Aircraft Maintenance Technology

MAR 2018

The aircraft maintenance professional's source for technological advancements, maintenance alerts, news, articles, events, and careers

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The Airbus order books are full, new models and increasing production rates create a friendly economic climate for investment in alternative programs and are facilitating a shift to electric propulsion. This shift — which started for Airbus some 10 years ago — was not easy, was and still is risky as there are not "safe, proven paths" so the experience has to be made in-house. Airbus apparently clearly sees the potential of an electric aerospace revolution. Is this investment going to be profitable one day? Who knows, but if you don't start early with small steps you will never reach the target. Airbus started doing those small steps early; more than a decade ago. It started small, very small with a homebuilt one-seater Cri-Cri in 2010 and is now "flying high" on a hype wave created by the door-to-door personal transportation and urban taxi, creating milestones like Vahana, CityAirbus, E-Fan X, and dreaming of a partially electric-powered commuter like Airbus 20XX single aisle aircraft in a decade or so. Airbus and other manufacturers have the chance to go along this path with now unknown end results driven by the system "hope" and recent experience. This is an insecure and uncomfortable path for an established airplane manufacturer but if they don't take a chance now, new entrants from the nonaviation field will take (and are already taking) those opportunities. So, is aircraft electrification the next chapter in Airbus' aviation future? This is not a question of if, but of when and how much. To achieve good results Airbus understood early that it had to go into unexplored terrain and is doing this in a smart way, thinking out of the box, partnering with established/experienced industrial subjects like Siemens, and encouraging and acquiring brave start-ups coming from nonaviation fields. We can see a clear acceleration in the launch of development projects at Airbus since approximately 2015 for one- to four-passenger urban air taxi/UAV type of craft. Typical developments in this area are currently targeting a limited range of up to 50 km, with vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) and all-electrical propulsion to give the benefits of low noise pollution and zero emissions. Many of these developments have advanced and made ground-breaking progress starting in Europe with help of Airbus sponsoring and joint ventures. At Airbus by mid 2015, Paul Eremenko was named the founding CEO of Airbus Group Silicon Valley technology and business innovation center, which marked the beginning of the above mentioned acceleration. He was responsible for estab- VAHANA AIRBUS CRICRI IN flight AIRBUS

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