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European Aeronautics : A vision for 2020 - Contents
European Aeronautics : A Vision for 2020

 

Identifying the research agenda



 

The research agenda must be at the service of Vision 2020 and the goals it identifies. Broadly, the air travel requirements of "More Affordable, Safer, Cleaner and Quieter" will dictate the main priorities, but customer demands for more reliable services must also be satisfied.

It is not the purpose of this exercise to define a detailed research agenda. This will be an evolutionary process which should, among other things, lead to a greater concentration on large programmes in a few key areas, capable of maintaining transparency, integration of the supply chain and access for small companies.

Our goals for the air transport system point to many areas that need to be addressed. The management of aircraft movements on the ground and in the air is a natural family of similar technologies, whilst the aircraft itself and its many complex systems is another.

Transforming Air Travel

Many technical barriers need to be tackled in a comprehensive and coordinated manner if substantial improvements are to be made to the Air Transport System.

Limiting the impact of weather
We want to continue to reduce the weather as a disrupting factor for aircraft operations and a source of discomfort and danger during flight. We cannot control it but we need to learn to live with the elements and steadily eliminate the service disruption that they may cause.

Integrated air traffic management
Air traffic management is a major research challenge that is already being confronted at a European level. The lack of integration of Europe's air traffic control systems places additional burdens on the European air travel system as well as on the environment. We need new operational concepts and systems that permit aircraft to operate in all weather conditions, to fly closer together at lower risk so as to allow optimal and efficient allocation of the airspace between its civil and military users, while limiting as far as possible the construction of new airports and runways. We also need to pocket the fuel savings that are possible by permitting aircraft to fly the optimum route length with no speed restrictions and by putting an end to stacking aircraft in holding patterns and making them wait a long time for a take-off slot. Among other things, this means designing aircraft systems that integrate with airlines, airports and air traffic management operations and procedures so as to greatly improve the efficiency of airspace management.

A new approach to airport management
Imaginative management systems addressing both air and land side operational issues are badly needed for airports. Despite the technologies of automated ticketing, passengers and their baggage are still handled in the same way as 40 years ago. "Just in Time", for example, is well established for the manufacturing industry. How can these principles be applied to customers of airports? Innovative solutions are also needed that integrate the air transport system with other transport modes.

The Aircraft of Tomorrow

Literally thousands of systems work together within a modern aircraft: the airframe itself, the engines, the navigation systems on the flight deck are a few of the "high tech" ones, but seat, galley and many other technologies play their part.

Competitive, cost-conscious travel with choice, comfort and convenience
In an air transport system that must be more closely matched to the needs of customers and citizens, the cost and efficiency of the aircraft as well as its design and manufacturing must be the most competitive in the world. Aircraft may be acquiring new shapes and sizes by 2020 to improve the technical efficiency of the air transport system and to raise their safety and environmental performance. Flying wings could offer more efficient and quieter solutions, airships may finally establish themselves as a cheap alternative for carrying freight, and convenience flying could be a reality with tilting wings that allow vertical take-off and landings. The super-liners able to carry 1200 or more passengers may need new airport systems to handle them, folding wings to avoid occupying too much airport space, and entrances and exits of a size once found only on passenger ships.

Safety and environmental gains
In the meantime, today's aircraft will continue to be improved by technology advances. Second-generation composite materials and use of hybrid laminar flow over the entire aircraft could make vast contributions to reducing aircraft weight and air drag, thereby reducing fuel consumption. Big strides in safety will be possible through human factors, research and intelligent monitoring and control systems that will anticipate problems and take preventative actions even before the pilot is aware anything is going wrong. The crew's confidence that it is making the best possible decisions will be assured by electronic systems.

There is a relentless demand for every industry to reduce emissions and burn less fuel and these are goals the aeronautical industry will continually strive for. Cleaner and alternative fuels - hydrogen, for example, if its production costs can be lowered - may be able to help in reducing harmful emissions. More efficient engines are achievable that will not only burn less fuel but will also reduce damaging emissions to a fraction of their current levels. But to bring them within reach, temperatures and pressures in the heart of the engine need to be raised still further and ways to achieve peak efficiency throughout the whole flight are needed.

Making the most of advanced electronics

The digital revolution is enabling huge strides to be made in aircraft design, production, manufacturing, maintenance and operating and traffic management. There will be vital impacts on flight systems, where much greater integration will bring top line operation, minimal fuel consumption and dramatic improvements in safety standards. Integrated electronic systems will greatly improve reliability, remove causes of unscheduled maintenance and allow the opening of "the office and home in the sky".

Plotting the Course

The research agenda must be fleshed out in enough detail to allow rational choices to be made about the radical leap in capability that is required. Once endorsed at the
highest levels, it can then act as a beacon for the aeronautics industry across the EU. That is the theme of our next section, The Way Forward.




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