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#7 - Quick news

September 2015 edition

Airbus prepares “SHort AiRfield Package” modification for A320neo

A team at Airbus’ facility in Filton, UK, has designed, built and tested a performance-enhancing component as an option for the A320neo. The innovation, referred to as “SHARP” (SHort AiRfield Package), aims to increase wing lift at low speeds and thus enhance take-off and landing performance for operations on short runways. A key component of the package is a Kevlar composite panel modification to the wing’s ‘Root Fillet Fairing’ to enable the improved landing performance. The requirement for such a modification was driven in part to facilitate operations into Brazil's Santos Dumont airport, where the runway is only around 1,300m long. As well as the short runway there is a mountain to one side and a long bridge on the other, which makes this a challenging operation. Airbus has identified several operators which would like to fly their future A320neos into this airport – and SHARP will allow them to do so.

The UK team, working with their engineering colleagues in Bremen (Germany) had considered various proposals to reduce the approach speed at landing. The resulting ‘winner’ was a modification to optimise the airflow over the Root Fillet Fairing panel, and which could be delivered as retrofit-able option. Construction of a test panel took place in Filton's “ProtoSpace” facility using ‘rapid prototyping’ Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) technology to ‘3D-print’ the moulds. Fibre glass was then layered into the moulds to create the new panel prior to final finish and paint. Metrology experts then scanned the panel to ensure that exact profile being tested was well understood. The prototype’s subsequent flight-testing in Toulouse was successful and the engineering and industrial teams are now finalizing this design for production.

A320 Family ‘Max-Pax’ and new cabin solutions gain momentum by retrofit

The recently achieved ‘increased exit-limit’ certification on the A320 Family ‘Max-Pax’ solution allows more passengers to be comfortably and safely accommodated. Key to this, the innovative Space-Flex and Smart-Lav designs together with the latest technology and materials enable space optimisation in the cabin and aft galley areas, making room for more seats, without reducing seat pitch comfort.

The aftermarket embodiment can provide a return on investment for the airline in around two years dependent on the route they operate. The new con­figurations and additional seats are already specified for line-fit on newly delivered aircraft by various operators, and now the option is making inroads in the retro­fit market. The main drivers include: revenue generation, harmonisation and the ability to retain high standards of comfort and service with additional passengers.

Airbus project could cut by half ‘unusable fuel’ in large aircraft

“Unusable fuel” is an industry-wide phenomenon which affects not just aircraft, but any vehicle with a fuel tank – cars being the most common example. In essence, this is the fuel which forms as puddles inside the tanks in areas which the fuel pump intake valve can't reach. For large aircraft this has meant carrying some excess weight – several hundred kilogrammes could be typical. Not only is this ‘dead’ weight, but it is also fuel which is not being used to power the aircraft. To tackle this, and to increase the efficiency of its aircraft, Airbus has assembled a dedicated “Sprint" team of engineers with extensive experience from across Airbus. The results from the project are promising: Several proposed solutions could more than halve the amount of unusable fuel. Furthermore, the retrofit solutions would keep costs down by avoiding having to alter any structural components.

Airbus’ dedicated “ProtoSpace” innovation facility provided the team with advanced tools and rapid-prototyping equipment, including ‘additive layer manufacturing’ (ALM) machines to create ‘3D-printed’ test components and models. An example was a full-scale, quarter-size A330 centre fuel tank demonstrator with root-joint and stringers to validate how liquid actually moves around the tank and where the puddles form and explore how fuel can be redistributed to where the pump can extract it. To complement the physical models, digital modelling analysed fluid behaviour inside the wing for different flight phases. 

Download photo of fuel tank demonstrator

Airbus and partners develop new corrosion-resistant steel alloy

Airbus, in partnership with Messier Bugatti Dowty, Carpenter Technology and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at the University of Sheffield, are developing the maturity of a new corrosion-resistant stainless steel alloy known as “CRES” – for possible use in future landing gear components. As part of the collaborative evaluation, nine A320 main gear components have been forged in the new steel and used for further materials development, including establishing properties of the as-manufactured materials and define the optimum industrialisation route. Furthermore, two components are being manufactured to a ‘final finish’. In the future, the team hopes to assemble a fully CRES landing gear for in-service evaluation.

The new CRES steel, which avoids the need to use traditional cadmium and chromate coatings, confers intrinsic corrosion resistance and could become an alternative to both existing low-alloy carbon steels and titanium alloys for future aircraft landing gear. The strength is comparable to current steels and it could be available for less than half the price of titanium alloys. CRES steels also improve the cost of ownership due to the reduction of in-service corrosion. Moreover, thanks to a large improvement in fracture toughness and stress corrosion cracking resistance, they are much more environmentally robust.

Download photo of 'CRES' alloy forging

Real-time tracking to expand across Airbus sites after successful trials

Airbus is adopting a low cost, real-time visualisation system for locating items in its plants. The project, launched in October 2014, uses smart, connected boxes and carts to track equipment across the whole supply chain, from supplier premises right up to the assembly point. A full-scale trial of the system was conducted at Airbus sites in both Saint-Nazaire and Saint-Eloi in early 2015. Its results demonstrated the technology's potential and the project team will industrialise its system for use across all Airbus sites.

Benefits demonstrated include better optimised stock rotation and significantly reduced time spent looking for logistics means on the shop-floor. The system is based around GPS system combine to long-range outdoor tracking using ‘Ultra Narrow Band’ (UNB) technology. For the project, Toulouse start-up company Sigfox was enlisted to develop the specially designed global network for linking the ‘connected’ devices. Smart boxes transmit the objects’ GPS coordinates to Sigfox's antenna, which sends the information on to Airbus via the internet. The result is that every piece of equipment can be pinpointed exactly in real-time. The application can also generate alerts if, for instance, it goes outside its desired route or spends too long at an Airbus site or a supplier’s premises. 

The project team also created a special application to view this information on a PC, tablet or smartphone, thanks to technical and financial support from Airbus’ “Bizlab” initiative – which helps new innovative projects become operational reality.

‘Smartglasses’ allow operators to focus on efficient cabin furnishing

Airbus has introduced innovative ‘Smartglasses’ for shop floor staff at its Clément Ader A330 final assembly line (FAL) in Toulouse. The device allows operators to more accurately and more quickly mark the position of A330 seats and furnishings to be installed in the cabin. The tool incorporates a camera to both scan the barcode enabling the definition items to be loaded and to view the marking zone. Although its offset screen built into the headset is approximately one square centimetre in size, it actually gives the impression to the wearer that he or she is reading a tablet at arm's length. 

Already tested on five aircraft, the Smartglasses have reduced in the time spent on the marking operation by a factor of six, while eliminating positional errors. Once the mark has been traced, the system verifies its location before validating the operation. Interactivity with the tool is provided by voice command. Previously, the process was complex because operators had to decipher intricate drawings, convert measurements from inches to metres, prepare marking templates etc. 

The project was launched in January 2015 and only one month later the first prototype was delivered. After several improved versions, the technology is now demonstrably mature enough to be implemented in actual A330 cabin furnishing operations. The other Airbus FALs will follow in the near future in adopting this technology.

Download photo of 'Smartglasses'

Airbus’ launches new ‘High Bandwidth Connectivity’ solution for A320, A330 and A380 programmes

Airbus is further enriching its connectivity offers both in line-fit and retrofit, by selecting Zodiac Inflight Innovations (Zii), as lead supplier, to provide a new complementary “High Bandwidth Connectivity” (HBC) system. Named RAVE Broadband, it uses the Inmarsat “Global Xpress” *Ka-Band satellite network providing worldwide coverage. It will enable internet access, mobile telephony services and support applications evolutions for the A320, A330, & A380 aircraft. 

With this new BFE option, Airbus aircraft will offer airlines the most comprehensive choice of connectivity solutions: They can now choose from four different suppliers (Panasonic, Thales, Airbus, Zii) and three different technologies (*L-band/SBB, Ku-Band, and Ka-Band) across the Airbus family. The first certification of this new Airbus HBC product offer is planned for 2016 and will deploy rapidly across A320, A330, & A380 aircraft families. This selection of Zii is the first step of Airbus’ HBC approach and will be followed by more HBC offerings in the near future. 

* L-band(SBB), Ku-Band,and  Ka-Band are different frequency ranges & communication technologies used by satellites and aircraft Satcoms.

A330-300 242-tonne variant completes certification by both FAA and EASA for all three engine types

The new A330-300 242-tonne takeoff weight variant has now completed Certification by both FAA and EASA for all three engine types on offer. This follows the latest FAA certification award in mid-September of the A330-300 242t equipped with either with P&W4000 and Trent 700 engine types. Earlier, the aircraft had achieved certification with CF6-80E engines by both EASA and FAA Authorities respectively in April and May, and subsequently with P&W4000 and Trent 700 engines by EASA in June. Meanwhile the shorter fuselage A330-200 242t model, recently certified by EASA, will also receive its FAA certification (with all three engine types) in the very near future. To date, 12 customers have selected 45 A330-200/-300 242t aircraft.

Construction begins for first Airbus training centre in Latin America

Airbus and Mexico’s “Aeropuertos y Servicios Auxiliares” (ASA) federal agency have begun the construction of the first training centre in Latin America on the campus of ASA’s International Training Facility (CIIASA). The new facility will feature a complete set of equipment for A320 training pilots, including a flight simulator of the A320 Family. The Airbus training services will ensure a smooth entry into service of the aircraft and provide technical support to its customers during the operational life of its Airbus fleet. And by being close to its customers, Airbus is on hand to support their growth, reduce costs and increase the productivity of their flight crews.

With more than 950 aircraft sold and a backlog to nearly 500 aircraft, nearly 600 Airbus aircraft operate today in Latin America and the Caribbean. In the last 10 years, Airbus has tripled its fleet in service, delivering more than 60 percent of the aircraft operating in the region. In May, Airbus celebrated the delivery of the 500th aircraft in Latin America.

Airbus signs parts service accord with Triumph Aviation Services Asia

Airbus has signed a new spare parts service agreement with Triumph Aviation Services Asia, based in Chonburi Province, Thailand. The contract covers the inspection, test, repair, overhaul and modification of proprietary airframe structures for A320, A330 and A340 operated by carriers in the Asia-Pacific region. These structures include rudders, elevators, wing tip devices, flaps and slats. The work will be undertaken at the Triumph Aviation Services Asia facility near Bangkok. The agreement with Triumph Aviation Services Asia is the second Airbus initiative in Thailand in recent months, following the opening of the new Airbus Flight Operations Services Centre in Bangkok earlier this year. The centre produces electronic versions of the standard flight operations manuals, for all Airbus aircraft types, as well as data customisation services for individual airlines.

Thai Airways chooses Airbus Managed Inventory (AMI) Service

Thai Airways has signed an agreement to implement the Airbus Managed Inventory (AMI) service. AMI is tailor-made to optimize inventory management by ensuring that high-usage and non-repairable parts are automatically replenished at Thai Airways' facilities, whilst guaranteeing parts availability and decreasing inventory stock levels. Overall it will improve Thai Airways’ base maintenance operations by minimising its spares investment and inventory costs while maximising delivery of parts when needed.

Download photo of contract signing



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