Top Aviation Maintenance & Technology Exchange 

March 19, 2015  -  No. 22

In This Issue
Rolls To Create Composites Center in Bristol, UK
Boeing ecoDemonstrator 757 Flight Tests Focus on Aerodynamic Efficiency
Rockwell Collins Teams With OneWeb to Provide Connectivity to Aviation
Flagship invests in Red Rock, cost-competitive aviation biofuels come closer
Could this 18-motor wing be the future of electric aircraft?
Multiple Flying Cars Could Be Available for Purchase by 2017
Rolls To Create Composites Center in Bristol, UK

Rolls-Royce announced that is has chosen Bristol in the UK for the location of advanced fan system composite technology development, creating a hub of composite knowledge and securing 120 jobs in the city by the end of 2019. Plans call for the facility to develop the next generation of carbon-fiber fan blades and fan cases for future Rolls-Royce engines.

Rolls-Royce's CTi (carbon-titanium) blades feature prominently in the company's new Advance engine design. Unveiled last year, the design promises to deliver at least 20 percent less fuel burn and CO2 emissions compared with the first generation of Trent engines. The blades and associated composite engine casings will form part of the new CTi fan system, designed to reduce weight by up to 1,500 pounds per aircraft. 

Rolls-Royce plans to establish the pre-production facility within an existing building alongside Rolls-Royce's new plant for carbon-fiber electrical harness rafts, now under construction on the Bristol site. The company expects both facilities to benefit from manufacturing techniques under development in partnership with the National Composites Center in Bristol and research conducted at the University of Bristol's Rolls-Royce University Technology Center. Rolls-Royce plans to transfer its existing CTi manufacturing technology capability along with around 40 current employees from its composites location on the Isle of Wight during 2017. The UK government has already provided 7.4 million ($10.95 million) to support the establishment of the pre-production facility and equipment at the Isle of Wight facility.

A set of the CTi fan blades, incorporated into a Trent 1000 "donor" engine, successfully completed a full flight-test program on a Rolls-Royce Boeing 747 flying testbed in Tucson, Arizona, last December. It has scheduled a rigorous testing program of the complete fan set to take place throughout this year.

Boeing ecoDemonstrator 757 Flight Tests Focus on Aerodynamic Efficiency

SEATTLE, March 18, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Boeing [NYSE: BA] has begun several months of flights with its ecoDemonstrator 757 to evaluate new technologies to improve commercial aviation's efficiency, reduce noise and carbon emissions. Boeing is collaborating with TUI Group and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on ecoDemonstrator 757 tests.

The 757 flight tests continue the ecoDemonstrator Program's multi-year effort to accelerate testing, refinement and use of new technologies and methods that can improve aviation's environmental performance.

"The ecoDemonstrator 757 furthers our commitment to accelerate innovative technologies for current and future airplane programs," said Mike Sinnett, vice president of Product Development, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "The Boeing ecoDemonstrator program is focused on putting new, more environmentally efficient technologies and airplanes in the hands of our customers sooner."

On the left wing, Boeing will evaluate technologies to reduce environmental effects on natural laminar flow as a way to improve aerodynamic efficiency. As an example, the ecoDemonstrator 757 will test a Krueger shield that can protect the leading edge from insects.

Boeing is under contract with NASA's Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) Project to test two technologies on the ecoDemonstrator 757. On the right wing, NASA will test bug-phobic coatings to reduce the residue left by bug strikes on the leading edges of aircraft wings; the goal is to enable more drag-reducing laminar flow over the remainder of the wing. 

On the vertical tail, NASA and Boeing are testing active flow control to improve airflow over the rudder and maximize its aerodynamic efficiency. Based on wind-tunnel testing, active flow control could improve the rudder's efficiency by up to 20 percent and may allow for a smaller vertical tail design in the future.

TUI Group, the world's largest integrated tourism group, is collaborating with Boeing as a way to reduce carbon emissions. The Europe-based company, which includes six airlines, is preparing for a low-carbon future by reducing its environmental impact and encouraging its suppliers and customers to do the same.

"We are very pleased to partner with Boeing for the next phase of their ecoDemonstrator program, as TUI Group is highly committed to achieving further environmental efficiency across our whole business and remaining the industry leader on carbon efficiency with our airlines," said Jane Ashton, Director of Sustainability, TUI Group.

With the exception of Boeing proprietary technology, NASA knowledge gained in collaboration with Boeing from ecoDemonstrator research will be publicly available to benefit the industry.

"Having a relevant test bed, like Boeing's ecoDemonstrator, to help mature technology concepts is extremely important to NASA's Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) Project," said Fay Collier, ERA project manager, NASA. "Our researchers have been working hard to develop technologies to reduce airplane fuel consumption, noise and emissions. Being able to prove those concepts in flight tests gives them a better shot of getting into the commercial fleet."

Later this year, Boeing will announce additional tests with the ecoDemonstrator 757, which was leased for testing purposes. After the flights are complete, Boeing will work with the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association and the lessor, Stifel's aircraft finance division, to recycle the 757 using environmental best practices. 

Since it was launched in 2011, the ecoDemonstrator Program has tested more than 40 technologies with a Next-Generation 737 and a 787 Dreamliner. For more information, visit www.newairplane.com/environment/.

Rockwell Collins Teams With OneWeb to Provide Connectivity to Aviation

[Avionics Today 3-16-2015] Rockwell Collins has signed a memorandum of understanding with OneWeb to be the exclusive developer and provider of satellite communication (satcom) terminals for OneWeb's global aviation high-speed broadband service. Rockwell Collins will also be an authorized Value Added Reseller (VAR) of OneWeb connectivity services.

Rockwell Collins' antenna with electronically scanned array technology. Photo: Business Wire.

Under the agreement, OneWeb will team with Rockwell Collins to develop and certify the satcom terminals, which will use Electronically Scanned Array (ESA) antenna technology developed by Rockwell Collins' Advanced Technology Center. Using rapid beam movement and reconfigurable antenna patterns, ESA antennas provide high levels of performance to ensure that aircraft stay connected during flight.

"The antenna is a fraction of the size and weight of a traditional airborne satcom antenna, which means significant long-term cost savings for airlines from reduced fuel consumption," said John Borghese, vice president of the Advanced Technology Center for Rockwell Collins.

OneWeb is building a constellation of more than 600 satellites that, when launched, will provide approximately 10 terabits per second of low-latency, high-speed broadband to people around the globe.


Flagship invests in Red Rock, cost-competitive aviation biofuels come closer

Investment from Flagship Ventures brings Red Rock Biofuels closer to construction of its first commercial advanced aviation biofuels refinery

In Colorado, Red Rock Biofuels unveiled a strategic partnership with Flagship Ventures that sets the stage for the construction of its first commercial scale refinery in Lakeview, Oregon.

Red Rock last year received a $70 million DPA Title III award from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Navy to help build its $182 million refinery, as part of an effort under the Defense Production Act aimed at building 100 million gallons of const-competitive renewable jet fuel capacity.

The Red Rock refinery, slated to begin construction this summer, will convert approximately 140,000 dry tons of woody biomass into at least 12 million gallons per year of renewable, liquid transportation fuels. Also in 2014, Southwest Airlines agreed to purchase approximately 3 million gallons per year of Red Rock's low carbon, renewable jet fuel.

Red Rock takes waste biomass from forests and sawmills, and using a proprietary process, transforms it into domestically produced jet, diesel and naphtha fuels. The company's process begins with the gasification of woody biomass to produce syngas, which is then cleaned and sent to a Fischer-Tropsch unit where it is converted to a high grade, renewable syncrude. Finally, standard upgrading refines the syncrude to yield renewable jet, diesel and naphtha fuels which provide a lower carbon, cost competitive alternative to crude oil-based fuels.

Flagship will provide financial and strategic expertise as Red Rock moves toward construction of a commercial-scale refinery and secures additional partnerships, funding and customers. Flagship partner Brian Baynes, Ph.D., led the investment and will join Red Rock's board of directors. Flagship Ventures manages over $900 million in capital and has internally founded 27 ventures while investing in another 45, and is best known in the sector for its investment in Joule Unlimited and Midori, and a former investment in LS9 (since acquired by Renewable Energy Group). he firm is active in three principal business sectors: therapeutics, health technologies and sustainability. www.flagshipventures.com.

More about the project 
 The processing technology. Red Rock has partnered with Velocys, and will build one of the first full-scale versions of that company's micro-channel Fischer-Tropsch reactors. Velocys developed its Fischer Tropsch microchannel reactor technologies for the efficient and economic small scale distributed production of biofuels via BTL and liquid fuels from natural gas via GTL - using a wide range of waste feedstocks including agricultural, municipal and construction waste, forestry waste; plus, stranded and associated gas from oil wells which would otherwise be reinjected, vented or flared.

The gasifier. Red Rock has partnered with TCG Global, whose technology is capable of converting any carbon-containing feedstock such as biomass, coal, petroleum coke, or municipal solid waste into synthesis gas (Syngas), consisting primarily of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The Syngas produced by this gasification process is a clean, dry, flexible fuel which can be burned to create heat and electricity, passed through any of several different catalysts to produce fluids such as alcohols and transportation fuels, including clean burning diesel, or used to supply pure hydrogen gas for multiple applications. The initial demonstration plant was constructed and tested in Denver, Colorado for Red Lion Bio-Energy.

Red Rock CEO Terry Kulesa commented "We like the fact that the gasifier operates like a coal-to-liquids gasifier - if it can clean up coal, it can clean up the syngas. Plus the capex is not crazy stupid and the beauty of it is that we can have any hydrogen ratio we want, because it's non-catalytic. In our case, we want a 40% moisture content with our wood because it helps with our reaction.

Timelines. "We'd like to close the whole deal this summer," Kulesa told The Digest, "and have the project complete end of 2016 - that's completed, commissioned and making fuel. Most of the time is used up in the time frames for equipment orders. Out of the entire $182 million project, $110 million is equipment; it's not that big a construction project, but the lead times are 12-14 months on some of the pieces."

Upgrading intermediates to fuels. "We're working with Haldor Topsoe," Kulesa said. "We could have used the UOP [hydroprocessing] technology, too, but we found Haldor Topsoe more willing to work with a smaller company. This project is like falling off a log for them."

Tested together? "Not every piece of equipment is tested together yet," Kulesa confirmed. "They've been tested, but never been hooked together. We believe they are commercially viable, though, and we worked with Fluor to give us the blessing.

Feedstock flexibility. Kulesa confirmed that the plant will be able to work with wood - and also with natural gas, should wood supply be interrupted. "With wood cointracts," Kulesa told the Digest, "we are locked in for 8 years at a "fixed floating" rate, so that part of what we pay is tied to diesel fuel price. For example, with diesel at $3.00 we pay $50 per ton for wood, but we can pay between $46-$54 depending on diesel prices.

Reaction from the partners 
 "With its innovative technology and strong team, Red Rock has created a market-leading position in the woody biomass conversion sector," said Baynes. "Their product saves money for customers and offers a stable alternative to the volatile crude oil market, while reducing carbon emissions - a growing priority for companies. We expect increasing demand for renewable fuels and we are excited to support Red Rock as they bring high quality, domestically produced biofuels to market."

"We formed Red Rock Biofuels in response to widespread and devastating wildfires in the Western U.S. caused by forest debris and the rising demand for drop-in, cost competitive renewable jet and diesel fuels," said Kulesa. "By removing and repurposing biomass that causes forest fires, we see great potential in the 'waste to value' sector, creating cleaner fuels, healthier forests and delivering sustainable biofuels. Now, with support from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Navy, as well as strong commercial partners like Southwest Airlines, we are thrilled to partner with a world-class sustainability investor like Flagship. We look forward to accelerating our ability to transform waste biomass into domestically produced, cost competitive biofuels at commercial scale."

Could this 18-motor wing be the future of electric aircraft?

It might look like it was designed by a six-year-old, with 18 motors crammed onto a too-thin wing, but the Hybrid-Electric Integrated Systems Testbed (HEIST) experimental wing demonstrator could be the future of electric aircraft. A key component of NASA'S Leading Edge Asynchronous Propeller Technology (LEAPTech) project, it is designed to test whether electric propulsion can allow for a tighter wing design leading to greater efficiency and safety.

Beginning in 2014, the LEAPTech project is a joint venture of NASA Langley Research, Empirical Systems Aerospace (ESAero), and Joby Aviation. ESAero is the prime contractor for HEIST, which will be tested over the coming months. A 31-ft (9.4-m) composite wing section with 18 electric motors powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries installed on it will be mounted on a truck that will race at speeds of up to 70 mph (113 km/h) across a dry lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

According to NASA, the number of engines will allow for better airflow by forcing air over the wings, which reduces drag while increasing lift, so the wings can be narrower. In addition, the motors can be throttled individually for more fine-tuned configuration. The hope is that this will lead to a better ride along with lower energy consumption and noise.

The next step will be a piloted demonstrator X-plane under the NASA Transformative Aeronautics Concepts program, which will replace the engine and wings on an Italian-built Tecnam P2006T with the LEAPTech configuration. NASA says that using a production aircraft will make performance comparisons easier by allowing engineers to use an unmodified P2006T as a baseline. It hopes to have the X-plane demonstrator in the air within a couple of years.

"LEAPTech has the potential to achieve transformational capabilities in the near-term for general aviation aircraft, as well as for transport aircraft in the longer-term," says Langley aerodynamicist Mark Moore.

Multiple Flying Cars Could Be Available for Purchase by 2017

The Slovakian company AeroMobil made news over the weekend when it announced plans to release its first flying car to the public by 2017. AeroMobil's CEO Juraj Vaculik took the stage at SXSW, the wide-ranging conference in Austin, Texas, to explain the futuristic vehicle.

Engadget reported that Vaculik hopes to alleviate three issues: traffic, insufficient air travel options for small trips, and lack of infrastructure at some destinations. Vaculick, according to Engadget, also said his vehicles could handle grass runways, theoretically making it possible to land and take off from the side of major roads if grass strips were installed.

But AeroMobil is not alone in the flying car market-- some MIT grads have a company of their own right here in Massachusetts, with a slightly different vision for the future of flying cars. 

Five MIT aerospace engineers founded Terrafugia in Woburn in 2006, but they started developing their vehicle while still in school. Their flying vehicle is called The Transition.

Richard Gersh, vice president of business development for Terrafugia, said the goal is not to replace cars.

"Our vehicle-- we refer to it as a "roadable" aircraft-- is not meant to replace everyone's car," he told Boston.com. "It is supposed to solve issues that stem from common aviation."

Gersh said you could keep this vehicle in your driveway or garage like a car. Then when you wanted to go on a short trip, you could drive it to a small airport, take off, and land at another small airport.

"Most small airports typically don't have rental cars or taxis," Gersh said. Also, if bad weather hits during the flight, you can just land at a nearby small airport, put up the wings, and drive the rest of the way to your destination.

Gersh said 90 percent of the approximately 5,000 small airports in the country don't have control towers.

"When you are training to become a pilot, you learn procedures, and when you are a certain distance, you announce on radio frequency how far you are from the airport, and you let other pilots know," Gersh said.

Then there are specific landing patterns pilots follow before they touch down.

To drive The Transition, Gersh said you will just need a regular driver's license and some specific training Terrafugia will give you, since it will handle differently than a car.

To fly, you need a sport pilot certificate, since the craft falls under the light sport category.

Terrafugia has to obey regulations from both the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration, according to Gersh.

With regard to state agencies, Gersh said Terrafugia still needs to decide for tax, insurance, and registration purposes whether the vehicle is a car or an airplane.

Gersh said Terrafugia hopes to start production by 2017, and the first planes (on which you can currently put down a $10,000 refundable deposit) are expected to cost about $299,000.

AeroMobil's CEO was cagier about his vehicles price, but said it would also be a "couple of hundred thousand" euro, according to The Verge. Vaculik said his target market is "wealthy supercar buyers," given the vehicle's high cost, but as with all technology, he expects over time the price will drop slightly. 

Gersh said that Terrafugia's target audience are existing pilots or those who have been wanting to become pilots-- keeping with the theme that this is a plane that drives, not a car that flies.

The Transition takes off like a plane and needs a runway, but Gersh said another project, still in the early conceptual stages, would take off and land vertically, like a helicopter.

The TF-X uses an electric motor to ascend or descend, and then once it's flying it switches to an engine in the back that uses fuel.

"It's a true hybrid," Gersh said.

MIT Professor in Aeronautics R. John Hansman said vehicles like The Transition and the AeroMobil car can't take off vertically, because they're too heavy.

"When you try to make a flying car, you add a bunch of extra weight to the airplane, and there is a lot you have to put on the car that adds extra weight," he told Boston.com. "When you add extra weight, it is very hard to do a vertical lift."

If the TF-X can overcome the difficulty, said Hansman, it could theoretically go a long way toward solving some land transportation issues, though other problems may arise.

"Helicopters are actually better if you were really trying to do a surface congestion problem," Hansman said. "The main problem is the noise. If everyone had a helicopter in their backyard neighbors would complain."

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