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‘VITAL’ workshop promotes cleaner air transport

The EU-funded VITAL project held its dissemination workshop in Budapest, Hungary, on 9-10 March 2009. The event comes at the culmination of four years of collaborative research among all the major European aircraft engine manufacturers.

Daniel Chiron (left) and András Siegler (third from left) examine VITAL results © Peter Gutierrez
Daniel Chiron and András Siegler examine VITAL results
© Peter Gutierrez

“The VITAL project has not been just a technical challenge,” said coordinator Jean-Jacques Korsia of France’s Snecma. “It has brought people together, mixed cultures and languages, and forged links between traditional competitors.”

VITAL partners come from 15 countries and include universities, research institutes and small companies, as well as major players such as Snecma, Airbus, DLR Volvo and Rolls Royce.

“There have been some bumps along the way,” said Korsia, “but it’s been an important instructive experience for all of us, and the results of our common work are now coming in.”

A VITAL project for Europe

The aim of VITAL has been to research and develop new aircraft engine technologies that reduce noise, weight, fuel consumption and therefore CO 2 emission. Subprojects have addressed new fan concepts, booster configurations, and lighter and quieter turbine designs. Lightweight materials and new engine installation techniques have also been explored.

After welcoming workshop participants to his hometown, Director of the European Commission’s DG RTD Transport Directorate András Siegler said, “The ‘greening’ of air transport remains a major focus for the European Union. As such, the eyes of the Commission and indeed all the main air transport stakeholders are on you today. And we can see the results of your work spilling over into domains well beyond air transport and even transport in general.”

Siegler placed VITAL alongside other large engine projects, NEWAC and DREAM as well as the new ‘CLEAN SKY’ Joint Technology Initiative (JTI), calling them important steps towards achieving aircraft emission targets set by ACARE in its Strategic Research Agenda for European civil aeronautics.

“The cleaner aircraft engine of the future,” he said, “is fully in line with EU policies for energy and environment, but your success will also allow Europe to maintain and advance its position as a world competitor in the aviation sector, and that means more jobs and more economic benefits for our citizens.”

International effort

Non-EU participants in the VITAL project include Russian and South African partners. Presenting a new low-pressure compressor/booster design, Celine Lebas of Belgium’s Techspace Aero said, “Some doubted our ability to work together with Russian partners. They said language would be an obstacle and that our cultures were too different, but the reality is that our teams worked hand-in-hand and we delivered the results of our part of the project successfully and on time.”

Techspace Aero worked at breakneck speed to develop a new booster featuring innovative, aerodynamically superior, low-pressure compressors that are lighter and more compact. The module was tested by VITAL partner CIAM (Central Institute of Aviation Motors) in Moscow. Speaking at an earlier event at Techspace Aero in Liege, Belgium, CIAM’s Fagim Gelmedov congratulated everyone who had worked on the booster and said his group was very happy to be involved in the project.

At the Budapest workshop, CIAM General Director Vladimir A. Skibbin delivered a technical presentation describing the institute’s test facilities and said it was ready to work with other European aeronautics research projects.

Later, Dwain Dunn of South Africa’s CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) discussed important work on engine turbine endwall contouring, also carried out under the VITAL project.

Technical and policy-related presentations

The workshop featured a complete programme of presentations covering the range of VITAL topics, including: Aerodynamics and performance; Reducing noise; Lightweight materials.

András Siegler © Peter Gutierrez
András Siegler
© Peter Gutierrez

Providing a wider view, European Commission representative Rémy Dénos discussed the contribution of a number of EU projects, including VITAL, to the improvement of aircraft engine environmental performance.

“EU-funded projects are looking in a variety of interesting areas, from improved nacelle lip designs to new compressor technologies and many, many more,” Dénos explained, “but in almost all areas of conventional engine performance we are already doing very well, reaching high levels of efficiency. That means we have to start looking at more innovative and unconventional concepts to further improve environmental performance.

“The ultimate goal is to reduce the impact of air transport on the environment, but the amount of air traffic continues today to increase faster than we are reducing emissions, so we still have some challenges. The results of VITAL are impressive, a good example of what we can achieve through co-operation, and they are helping us to move in the right direction.”

Getting the message out

One of the stated goals of EU-funded research in general is to widen the collaborative ties among European researchers, to bring in new partners and tap the wealth of talent and energy from across the Union. As such, the workshop was open to a number of specially invited students and professors from the University of Miskolc, the Budapest University of Technology and the Budapest University of Technology and Economics.

EC Project Officer for the VITAL project Daniel Chiron, closed the workshop, thanking all participants for their excellent research and the top-notch presentations. “Such a successful workshop creates a precedent for the other large engine projects,” he said. “It means a very good dissemination of the results amongst the aero-engine community.”

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