participants in the Future Flight challenge. Neuron’s aim is to demonstrate aspects of future flight and advanced air mobility for both unmanned aircraft and eVTOLs. The current focus of the Future Flight challenge is developing integrated aviation systems for new classes of eVTOLs or drones.

GKN Aerospace collaborated with Swanson Aviation Consultancy, Pascall+Watson, and Connected Places Catapult to complete feasibility studies of a 30-person eVTOL aircraft concept for urban air mobility (UAM). (GKN Aerospace)

Gary Cutts, Director of the Future Flight Challenge at UK Research and Innovation, commented: “The Future Flight Challenge has always taken a broad view of the opportunities provided by the many different types of novel clean aircraft emerging. Our market studies show a real potential for a substantial distributed aviation system using the types of aircraft concept envisaged by the Skybus consortium and we welcome the system-wide insights gained from their feasibility studies.”

GKN Aerospace has partnered with multiple companies based on its significant expertise in manufacturing critical aerospace subsystems. In September 2021, GKN Aerospace was selected to design and manufacture the wing and electrical vertical wiring interconnection systems for the VA-X4 eVTOL from Vertical Aerospace. Earlier in 2021, the airframe supplier was chosen by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems to manufacture advanced composite V-tails for the MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft System.

The post GKN Aerospace Completes Feasibility Studies of 30-Person eVTOL, Tests New Turbine Rear Structure Concept appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Safran Helicopter Engines and Bell Textron Inc. Partner to Research Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Safran Helicopter Engines and Bell Textron have agreed to partner in researching the performance of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in an Arrius 2R to operate the Bell 505 helicopter, and the collaborators will also analyze the economic impacts of SAF use. (Photo: Bell)

DALLAS, TEXAS — During a 2022 HAI Heli-Expo press briefing, Safran Helicopter Engines and Bell Textron Inc. announced that they will collaborate in studying the technical performance and economic impacts of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) using the Bell 505 helicopter, powered by the Arrius 2R engine. Reducing carbon emissions is a top priority for Safran, and the company’s Helicopter Engines division has set a goal of using SAF to make up to 50% of all aviation fuel usage by 2025.

At the press conference given by Safran Helicopter Engines, CEO Franck Saudo remarked that SAF is “the most efficient and pragmatic [way] to achieve decarbonization,” said Saudo. Any helicopter engine can use a blend of up to 50% SAF, and the team at Safran Helicopter Engines is working to enable use of 100% SAF as soon as possible.

The Aneto enables increased mission capabilities by delivering 25% more thermal power.

SAF is just one part of Safran’s decarbonization strategy. Some of the latest developments have been reductions in fuel consumption. During the press conference, Saudo highlighted the Arrano engine, which powers the Airbus H160, that features a 15% reduction in fuel consumption. The design of the Arrano includes “a new-generation digital control system that offers greater in-flight responsiveness, enhancing both safety and pilot handling,” according to Safran. It also offers a significant reduction in engine maintenance compared to existing engines.

The family of engines called Aneto was another focal point of the presentation; the Aneto engines are designed for super-medium and heavy helicopters and deliver 25% more thermal power compared to similar existing engines. Both Aneto and Arrano engines were on display at Safran’s booth at Heli-Expo.

The Arrano engine powers Airbus 160 helicopters and was certified by the FAA in 2020. It is capable of reducing fuel consumption by 10–15%.

2021 was a low point for Safran Helicopter Engines in terms of engine production, according to Saudo, but the market recovery has already begun. “Some market segments have dramatically bounced back, such as the light helicopters market,” Saudo said. “What we see going forward for Safran Helicopter Engines is a significant ramp-up in 2022 with over 15% increase in engine production compared to 2021.” The Helicopter Engines division is also planning to hire more than 250 employees worldwide over the next year.

In response to a question about increasing SAF usage, Saudo explained that although there is a limited supply of SAF, it is difficult to increase production of it unless there is demand. Similarly, it is a challenge to grow demand for SAF without sufficient production. “We need to convince all market players that SAF is the most pragmatic and fast way to get to decarbonization. Safran is doing work with oil producers to see how facilities can produce SAF in sufficient quantities at a cost on par with conventional fuel.”

Doug May, Vice President of Customer Experience at Bell, remarked on the collaborative initiative with Safran, saying, “We look forward to gaining a comprehensive understanding of SAF incorporation that will inform future aircraft technology and operations and ultimately support greener aviation practices.”

The post Safran Helicopter Engines and Bell Textron Inc. Partner to Research Sustainable Aviation Fuel appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Airbus Helicopters CEO Gives eVTOL Updates, 2022 Market Outlook at Heli-Expo

A light-utility twin-engine H135, featured at the Airbus booth at HAI Heli-Expo in Dallas, Texas. 

DALLAS, TEXAS — CEO of Airbus Helicopters, Bruno Even, and President of Airbus Helicopters Inc., Romain Trapp, shared their perspectives on the company and their progress in a press conference at HAI Heli-Expo this week. Bruno Even noted that Airbus Helicopters received €8.5 billion in order intakes, as well as €6.5 million in revenue, in 2021. He believes that the market should recover fully from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic within the next 2–3 years and that the market is about 40% recovered so far. “Our strategy to continually invest in the product pays off when it comes to marketing positioning and proximity to customers,” he remarked. Even also mentioned the positive momentum that Airbus Helicopters envisions for the market in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia. 

Airbus has agreed to expand their partnership with The Helicopter Company to advance helicopter operations, using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for conventional helicopters, and bringing urban air mobility (UAM) to Saudi Arabia. The Helicopter Company (THC) already operates ten of Airbus’s H125s and recently added 20 H145s to its fleet, as well as six ACH160 helicopters. Through this expanded partnership, and in coordination with the local regulatory authorities, helicopters and other urban air mobility (UAM) vehicles will be used for applications in Saudi Arabia including emergency medical services, ecotourism, and private and business aviation.

Airbus also announced this week that Spirit AeroSystems, aircraft components manufacturer and architecture solutions provider, has agreed to develop and manufacture the wings of the CityAirbus NextGen, an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) prototype. The CityAirbus NextGen is fully electric, and its design includes fixed wings and a V-shaped tail, along with eight electrically powered propellers. Spirit AeroSystems has provided fully integrated wings and wing elements for multiple Airbus commercial aircraft in the past. According to the announcement from Airbus, “The structural concept of the eVTOL’s fixed wings will be able to transmit the related aerodynamic loads while being optimized for the right balance between hover and cruise efficiency. CityAirbus NextGen’s distributed propulsion system will contribute to reducing the influence of air turbulence.”

A model of the CityAirbus NextGen on display at HAI Heli-Expo

At the press conference this week, Even commented that it is key for Airbus Helicopters to maintain balance between their sources of revenue; for example, with military and civil markets, 56% of revenue comes from the military side and 44% comes from the civil market. Additionally, 44% of revenue is from services, and 56% of revenue results from the company’s products. “Our strategic priorities for the next year are customer loyalty, innovation and sustainability, and defense and security,” he stated. “We will continue to invest and innovate in our existing helicopters and in new versions of the vehicles.”

Romain Trapp remarked on the outlook for Airbus Helicopters, explaining that they expect significant growth for the company in 2022. Their staff has increased by 10% in the past nine months and they plan to continue growing quickly in the future.

Along with the rest of the aviation industry, Airbus Helicopters is pursuing carbon neutrality by 2050. Even said, “It will be a step-by-step approach. In the short term, the best way to address it is to start introduction of helicopters with sustainable aviation fuel. We demonstrated last year with the H225 that helicopters can fly with 100% SAF. We are convinced that SAF is the best way to contribute to reduction of emissions in the short-term.”

One challenge, he said, is that sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is more expensive now than conventional fuel. However, with the company’s focus on sustainability at the core of their mission, they expect to be able to use 100% SAF in their aircraft in the relative short term. Even also commented that while hydrogen-powered aircraft have many advantages, there are also limitations, and it is not the company’s first priority to develop hydrogen-powered helicopters.

Inside an H125 helicopter on display at Heli-Expo

Airbus also highlighted some recent developments in improving safety for its single-engine helicopters. “Improving aviation safety while boosting the competitiveness of our products is one of our top priorities at Airbus Helicopters. With the H125 having raised the bar to unprecedented levels in terms of performance and value for money, Airbus Helicopters has also worked in the last year to bring several new features which will significantly enhance the flight safety of the H125 and the H130,” according to Airbus.

For the H130 helicopter, a brand-new instrument panel is now available, including a new Garmin G500H TXi touchscreen main flight display, com/nav radio GTN650Xi, creating an improved human-machine interface in the cockpit for pilots.

The screen on the upper right-hand side is the Garmin G500H TXi touchscreen main flight display.

The post Airbus Helicopters CEO Gives eVTOL Updates, 2022 Market Outlook at Heli-Expo appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Avianca to Expand Airbus Fleet with Order for 88 New A320neo Aircraft

Avianca has confirmed a new fleet order for 88 Airbus A320neo aircraft, with deliveries scheduled to begin in 2025. (Avianca)

Avianca, the Bogota, Colombia-based airline, has confirmed an order for 88 A320neos, under a new purchase agreement with Airbus that includes an option to acquire 50 additional aircraft.

Avianca will start receiving its first new A320neos from the order in 2025, gradually incorporating the new aircraft into passenger carrying service over six years.

Rohit Philip, Avianca’s Chief Financial Officer, describes the A320neo as the “most advanced single-aisle fleet in terms of efficiency, reliability and comfort. This order highlights that we continue to make the required investments to grow our network in line with our business plan.”

Avianca emerged from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in December, and is currently one of the largest airlines in Latin America, with a network of 120 routes, more than 3,200 weekly flights to more than 65 destinations in Colombia, Latin America and Europe. (Avianca)

Every new A320neo will feature an updated cabin configuration, including three types of seats: Premium, Plus and Economy, according to Avianca. Currently, more than 90 A320 planes in Avianca’s fleet are being reconfigured and 26 of them already have the new Plus and Economy seats.

The new fleet order for Avianca comes several months after the Colombian carrier emerged from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in December. According to an overview of their restructuring plan, the airline wants to expand its passenger fleet to more than 130 aircraft by the end of 2025.

Avianca also operates Airbus A330s, ATR 72-600s and Boeing 787-8s within its fleet, currently serving 3,200 flights a week to 65 destinations between North America, Latin America and Europe.

The post Avianca to Expand Airbus Fleet with Order for 88 New A320neo Aircraft appeared first on Aviation Today.

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