Technology set for take-off


The Paris Airshow 2017 arrives in June and the aerospace original equipment manufacturers and their suppliers are counting down the days. Rob Coppinger reports.

The Paris Airshow arrives in June and the aerospace original equipment manufacturers and their suppliers are counting down the days. Rob Coppinger reports.

The Salon International de l’aeronautique et de l’espace, commonly known as the Paris Airshow, is one of the world’s biggest aviation industry events with official figures counting 150,000 business visitors Monday to Friday and a further 200,000 members of the public attending at the weekend.

It returns to the calendar from 19-25 June, bringing the world’s aviation industry to the small airport of the town of Le Bourget, north of Paris. There are more than 2,000 exhibitors with over 25 national pavilions, almost 300 official foreign delegations and billions of dollars’ worth of orders. In 2015, at the 51st salon, there were USD$130 billion worth of orders announced.

This year the show’s organiser, Groupement des Industries Françaises Aéronautiques et Spatiales (GIFAS) is promising a forecast of future airshows and a focus on technology with what is being called Paris Air Lab.

“Paris Air Lab will, I'm sure, be an unforgettable experience for both trade visitors and the general public to the Paris Airshow, inviting them on a journey, to board a flight to innovation, ‘boarding for tomorrow’, where the future is decided and takes shape,” states chairman and chief executive officer of the show, Emeric d'Arcimoles.

The Paris Airshow is one of the world’s biggest aviation industry events

Ideas become reality

Paris Air Lab will offer the opportunity to explore these new ideas using virtual and augmented reality. The Lab will be in the Concorde Hall of the airport’s Air and Space Museum. A 2,000m2 area will be dedicated to innovation from what GIFAS says are, “the major players in the aerospace industry, as well as those of the start-ups in the sector.”

The Lab will have three areas called, Pick-up your innovation, Visionary hubs and Experimental gates. Using virtual and augmented reality, in the Experimental gates area visitors can experience aeronautics with a cockpit and flight, or they can become an astronaut and discover space travel. For more space related exhibits, the European Space Agency (ESA) always has a major presence at the show where it displays the latest findings of its robotic exploration missions and its astronauts’ work on the International Space Station. The next area for the Lab is its Visionary hub. This is a conference area where experts will discuss and debate major developments of interest to the public.

The Pick-up your Innovation area has various exhibition zones to explain to the visitor the collaborative research undertaken by major national and European programmes and the work of new company start-ups. This area will also host two daily events, featuring presentations and keynote speeches from major manufacturers and a themed series of business pitches from start-up companies.

The Pick-up your Innovation zones are, aeronautics, space and digital applications. The digital zone will include topics, such as in-flight connectivity, drones and future aircraft factories. Space will include space agencies, such as ESA, and Earth observation, while aeronautics will have propulsion, future aircraft and sustainable aviation.

Show aisles will once again be packed with visitors

Printed innovations

Technologies that could be in the aeronautics zone will also be found in the exhibitor halls and one topical manufacturing process, 3D printing, will be on display at the Norsk Titanium booth. The Norwegian company will be displaying the 3D printed titanium parts it makes for Boeing. Norsk is providing structural parts for Boeing’s Dreamliner airliners with its own Rapid Plasma Deposition (RPD) process. The company will also be exhibiting a full-scale mock-up of its patented machine that produced the parts.

Boeing will also be returning to the show. While the global manufacturer was not available to give details of its activities this year, it typically announces orders. At the 2015 show, Boeing had static and flying displays of aircraft from Asian customers and announced orders from Qatar Airways and Garuda. Its rival, Airbus, had a similar participation and also took orders from Garuda. Also unavailable for comment, the 2015 salon saw Airbus get orders from Whizz Air and state-owned Chinese airlines.

Both Airbus and Boeing’s supply chain reaches across France and its neighbouring states. The UK’s Aerospace and defence trade association, ADS, is coordinating the UK pavilion at this year’s show. ADS told Aerospace Manufacturing that it has: “45 exhibitors from the UK taking part directly, and those numbers rise to 65 once indirect exhibitors taking part through Regional Aerospace Alliances are taken into account.”

ADS described the Paris Airshow as, “great opportunity for companies to meet and do business.” ADS chief executive Paul Everitt said: “The Paris Airshow is an important event for our members and the whole of the aerospace industry. This year it comes after the triggering of Article 50, making the event an important opportunity to show that the UK aerospace sector remains open for business.”

One of the UK companies that always has a presence at the show is engine maker Rolls-Royce. If it participates in the Visionary hub or exhibits in the Pick-up your Innovation aeronautics zone it will be able to speak about its latest engine core called, Advance3. This engine core, Rolls-Royce told Aerospace Manufacturing, “will be available from 2020, [and] is about to run for the first time.” The Derby-based company is also preparing for the first power runs of its gearbox for UltraFan, an engine that Rolls-Royce says will available from 2025. Of the airshow, Rolls-Royce comments: “It’s an important event in terms of continuing to develop customer relationships and promote its continued developments in both new technology and services.”

Norsk Titanium provides Rapid Plasma Deposition structural parts for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner

Building communities

Another two UK firms with stories to tell are GKN and Cobham. “The Paris Airshow is important for companies like Cobham as the exhibition allows us to showcase our expertise and technology whilst keeping our colleagues and customers up to date with exciting new breakthroughs,” Cobham told Aerospace Manufacturing. The company also sees the show as one that builds a sense of community, brings together, “important decision-makers from across the world,” encourages partnerships and, “inspires those of us working in it”.

Paul Everitt, chief executive of ADS

GKN is talking about its partnerships and new technology with the expansion of its expertise in additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing. The UK firm is to have an AM centre at Oak Ridge Laboratory in the USA which will explore laser metal deposition. GKN is also going to have a new US AM related powder manufacturing facility. A first-tier supplier, GKN is also talking about its two new factories in Washington state and South Carolina for Boeing 737MAX and Boeing 777 production; with a third manufacturing site announced for Florida.

With more than 2,000 exhibitors typically at a Paris Airshow, the event will see a great deal of talk and announcements from companies beyond the UK and the rest of Europe. The show will arrive almost two weeks after France’s national assembly elections that will have followed its presidential rounds of voting. New presidents or their government’s prime ministers have opened the airshow in the past and it would seem apt, with a future focused event, to have the leaders of what will be the country’s administration for the next five years. Where will global aerospace be in five years’ time?


Paris Air Show

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