Tag Archives: #innovation

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Gulfstream G700 To Make Catarina Aviation Show Debut

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Flagship will be on display alongside the super-midsize G280 and large-cabin G600

Gulfstream’s G700 flagship will make its Catarina Aviation Show debut when the three-day event opens on Thursday at São Paulo Catarina International Executive Airport. The G700 will be on display at the show alongside Gulfstream’s super-midsize G280 and ultra-long-range G600.

“Gulfstream is experiencing significant interest and demand throughout Latin America, and the region is an important market for us,” said Gulfstream Aerospace senior v-p of worldwide sales Scott Neal. “The company has had a strong presence in Latin America for many years, including Brazil, and there are currently more than 230 Gulfstream aircraft based in the region.”

According to Neal, the Gulfstream fleet in Latin America has grown by more than 35% in the last 10 years. “Gulfstream’s product line—from the G280 to the G400, G500, G600, G650ER, G700, and G800—offer a compelling mix of size and range to suit a wide variety of operators’ needs, whether they are flying domestically or taking trips halfway around the world,” he added. “The G650 and G650ER have been popular in the region since the G650 was introduced in 2008, and we are seeing great interest in the G500, G600, G700, and G800 [there].”

Gulfstream has chosen the Catarina show over LABACE 2024 at São Paulo–Congonhas Airport; the aircraft manufacturer said that it will not be exhibiting in August at that event.

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Lilium Reveals eVTOL to Business Aviation Launch Market

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The German manufacturer brought a full-scale model of the Lilium Jet to EBACE

Lilium yesterday at EBACE 2024 unveiled the first full-scale model of the eVTOL aircraft it plans to bring to market in 2026. The German manufacturer is targeting business aviation companies as early adopters of the Lilium Jet, which it is offering in a four-passenger Pioneer Edition for corporate and private charter applications, as well as with a six-seat cabin for commercial regional air services.

The most eye-catching feature of the mockup revealed at Geneva’s Palexpo exhibition center is the array of 30 ducted electric vectored thrust engines integrated into the Lilium Jet’s wing and canard. Factoring in anticipated energy reserve requirements for the all-electric vehicle, Lilium anticipates an initial maximum range of around 95 nm, but this is expected to increase as battery technology improves.

At its headquarters near Munich, Lilium is now assembling the first production-conforming examples of the aircraft as it prepares to start flight testing later this year. It has started building a certification test facility to support its work to achieve EASA approval by the end of 2025.

Earlier this month, German federal and state officials launched the due diligence process that Lilium hopes will unlock up to around €100 million (about $109 million) in loan guarantees to fund the program. At the same time, the company is negotiating with the French government to secure financing for a planned high-volume production facility it wants to build in France.

Several private flight providers are among the early prospective customers for the Lilium Jet. These include Volara, EMCJet, Air-Dynamic, Globe Air, Bristow, and NetJets. Key suppliers include Garmin and Honeywell.

On the Innovation Stage at EBACE 2024, Lilium’s head of flight operations and crew training, Andreas Pfisterer, will address how the company’s design team is factoring in human factors in a session, dubbed “Future of Flight—the Balance Between Technology and the Human Touch,” today at 1 p.m. The company’s chief commercial officer, Sebastien Borel, is scheduled to discuss the integration of sustainable aviation in a Thursday 11:30 a.m. session entitled “Going the Extra Mile—Will Intermodal Transportation Expand Business Aviation?”

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Pilatus’ Upgraded PC-24 Arrives at EBACE 2024

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The upgraded PC-24 began delivery earlier this year

Pilatus Aircraft is marking the EBACE debut of its recently upgraded PC-24. Unveiled just before NBAA-BACE in October, the upgrades include a 600-pound increase in payload, boosting range to 2,040-nm range, and a new side-facing divan that can convert into a bed.

Payload was increased with refinements in the wing and fuselage structural elements, which reduced empty weight and increased the maximum gross takeoff weight limit. Weight was reduced by 300 kilograms (660 pounds), “which means a lot more range,” said Ursula Widmer, marketing manager at the Swiss airframer. In addition, storage space was optimized.

The changes, she added, open more options for operators, reaching further distances and also more easily accommodated six people with luggage. This is attracting interest from a range of customers, including the charter market.

Pilatus began delivery of the upgraded model earlier this year and showcased it in April at the Aero Friedrichshafen general aviation show in Germany.

Most of the upgrades have been certified, said Widmer. The divan is approved for two places, but work for three is still ongoing, she said. Widmer added that the divan option has proven popular, exceeding the company’s expectations.

Along with the PC-24 twinjet, Pilatus brought its PC-12NGX turboprop single to the EBACE static display. “Both are doing really well,” Widmer said, noting that the backlog has grown for each model. “If you want to order an aircraft now, it takes around about two years until we can give you one.”

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Leonardo AW09 Gets Updated Corporate Look

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Helicopter to embark on demonstration tour

Leonardo took the wraps off of a full-scale cabin mockup of its AW09 single-engine helicopter at the opening of EBACE 2024. Showcasing a VIP-corporate transport cabin layout and paint scheme that will be offered as an option, the unveiling marks the “official entrance” of the AW09 as part of the Agusta family of corporate helicopters, said Cecile Vion-Lanctuit, head of communications and marketing for Leonardo’s Kopter Group.

The interior was designed to provide a customized yet modular approach to the cabin space with the latest technology and sustainability advancements. Carving a niche in the long-light single-engine segment, the AW09 will have the largest cabin and most legroom in its class.

According to Leonardo, the cabin can accommodate interiors ranging from a four-plus-one up to a three-plus-three-plus-two seating layout. The interior will be offered in a set of dedicated themes that the company is inspired by “harmony and perfection found in nature” yet present a modern feel. Themes include Desert Dawn, Cedar Woods, Ocean Twilight, and Dark Cosmos.

Also to appeal to the corporate crowd, the company is touting the large front and side windows that enhance visibility for the passengers, alongside the safety benefits for the pilot.

Kopter chief test pilot Richard Grant, along with Leonardo chief test pilot Giuseppe Afruni, unshrouded the mockup before a crowd gathered at the booth on the show floor, marking the kickoff of a demonstration tour that will include showings across Europe this summer, as well as at various events.

As Leonardo looks to expand its foothold in the corporate market with the helicopter—the first all-new model to be developed in decades in its class—it has built a backlog of orders for more than 100 units globally.

As the mockup embarks on its tour, flight testing continues on the AW09 with hopes of certification in 2025. Leonardo has two preproduction models—PS4 and PS5—flying and checking off a series of flight tests. PS6, the first production model, is expected at the end of the year. An earlier prototype, PS3, retired in September 2022 after 387 flights.

PS4, which incorporates all developments implemented on PS3, joined the program in March 2023 with the 1,000-shp-class Safran Helicopter Engines Arriel 2K, a switch from the Honeywell HTS900 on the predecessor prototypes.

PS5 joined the program this past February. Grant estimated that the two flight-test aircraft have now accrued about 130 flights, exploring a limited altitude envelope, up to about 16,000 feet with plans to go higher, and tested maximum speed in dive, he said.

In addition, Leonardo has completed a lot of airfield work simulating wind conditions. “At the moment, we’re able to hover in winds up to about 35 knots or around that with quite a low workload.”

Component systems tests have long been under way. “Now we’ve got to that stage where we’ve just got to gather the data,” he said.

In addition to the cabin, Grant touted the aircraft’s ease of flying and safety systems. “It’s designed to be easy and simple in every aspect, flying it, operating it, maintaining it,” he said. “I think it’s really achieving that. We’re starting to see that now.”

He added that other test pilots from Leonardo have flown it and “they’re all reporting very similar things.”

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Airbus Launches Hydrogen Feasibility Studies at North American Airports

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Major airports in the U.S. and Canada could become ‘hydrogen hubs’

As Airbus presses ahead with ambitious plans to bring hydrogen-powered airliners into commercial service through its ZeroE program, the aircraft manufacturer is eyeing several major airports in North America as locations for potential “hydrogen hubs.”

On Tuesday the company announced it is launching three studies into the feasibility of establishing hydrogen hubs at some of the biggest airports in the U.S. and Canada, including George Bush Intercontinental Airport (KIAH) in Houston and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International airport (KATL)—the world’s busiest airport. 

While the research projects focus on a handful of specific airports, the results will help to guide the future development of hydrogen hubs around the world, according to Airbus. These proactive studies “mark a significant milestone in our pursuit of low-carbon aviation,” said Karine Guenan, head of ecosystem activities for Airbus’s ZeroE program, which aims to bring a 200-seat hydrogen-powered airliner with a 2,000-nm range into commercial service in 2035. 

For the research it is conducting at KATL, Airbus has partnered with Delta Air Lines—whose main hub is located at the airport—and hydrogen fuel specialist Plug Power. The team has already begun preliminary work to define the infrastructure requirements for a hydrogen hub and to determine the operational viability of hydrogen operations at KATL. They expect to complete the study at the end of 2026.

“Hartsfield-Jackson has long been a leader in the commercial aviation industry, and it only makes sense that we help lead this effort,” said Michael Smith, senior deputy general manager of administration at the airport. “If hydrogen proves to be a viable alternative, ATL will investigate options to update infrastructure needs in order to implement the new technology.”

Delta Air Lines is already a partner in Airbus’s ZeroE program. As part of an agreement signed in 2022, the airline is helping to identify fleet and network expectations and the operational and infrastructure requirements for hydrogen-powered airliners. 

Plug Power, which is based in New York and operates more than 250 hydrogen refueling stations around the world, recently opened a hydrogen production plant in Woodbine, Georgia that could potentially supply the fuel to KATL. 

“We have a ready-made supply of green hydrogen to support the airport from our new Woodbine, Georgia, production plant, the largest green hydrogen plant in the U.S.,” said Plug CEO Andy Marsh. (The term “green” hydrogen refers to hydrogen that is produced sustainably through electrolysis, using renewable electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.)

In addition to hydrogen storage and transportation, Plug Power also offers hydrogen fuel cells for aircraft and ground vehicles. Universal Hydrogen, a company developing hydrogen fuel cell powertrains for aircraft retrofits, has already flown its experimental Dash 8 twin turboprop using Plug Power’s ProGen family of fuel cells.

Meanwhile, Houston Airports and the Center for Houston’s Future in Texas have signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus to explore the possibility of a hydrogen hub at KIAH as part of broader plans to reduce the airport’s carbon footprint. 

This study will examine “the opportunities and, if any, barriers to the hydrogen supply up to the airport, the infrastructure and equipment development,” Guenan explained, adding that the team will look into other potential uses for hydrogen at airports. For example, ground vehicles and other ground support equipment could be converted to hydrogen power. Hydrogen could also be used for heating at airport facilities, according to Airbus. 

“With Houston’s role as the world’s energy capital, our record of energy innovation, and desire to lead in the business of low-carbon energy, Houston is the perfect place to develop our airports as North American clean hydrogen pioneers,” said Brett Perlman, president and CEO of the Center for Houston’s Future. 

Airbus and its partners in Houston expect to complete the KIAH study in March 2025. 

ZeroAvia Joins Canadian ‘Hydrogen Hub’ Studies

To explore possible hydrogen hubs at airports in Canada, Airbus enlisted the country’s three busiest airports—Montréal-Trudeau International Airport (CYUL), Toronto Pearson International Airport (CYYZ), and Vancouver International Airport (CYVR)—along with hydrogen propulsion specialist ZeroAvia for a large-scale feasibility study. 

Airbus signed memoranda of understanding with those three airports as well as ZeroAvia during the International Aerospace Innovation Forum in Montréal on May 21. This marks the first time that Airbus has formally partnered with another manufacturer of hydrogen propulsion systems for aircraft, according to Guenan. Airbus also invested in ZeroAvia last year. 

“We are bringing together Canada’s largest airports, the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, and the leading innovator in decarbonised propulsion technology, in order to progress the transition to hydrogen aviation,” said ZeroAvia founder and CEO Val Miftakhov. “ZeroAvia flight testing demonstrates that hydrogen-powered commercial aviation is a prospect ahead of 2030, so we need to start working hard to prepare for the hydrogen infrastructure needed to support the aviation industry and airports as they step into a new golden age of clean flight.”

With its abundance of natural resources, “Canada has great potential for hydrogen production from renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric power,” Guenan said. “These first Canadian hydrogen partnerships enable us to cover the country from coast to coast.”

Last week, Airbus announced is leading a European Union-backed project called Ground Operations of Liquid Hydrogen Aircraft to demonstrate how handling and refueling technologies can be developed for airport operations. The work also involves hydrogen propulsion pioneer H2Fly and eight other partners.

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Collins Debuts Surface Air Traffic Management System

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The new product tracks the movements of aircraft and ground equipment in real time

Collins Aerospace has launched an airport ground monitoring system that provides real-time tracking and recording for aircraft and ground equipment movement. According to the RTX subsidiary, the Airport Surface Awareness System (ASAS) will provide a holistic view of on-field operations that can enhance efficiency and help reduce the risk of ground incursions.

Fully integrated with FlightAware’s Firehose and Foresight services, the ASAS system augments flight and route information including arrival time and runway taxi predictions.

It uses three components to generate an accurate picture of the airport operations: aircraft tracking with ADS-B and radar feeds both for arriving aircraft, as well as those on the ground; real-time tracking of motorized and non-motorized ground equipment; and an interactive map application with geofencing to allow operators to set location and speed restrictions for different assets with alerts for any violations.

“Lack of situational awareness consistently contributes to critical issues at airports, including incidents on the airfield, inefficient aircraft turn management, and improper use of ground support equipment,” said Collins general manager of airport solutions Rakan Khaled. “This system provides real-time data to airports to solve for those issues.”

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Textron eAviation’s Nexus eVTOL Aircraft Could Fly in 2025

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The company’s Nuuva cargo drone is approaching its first flights, too

The Nexus eVTOL aircraft is coming together at Textron eAviation’s Wichita headquarters as the company prepares to begin flight testing its hybrid-electric Nuuva V300 cargo drone.

Having certified the world’s first all-electric trainer airplane, the Velis Electro, the Textron Inc. business unit is working to solidify its foothold in the electric aviation industry, building on the company’s decades of experience in aircraft development and manufacturing.

Textron Inc. launched the eAviation business unit in 2022, the same year it acquired Pipistrel, the European aircraft manufacturer behind the Velis Electro. Shortly afterward, the eAviation unit took over the Nexus program from Textron’s Bell subsidiary, which had been working on plans for the eVTOL air taxi since 2019. Following a rocky start to the Nexus program under Bell, Textron’s eAviation subsidiary has hit the ground running and aims to begin flight testing in 2025.

“We really have been focused on various aspects of engineering it over the past two years and validating that engineering, and we’ve moved into the build process,” Textron eAviation president and CEO Kriya Shortt told reporters in a briefing at the company’s headquarters on May 1. “This is a pivotal year for us because pieces are starting to come together,” she said, adding that the team is in the process of mating the aircraft’s wing with the fuselage.

The Nexus is an all-electric, piloted eVTOL aircraft with room for three or four passengers. It is designed to fly around 100 nautical miles on a single charge with a cruise speed of 120 knots. Textron eAviation sees the Nexus working for a variety of use cases, including urban air mobility, emergency medical services, humanitarian aid, law enforcement, and special missions.

While Textron eAviation is overseeing the development work, the Nexus project represents a collaborative effort across the various business units of Textron Inc. “We lean into Bell for their tiltrotor technology, we lean into McCauley for its propeller technology, [and] we lean into Pipistrel for its battery technology,” Shortt said. “The aircraft is being built with our engineering, but the piece-part components are largely done through a collaboration with Textron Aviation,” she added. “We send our materials over and then Textron Aviation’s people are able to build the parts for us.”

NIAR Breaks Ground on eVTOL Testing Facility 

Flight testing with the Nexus prototype is expected to begin in early 2025 and will take place at a flight test facility that Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) is building near McConnell Air Force Base in southern Wichita.

NIAR, which has recently participated in battery drop tests with electric aircraft developers such as Archer Aviation and Beta Technologies, announced on May 6 that it broke ground on a new flight test facility specifically dedicated to eVTOL aircraft. The new facility will include ground-based test rigs as well as a “hover ramp,” Shortt explained.

“It’s a controlled environment where our team will be able to validate the performance of the aircraft. They’ll be able to replicate a flight mode by the way that the ramp is built without wheels ever leaving the ground,” Shortt said. Once the team is satisfied with the hover ramp test results, it will move on to tethered hover flights.

Textron eAviation is also in the process of building a ground control station for the Nexus at a hangar in Wichita, which will enable remotely piloted flight testing of the fully fly-by-wire aircraft. This is purely for testing purposes, Shortt explained. “Even though it’s envisioned to be piloted, when we start flying it we will fly it in an unmanned configuration.”

Nuuva Prototype Slated To Fly This Year

While Textron eAviation prepares to begin flight testing the Nexus prototype in 2025, the company’s Pipistrel subsidiary is preparing to fly its first prototype of the Nuuva V300 cargo drone even sooner. The Pipistrel team is now assembling the first Nuuva V300 prototype in Gorizia, Italy, and the aircraft is on track to make its first test flight in the second half of this year, Shortt said.

The Nuuva V300 is a hybrid-electric, ultra-long-range eVTOL aircraft designed to carry around 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of cargo up to 300 kilometers. Pipistrel announced the Nuuva program in 2020 and announced that Honeywell would supply various systems, including its compact fly-by-wire flight controls and satcom system. Honeywell also supplies its Small UAV satcom system for Pipistrel’s Surveyor fixed-wing surveillance drone, which is already on the market.

Shortt said Textron is not yet ready to reveal an anticipated timeline for certification and service entry of the Nuuva V300 aircraft, and it is not taking orders from customers at this time.

When the Nuuva V300 enters service, it will meet the European Union Aviation Safety Agency’s SAIL IV (specific assurance and integrity) requirements for medium-risk uncrewed aircraft systems, meaning that it’s permitted to fly over populated areas without a formal type certificate. Operators in Europe would be required to obtain their own operational authorization from EASA after the regulator approves the aircraft separately via the issuance of a design verification report.

Eventually, Textron aims to progress to the more advanced SAIL VI operations, “which would be fully integrated into the airspace and operating with detect-and-avoid capabilities,” Shortt said. For SAIL VI operations, the aircraft will need to go through a formal type certification process under EASA’s Part 21 rules.

In addition to the V300, Textron intends to produce a smaller but otherwise nearly identical version called the V20. With a cargo capacity of about 20 kilograms (44 pounds), the V20 is intended for short light courier, last-mile delivery services.

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Bell Testing 429 Helicopter Autonomy Laboratory

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The fly-by-wire Bell 429-based flying lab is capable of autonomous flight.

Bell Textron has unveiled its 429-based Aircraft Laboratory for Future Autonomy (ALFA) helicopter equipped with fly-by-wire flight controls and capable of autonomous flight. The modified 429 made its first flight last August at Bell’s Canada assembly and delivery center in Mirabel, Quebec, then it was moved to Bell’s flight research center in Fort Worth, Texas.

The ALFA 429 was developed by Bell’s advanced programs team, and its fly-by-wire flight controls are separate from the helicopter’s aircraft safety system. This allows “for rapid development and evaluation of novel flight control technology without compromising overall safety,” according to Bell.

“Fly-by-wire flight, coupled with additional capability that [is] being integrated into ALFA, provide a great foundation for Bell to expand on its autonomous capabilities,” said Jason Hurst, executive v-p of engineering. “This aircraft will serve as a flying lab that will inform future autonomous technology development, which we can ultimately leverage to deliver the best rotorcraft solutions to global operators.”

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Airbus Celebrates First Flight of Racer Compound Helo

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The high-speed helicopter’s design has already generated 90 patents

The Airbus Helicopters Racer high-speed compound helicopter made its first flight today in Marignane, France, flying for about 30 minutes and signaling the launch of a two-year test campaign.

Powered by two Safran Aneto-1X turboshaft engines, Racer is designed to fly at more than 215 knots while burning about 20% less fuel compared with current-generation helicopters. Racer is part of the European Clean Sky 2 research program and involves 40 partners in 13 countries.

The rotorcraft features a double-wing design with lateral pusher rotors on each wingtip. In cruise flight, Safran’s Eco-Mode hybrid-electric system allows one of the two engines to be switched to standby mode, according to Airbus, “generating further fuel savings of up to 30%.”

Airbus validated the aerodynamic configuration of Racer with research on its X3 technology demonstrator, which combined fixed wings with lateral rotors and a main rotor system. In 2013, the demonstrator broke the helicopter speed record when it flew at 255 knots.

“With its 90 patents, Racer is the perfect example of the level of innovation that can be achieved when European partners come together,” said Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even. “I look forward to watching this demonstrator pioneer high-speed capabilities and develop the eco-mode system that will contribute to reducing fuel consumption.”

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Robinson Helicopter Acquires UAV Maker Ascent AeroSystems

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Ascent’s production will now migrate across the country to Robinson’s California factory

Robinson Helicopter has purchased Massachusetts-based UAV manufacturer Ascent AeroSystems. Now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the California rotorcraft manufacturer, Ascent is recognized for its compact helicopter drones, designed for a variety of industrial, public safety, and defense applications.

Through its expertise in autonomous electric flight technology and modular design, it is expected to enhance Robinson’s products. Ascent will now move its production facilities to Robinson’s vertically integrated 600,000-sq-ft manufacturing facility at Zamperini Field Airport (KTOA) in Torrance, where it will have room to grow and scale.

“This strategic acquisition is in line with our vision to broaden our offerings and meet increasing global demand for enhanced mission capabilities in law enforcement, public safety, firefighting, utility, and defense,” said Robinson president and CEO David Smith. “Ascent’s advanced technologies and versatile designs complement our ability to be the preeminent choice in global rotorcraft.”

Ascent’s UAVs feature cylindrical bodies with coaxial rather than symmetrically distributed rotors and are designed to operate in the most challenging conditions including high wind, heavy rain, sleet, snow, and even blowing sand.

“Drones based on consumer-grade electronics will never be able to provide the safety and dispatch reliability needed to support operations at scale,” explained Ascent CEO Peter Fuchs. “The laws of physics and aerodynamics favor coaxials, and with Robinson’s 50 years of experience, there is now no better domestic source for reliable, mission-critical UAV platforms.”