Summer...time for an air show

Highlights from the 2015 edition of the Paris Air Show, and what to look for at the upcoming EAA AirVenture air show in Oshkosh next month.

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The Paris Air Show opened on Monday June 15, 2015 to the usual massive crowds

Ah, there’s nothing like the sight and sound of a fighter jet performing jaw-dropping aerobatic moves under a clear blue sky in Le Bourget, especially if you’re lucky enough to be sipping a glass of champagne and sitting on a chalet’s sunny deck, at the 51st edition of the Paris Air Show. I’m not that lucky – in 2013, when I last attended, I got drenched by torrential rain, was nearly hit by lightning, got stuck on a bus in gridlocked traffic for hours, and contracted the flu. So I’m summarizing some highlights of the world’s longest-running air show, remotely. I do plan on attending the EAA’s Airventure event in Oshkosh, next month; more on that below.

Of course, the biggest news at the Paris Air Show is always the announced aircraft orders. On Monday, Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine announced that Qatar Airways has ordered 10 Boeing 777-8Xs and four 777 freighters, valued at US$4.8 billion at list prices. These aircraft, which are in addition to the 50 777-9Xs Qatar already has on order, reportedly take Boeing’s total orders and commitments for the type to 320. Garuda Indonesia signed a letter of intent at the show to purchase 30 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and up to 30 737 MAX 8s. Garuda reconfirmed its intent to purchase 50 737 MAX 8s, originally announced in October 2014. The airline currently operates more than 90 Boeing aircraft, including next-generation versions of the 737, 777-300ER and 747-400. Garuda also signed a letter of intent with Airbus to purchase 30 A350 XWBs with which it plans to develop its medium and long haul networks, with the aircraft capable of flying nonstop from Jakarta or Bali to Europe.

And there were more: GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) announced a firm order for 60 Airbus A320neo family aircraft, to be powered by CFM’s LEAP-1A engines. CFM valued the engine order at US$1.77 billion at current list prices. This latest order brings the total number of A320neos ordered by GECAS to 120. Saudi Arabian Airlines presented a firm order for 20 Airbus A330-300 regional aircraft plus a firm order for 20 A320ceos. Swiss International Air Lines, which had 30 Bombardier CS100s on order under a purchase agreement signed by Lufthansa in 2009, has swapped 10 of them for CS300s and may change some, or all, of the 10 CS100s due for delivery in 2018 to the larger variant, according to Aviation Week’s report. Also announced was that Russia’s Yakutia Airline signed an order with Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Co. for three additional Sukhoi Superjet SSJ100s. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2017.

All of these orders highlight the unprecedented build rate that aircraft OEMs are trying to manage. How will it be possible to build and deliver all of these planes? A 2013 aerospace industry report by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC (London, UK) titled “Aviation’s Second Golden Age” points out that the demand presents opportunities for global expansion, but carries risks, including intellectual property protection, finding (and keeping) good talent and the soundness of offshoring. A big challenge is how to maintain, and grow, production line capacity. And, take a look at an opinion by Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group, writing for Aviation Week, entitled "Short-term memories can lead to big miscalculations," on June 19th, which points out that a down cycle may be just around the corner.

The composites industry is of course tracking aerospace demand, and offering new materials and strategies to increase flyaway share. Aviation Week reports that, among the more than 2,000 exhibitors at the show, the French company Lineo (St.-Martin du Tilleul) has developed flax-based epoxy prepregs for aircraft interiors, called FlaxTape, which reportedly are 35% lighter than carbon fiber/epoxy prepreg tapes. It also offers a sandwich product, called Simbaa, as an alternative to traditional sandwich constructions. The company is reportedly ramping up production of FlaxTape for the automotive industry as well.

Hexcel made an announcement at the show that it has teamed with its distributor Groupe Gazechim Composites, and their affiliate Composites Distribution, to support MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) activities for composites-intensive aircraft. Composites Distribution is launching a product called CAB (for Composite AeroBox) made by Sunaero that can store frozen prepregs, ancillary room-temperature materials, and a hotbonder control panel, all within an easy-to-transport box. The concept enables quick repair of damaged composite parts in the field, says Hexcel. The concept, which supports a hot bonder and heater blanket, is reportedly approved by the Commercial Aircraft Composite Repair Committee (CACRC).

Other announcements included a new helicopter concept from Airbus Helicopters. The X6, announced Tuesday, will be a next-generation heavy-lift rotorcraft tailored for the civil market, and especially oil and gas missions. Airbus says the X6 is the newest arrival in Airbus Helicopters’ H generation, continuing on from the recently unveiled H160. “X6 will be for the heavy segment in the next decade what the H160 is today for the mediums. It will set new standards in the industry not only for design, but for its production strategy as well, as we will rely on the industrial capacities of our core countries, including the upcoming pillar in Poland,” explained Guillaume Faury, the president and CEO of Airbus Helicopters. The company notes that entry into service will be after 2020.

Further announcements will continue this week. CW will present a Paris Air Show summary in our upcoming August issue. For an Airbus-centric view of the first day of the Paris Air Show, try this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADQZ1Fbyf9w. Boeing’s test pilot narrates the 787 Dreamliner’s flying display in this video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNUpUBMewSw, and this Boeing video summarizes the first day of the show: http://www.boeing.com/features/2015/06/showtime-a-packed-day-one-in-paris.page.

Next month, July 20 – 26, I hope to attend the 63rd edition of the AirVenture Fly-In show at Oshkosh, WI, also a big event but one focused more on general aviation and less on commercial craft. That said, the Airbus A350XWB will make an appearance,

Because many members of the Experimental Aircraft Assn (EAA) build and fly their own planes, there is typically a wealth of exhibits and information about composites. If you go, don’t miss a series of hands-on demonstrations by Russ Emanis, of RS Industries (Keller, TX, US). Russ, an Oshkosh regular whom we’ve written about (see this article on double bagging methods for infusion: http://www.compositesworld.com/articles/double-bag-infusion-70-fiber-volume) will be demonstrating composite infusion methods, including making molds, layup and bagging technique, resin mixing and part release and trim methods, for a full-scale aircraft fuselage. Russ will be supported by reinforcements supplier TexTreme as well as other material suppliers.

Mooney Aircraft will have its new all-composite aircraft on display, the M10T and M10J. A departure for the previously metal-centric company, these two new designs, which made their North American debut at the recent Sun‘n’Fun event, incorporate a carbon fiber composite roll-cage design, and glass fiber composites in the rest of the airframe.

ICON Aircraft reports that it has successfully completed its FAA production inspection and compliance audit at its facility, and was granted an S-LSA airworthiness certificate. The amphibious sport aircraft will have its usual display at Oshkosh. Epic Aircraft will have their carbon composite E1000 turboprop business jet on display at the show. The plane is close to FAA certification, and is expected to enter the marketplace next year. Watch for a plant tour and further information about the Epic E1000 in the pages of CW.

Hope to see you in Oshkosh – and enjoy the summer.