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.

Mark Scully, our Head of Technology for Propulsion & Advanced Systems, gives his view on the UK Technology and Capability Showcase for Collins Aerospace, held last month in Charlotte, NC 25-27th March.

A number of UK SMEs from the supply chain were hosted by the Collins Aerospace group as part of a trade mission to encourage inward investment into the UK.

Organised by the UK Government’s Department for International Trade (DIT), it gave an opportunity for UK suppliers to meet with Collins Aerospace and discuss potential business opportunities. Paolo Dal Cin, Vice President, Operations & Quality, gave us an introduction to the company which was followed by a briefing by Kris Pinnow, Vice President, Global Strategic Sourcing, on Collins Aerospace’s supplier engagement processes and expectations.

A closed session was also held between ATI, BEIS, DIT and the Leadership team from Collins Aerospace to describe the UK innovation ecosystem and wider UK policy. A panel session was held on UK Industrial Strategy and the Aerospace Sector Deal, with insights from John Thompson, Head of Aerospace at DIT, Greg Warren, Senior Policy Advisor at BEIS, and myself.

Throughout the day the UK supply chain companies held B2B meetings with representatives from across the Collins Aerospace group. Parallel sessions between ATI and Collins Aerospace Supply Chain teams also identified a number of potential technology project opportunities through Collins Aerospace businesses in the UK.

ATI will be following up on these leads to explore and develop collaborative opportunities. Since the event a number of UK companies have already indicated some progress following the initial meetings and we look forward to further developments in the future.

The trade mission also gave Greg Warren and I a chance to visit Collins Aerospace’s Rockford facility to discuss UK opportunities for electrification technology. This was a particularly timely visit following the announcement the day before regarding the United Technologies X-Plane demonstrator.

We met several members of the senior team including Bill Dolan, Vice President Engineering for the Power & Controls Business Unit, Juan De Bedout, Vice President Advanced Technologies & Effectiveness and Todd Spierling, Director of Research & Technology for the Power & Controls Business Unit. Joining us from the UK Power & Controls R&T Centre were Joshua Parkin, Director of Technology and Marc Holme, Engineering Director. We promoted the UK as a great opportunity for Collins Aerospace’s ambitions in electrification. We were delighted to be given a site tour which included some impressive research and test facilities to support electrical systems development. ATI and BEIS plan to follow up with Collins Aerospace to identify and develop any potential opportunities for growth in the UK.

For more information on the United Technologies X-Plane Demonstrator:  https://tech.utc.com/-/media/Project/UTRC/UTRC-Intranet/Technology/Tech-Website/UTAP/A-Technical-Analysis-of-United-Technologies-Advanced-Projects-X-Plane—March-2019—Final.pdf

Participating UK suppliers included:

  • Bradfor Ltd
  • Broadway Engineering Ltd
  • CCP Gransden Ltd
  • Cecence
  • Columbia
  • Denroy Plastics
  • Exact CNC
  • GKN Aerospace
  • IPC
  • Marshall
  • McBraida
  • Nasmyth Group Ltd
  • Neural Digital
  • Poeton industries
  • Portsmouth Aviation Ltd
  • Resonate Testing
  • Senior Aerospace BWT
  • Smiths Harlow
  • Thales
  • Tods Aerospace
  • Trackwise
  • TT Electronics
  • Vesarien
  • WL Gore

It’s been another busy week at the ATI for Scott Pendry, Head of International R&D and Policy Engagement. Find out what Scott has been up to this week as he reflects on the many plates he keeps spinning. 

Starting the week in Sweden

Monday-Wednesday saw Simon Weeks and me visit Sweden for meetings with GKN Engines Systems in Trollhättan, Saab aeronautics in Linköping  and the Swedish government in Stockholm. ‘Why are you off to Sweden again?’ …is a question I’m often asked by friends and family. Put simply, Sweden punches above its weight when it comes to innovation and is a country that is very good at advancing aerospace technology. There’s a huge amount of Saab components on Airbus and Boeing aircraft, and over 30% of the Gripen fighter comes from UK suppliers. In addition, GKN Engine Systems are on 90% of commercial aircraft programmes. Clearly, there’s a lot of potential there and we have found that carefully considered international collaboration can help both countries’ aerospace sectors.

We’ve had a lot of meetings with the Swedes over the last few years and some of the connections we have facilitated have resulted in some very good collaborations, not least the Cranfield University/Saab link up to create the UK’s first digital control tower.

The recent joint UK-Sweden funding call has been another very good way to further bilateral collaboration and in the coming weeks several projects will be announced covering areas that will benefit the UK supply chain, along with UK primes.

During our visit, GKN and Saab provided us with useful information about their future R&T plans and we were able to probe as to how their plans relate to Raising Ambition.

While individual bilateral opportunities are small compared with the vast European Framework Programmes (which contains all the Airbus countries as well as other leading aerospace nations such as Italy and the Netherlands) the global nature of the industry means it’s important to foster direct country to country R&D relationships and the ATI programme is a very attractive proposition to attract inward investment. In addition to Sweden we are developing promising collaborations with Canada and the USA, drawing on experience of collaborating with our European partners through EU R&D programmes.

Thursday – talking about the ATI at the Inside Government ‘Investing in Aerospace’ conference

Most of us at the ATI are often out and about and regularly speaking at conferences. On Thursday it was my turn and I spoke on a panel at the Inside Government conference on investing in aerospace.

It was a good opportunity to reflect on the challenges and opportunities facing the sector and the role the ATI is playing in keeping the UK at the forefront of technology innovation.

I particularly enjoyed talking about the potential for disruption and the opportunities that go with it which will often involve working together with non-traditional aerospace companies and start-ups.

Friday… a shift of focus to domestic UK issues

The government’s Aviation Strategy consultation occupied a large part of Friday. The ATI’s expertise in technology innovation means we have a lot to say in response to the paper and it will be a good opportunity to reference the Future Flight Challenge and how it is developing. Some of the areas we will comment on include the infrastructure required to enable future air transport concepts and the importance of focussing on intermodality. Both of these areas will underpin the operation and commercial feasibility of new aircraft.

In summary – a good and varied week and a chance to look at future opportunities for the UK.