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Big boost for small air planes research in Central and Eastern Europe

Small aircraft carrying up to 19 passengers could be an attractive form of regional transport in areas that lack extensive transport infrastructure. The European Commission has set aside €25 million to fund a group of mostly Central and Eastern European partners to carry out research that will strengthen European competitiveness in this technology demanding sector. Their work focuses on developing modern engines at the right scale for use in an aircraft this size, while remaining safe, affordable and environmentally acceptable.

Although the European aeronautics industry is strong, it is mostly focused on manufacturing big passenger aircraft, leaning heavily on the EU-15 Member States. The European Commission's grant for the ESPOSA (Efficient Systems and Propulsion for Small Aircraft) project is expected to boost the aeronautics industry of the Eastern and Central European EU-12 Member States by improving obsolete small engine technology.

The consortium of 39 partners is led by the Czech company PBS Velká BíteŇ°. While the major part of RTD activities will be performed by 19 partners from the EU-12 countries and associated country Turkey, the pan-European scope of the project means all participants, including ten regional SMEs, will profit from sharing knowledge and facilities with colleagues from the EU-15, and international partners Ukraine and Russia. At the ceremonial launch of the project on 11 October 2011 at the Innovation Summit in Warsawexternal link, Director András Siegler of the Transport Directorate of DG Research and Innovation stressed the added value of European cooperation.

In the course of 48 months, the ESPOSA research project will address the whole innovation chain from technology integration to test validation flights. The technical work addresses problematic design areas connected with the installation of an engine into a small airframe structure. It also seeks to improve performance of key engine components and arrive at cheaper and better manufacturing processes. The new engine systems and engine technologies resulting from ESPOSA should deliver a 10-14% reduction in direct operating costs (DOC) and significantly reduce the pilot workload, so that small aircraft may become a commercially and environmentally viable transport option.