GKN composite air intake nominated for Clean Sky best project award

First air intake design to integrate ice protection and noise reduction shows potential for future single-aisle aircraft.

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A program led by GKN Aerospace (Redditch, UK) in collaboration with partner AeroTex UK LLP (Farnborough, UK) has been nominated by the European Clean Sky Initiative for its ‘best project’ award in the ‘systems for green operation’ category. Its achievement is believed to be the first air intake design to integrate both ice protection and noise reduction technology.

The goal of the collaborative SIPAL (Scoop Intake and channel including Ice and debris Protection and Acoustic Liners) program, a Clean Sky project, was in response to an Airbus-defined requirement for an innovative air intake that would feed air into a new electronic environmental control system for the passenger cabin of possible future single aisle aircraft.

Among the challenges faced by the engineering team was the proposed position of the air intake on the aircraft. The location would be exposed to icing and hail damage, as well as lightning and bird strike, and would be close to the baggage handler’s area, with resulting strict limits on noise levels.

GKN Aerospace engineers, with partners AeroTex, created an elegant composite intake structure that integrates electro-thermal ice protection and acoustic attenuation technology. It is coated with a metallic spray-on erosion shield which incorporates lightning protection. The intake has been exhaustively tested at GKN Aerospace’s wind tunnel facility in Luton, UK, where it achieved all Airbus requirements and the integrated acoustic technology significantly reduced noise levels.

“We believe this inlet design has immense potential both for new aircraft and as a retrofit item," commented GKN Aerospace Senior VP Engineering and Technology Russ Dunn, "and we are proud to have been nominated for this award by the prestigious Clean Sky initiative. Engineers from across the company are now combining their expertise in areas such as engine systems, ice protection and additive manufacture to exploit the experience we have gained on SIPAL and related R&D programs, to drive even greater improvements in component performance with critical reductions in environmental impact.”

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