Navigation path

Left navigation

Additional tools

Other available languages: FR

   Aeronautics  is  a sector which is expanding  particularly  rapidly.  Air
   traffic  is growing at a steady pace both in Europe and the rest  of  the
   world.  It  is expected to increase by 5-6% annually over  the  next  ten
   years, the number of passengers likely to double between now and the  end
   of the century. Today, roughly 7500 airliners are used worldwide, and  it
   has  been estimated that by the year 2000 a further 4-5000 aircraft  will
   have  been added to the fleets. This means that some 4-500  new  aircraft
   must be put on to the market each year.
   The European aeronautics industry currently holds about 30% of the  world
   market  for commercial aircraft. Today, it faces a number of  challenges:
   serious  competition  (mainly  in  the US which  has  64%  of  the  total
   aeronautics  market - civil and military), a continuous rise in the  cost
   of research and the need to plan long-term efforts (the horizon is  10-15
   years  in terms of products, and 10-25 years in terms  of  technologies),
   increasing  fuel  costs  and, above all, an increase  in  the  amount  of
   traffic  itself. More competitive in terms of costs, the  aircraft  which
   European industry must develop will have to be more economic, less noisy,
   equipped  with engines that emit less pollutants, and able to respond  to
   more effective air traffic control systems.
   The success of airbus demonstrated the virtues of European cooperation in
   aeronautics.  Until  recently, however, this cooperation was  limited  to
   production.  The Community wanted to extend the cooperation to  research.
   It  did  so  by launching a pilot programme for  aeronautics  within  the
   framework   of  the  existing  industrial  technologies   and   materials
   programme:  BRITE/EURAM.2  This pilot action had a budget of  60  million
   ECUs. Twenty-eight projects were launched in 4 categories:  aerodynamics,
   acoustics, navigational systems and equipment, and propulsion systems. It
   brings together all the main European aeronautics manufacturers  (British
   Aerospace,  Aerospatiale,  CASA, Fokker, ALENIA,  MBB  etc.),  university
   laboratories  (including  some  in Member States which  do  not  have  an
   aeronautics  industry), and many specialised SMEs. This  pilot  programme
   was  launched under the 1987-91 Framework Programme for  Community  R&TD,
   and will continue under the 1990-94 Framework Programme.
   2  BRITE = Basic Research in Industrial Technologies for Europe; EURAM  =
   European Research in Advanced Materials
                                     - 2 -
                             A "laminar flow" wing
   The way in which air flows around an aeroplane in flight is an  important
   factor  in determining its performance. Above a certain  speed,  friction
   forces  cause  a "boundary layer" to form along the wing  profile.  At  a
   thickness of only 1 millimetre around the leading edge of the wing,  this
   layer  plays  a fundamental role in the formation of  "drag",  the  force
   which resists forward movement.
   The  air can flow in a regular (laminar) or turbulent way. The  more  the
   flow  is  turbulent  the stronger the drag. To be able  to  conserve  the
   laminar flow on the wing profile would allow drag to be reduced by almost
   20%,  bringing  substantial  savings  in  fuel  consumption.  The   ELFIN
   project3  is aimed at stuying this phenomenon and to  developing  laminar
   flow  technologies. It brings together 24 research organisations  from  9
   countries.
   The  process  developed to "laminarise" the flow consists of  sucking  in
   the  boundary layer through holes made in the leading edge. Such  a  wing
   will  be  developed and wind-tunnel tested for the first time  in  Europe
   (at the Modane installation in France). In the next few weeks a  campaign
   of flight tests on a Fokker 100 will begin to study the behaviour of  the
   boundary  layer  (using  pressure sensors, infrared  cameras  etc.).  The
   project  also includes theoretical work to develop methods of  predicting
   the behaviour of the boundary layer (algorithms, modelling etc.)
                    Reducing the noise of helicopter rotors
   Noise  pollution  constitutes  one  of  the  major  problems  which   the
   aeronautics  industry must resolve in the next few years: especially  the
   noise  of  engines at take-off and landing, and  of  exceptionally  noisy
   devices  such  as helicopter rotors. The latter is  even  more  important
   because  such  rotors  are  needed  for  vertical  take-off  and  landing
   aircraft  capable of operating in the centre of towns. Ten  organisations
   from  7 countries are working together to try to resolve this problem.  A
   large  scale model rotor is being developed and will soon be  wind-tunnel
   tested;  the  blades  will be equipped with  special  sensors.  A  better
   understanding  of  the  phenomenon in question will  allow  a  series  of
   measures to be taken which will significantly reduce the noise  produced:
   including  the  definition  of new blade profiles, a  better  control  of
   their  movements, new flight regimes, etc. Several reduced  scale  models
   have already been built and a series of measuring instruments tested  and
   calibrated.
   3  ELFIN = European Laminar Flow Investigation
                                     - 3 -
                            Less polluting engines
   New generation aircraft engines are more powerful and effective, but they
   have   a  tendency  to  emit  pollutants  such  as  nitrogen  oxides   in
   increasingly significant quantities. Reducing these emissions is a  major
   challenge facing aeronautics manufacturers. In order to do this there  is
   they need to understand precisely the mechanisms of combustion inside the
   engines, and the formation of aerosols. What largely determines the level
   of emissions is the quality of the fuel-air mixture which takes place  in
   the  combustion chamber. Five research institutes, 4 universities  and  5
   European  companies  are brought together in the Low  Emission  Combuster
   Technology  project.  Several types of mixtures have been studied  and  a
   series  of instruments and non-invasive techniques developed (e.g.  laser
   diagnostics). Such fundamental knowledge having been acquired, it is  now
   possible  to design newly shaped combustion chambers and to test  a  real
   low emission engine.
            New air traffic control technologies and cockpit design
   The continuous growth of air traffic threatens the complete saturation of
   airport  capacity.  To increase this capacity  without  compromising  the
   safety  of  air transport, new air traffic control technologies  must  be
   developed.  This  will  allow greater control over  the  aircraft,  while
   reducing  the workload of the controllers, and reducing the waiting  time
   of  the  aircraft.  The  aim of the FANSTIC  project4  is  to  study  the
   interface  between cockpits and largely automated systems of air  traffic
   control  which are based on a more rapid, accurate and complete  exchange
   of  information  between the aircraft and the ground  than  is  currently
   possible  with radar or radio waves. This also involves  the  development
   and  testing  of  new technologies for cockpit  design  (which  does  not
   involve  simply multiplying the number of screens and dials). New  human-
   machine  interfaces  have  thus  been  designed  and  tested  in   flight
   simulators:  three  dimensional image display  systems,  voice-controlled
   functions  etc.  These are now being evaluated, and  a  cockpit  designed
   which allows them all to be integrated.
                    New process for de-icing aircraft wings
   For  many years, the formation of ice on the wings of aircraft  has  been
   prevented  by using a current of hot air coming from the engines. The new
   generation of more economic engines soon to be introduced onto the market
   will not allow this method to be used. Finding new methods to solve  this
   problem  is  the  aim  of the CAPRI project5  which  brings  together  12
   European  partners from 7 different countries. The processes which  could
   conceivably  be  used  for  de-icing are  many  and  varied:  heating  by
   radiofrequency, mechanical processes, and electromechanical methods.  The
   possibilities  of improving the de-icing process by liquid  injection  on
   the  wing  have  also been studied. At the end of the  first  phase,  two
   systems  were  selected  for  a more  in-depth  study:  one  consists  of
   dislocating  the ice using electric impulses; the other to melt it  using
   microwaves.  Part of the projct is dedicated to the study of the  physics
   of  ice: formation and structure of the ice layer, porosity,  propagation
   of  fractures etc. Research has been done both on mathematical  modelling
   and cold chamber experimentation.
                                     * * *4FANSTIC=FutureATCnewsystemsandtechnologiesimpactoncockpit
5 CAPRI = Civil Aircraft Protection Against Ice

Side Bar