ATI’s Technologist, Nour Eid, reports from presenting at Aerotech Americas and the opportunity to see the Boeing 787 FAL.

Last month I travelled to Charleston, South Carolina, for SAE Aerotech Americas where I presented an overview of how the ATI is exploring the potential of disruptive technologies, some recent technological innovations in UK aerospace and how the UK is shaping the future of flight. The overall theme of the conference was “Shaping the Future of Aerospace” and many of the keynotes and technical sessions explored some of the innovations that are taking place across the pond.

Dr Greg Hyslop at Aerotech Americas

Before the conference kicked off, I started off the week with a tour of Boeing’s 787 final assembly line in North Charleston. The engineers who showed us around the facility were proud of the fact that the site is unique in manufacturing components “from freezer to flight – raw composite materials are stored in freezers until they are needed for production, then they are manufactured, assembled on to the aircraft and flown away by the customer. The facility mostly assembles the 787-10 variant (the longest of the 787 family) but also manufactures aft-body and mid-body sections for fuselages of all 787 variants. I was lucky enough to spot a 747 Dreamlifter taking-off full of components, en route to Boeing’s Everett facility where the rest of the 787 family is built.

The conference kicked off on Tuesday. Two notable presentations were from Dr Greg Hyslop, Boeing’s Chief Technology Officer, and Jason Chua, Executive Director of United Technologies Advanced Projects.

Hyslop gave an update on the 777X, the latest of Boeing’s long-range family. The aircraft is unique in that the 65m wingspan has a folding wingtip which allows it to fit into the same airport gates as existing 777 aircraft. The 777X is due to take-off on its first test flight later this year. Hyslop also spoke of Boeing’s partnership with Aerion to build a 12-passenger supersonic business jet, with the first aircraft planned to fly in 2023.

Regardless of the technology, new innovations in aerospace are about increasing the value of time – Dr Greg Hyslop, Boeing CTO

Jason Chua unveiled United Technology’s Project 804. This flight demonstrator aims to re-engine one side of a Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft with a 2MW hybrid-electric propulsion system, comprising a 1MW gas turbine and 1MW electric motor. The ‘804’ in Project 804 refers to the straight-line mileage between Pratt & Whitney’s (P&W) site in Longueuil, Quebec and Collins Aerospace’s site in Rockford Illinois; both instrumental in providing propulsion and systems expertise to the project. The project will accelerate the development of key components in a similar fashion to Airbus and Rolls Royce’s eFAN-x demonstrator – a project which has been supported by the ATI.

Additive Manufacturing (AM) also featured quite heavily throughout the conference with Boeing, NASA, Spirit and P&W all presenting opportunities offered by metal powder bed and large scale direct energy deposition processes.

It was great to see that the AM technologies being developed in America are on par with the major AM projects that are taking place here in the UK (DRAMA and OAAM to name but two).

There were also several presentations on urban mobility and “unlocking the z-dimension”. A particular highlight was a panel discussion on this topic chaired by Mark Moore, Engineering Director at Uber Elevate. You can watch the session here.

I presented an overview of some recent innovations in UK aerospace, how the ATI is cultivating an environment to develop disruptive technologies and how the UK is shaping the future of flight. I was delighted to see a high level of representation from the UK. Colleagues from Cranfield University, the MTC, University of Nottingham and the AMRC were all in Charleston and they presented some of their great research in manufacturing, assembly and digitalisation.

Overall, a fantastic conference and a brilliant opportunity to see what technologies are being developed internationally.