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‘VITAL’ moves forward on next generation commercial aircraft engines

On 3 and 4 July 2007, the EU-funded VITAL project held its third mid-year review at the Volvo Aero Corporation in Trollhättan, Sweden. Achievements presented by project leaders and support teams were reviewed by a board of technology advisors and EC reviewers.

Passengers boarding jet craft © Peter Gutierrez
Moving towards quieter air
© Peter Gutierrez

More than 30 participants attended the meeting in Trollhättan, assessing progress towards VITAL objectives over the past six months. "This event is also an occasion for project partners to meet each other", said VITAL coordinator Jean-Jacques Korsia of Snecma, “and for strengthening links and contacts among our European aeronautics research network.”

What’s at stake

The Kyoto Protocol requires developed countries to reduce their CO 2 emissions and prioritise the environment. Meanwhile, ACARE, the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe, has set the specific goals of cutting in half both perceived aircraft noise and CO 2 emissions.

VITAL aims to do both. Bringing together a large number of stakeholders in the European aviation industry, Snecma leads a consortium of 53 partners, including all major European engine manufacturers – Rolls-Royce Plc, Volvo Aero, MTU Aero Engines, ITP, Avio, Techspace Aero, Rolls-Royce Deutschland – and Airbus, as well as innovative small businesses, universities and research centres. The European Commission is providing €51 million of VITAL’s €90.9 million budget.

Environmentally friendly aero-engine

VITAL is helping the European aero-engine industry produce high-performance, low-noise and low-emission engines at an affordable cost. The specific objectives are to develop and validate engine technologies that will deliver:

  • 6 dB noise reduction per aircraft operation and equivalent to a cumulative margin of 15-18 EPNdB on the three certification measurement points
  • 7% reduction in CO 2 emissions.

This is with regard to engines in service prior to 2000, but VITAL will also integrate the results of on-going research projects on weight reduction (EEFAE) and noise reduction (SILENCE(R)). Partners will assess the overall benefits of these initiatives at whole-engine level and then combine them with their own outcomes to deliver, by the end of the project in 2008:

  • 8 dB Noise reduction per aircraft operation
  • 18% reduction in CO 2 emissions.

VITAL partners are designing, manufacturing and rig-scale testing the following innovative technologies and architectures:

  • Direct Drive Turbo Fan (DDTF) and Geared Turbo Fan (GTF)
  • Contra-Rotating Turbo Fan (CRTF)
  • new lightweight structures using new materials as well as innovative structural design and manufacturing techniques
  • innovative materials and concepts for new shaft technologies enabling high torque needed for new fan concepts
  • new low-pressure turbine technologies for weight and noise reduction, suited to new fan concepts
  • optimal installation of VHBR engines in terms of nozzle, nacelle, reverser and positioning to optimise weight, noise and fuel burn.

Project making real progress

Contra-Rotating Turbo Fan © Snecma and VITAL 2005

Contra-Rotating Turbo Fan
© Snecma and VITAL 2005

"Two and half years after the project started, the first tests and results presented during this meeting look very promising", said Korsia. "Based on the assessment of these preliminary results and the expected results of on-going tests, we feel fully confident that the VITAL project will achieve its bjectives.”

A detailed work schedule for the remaining 18 months of the project has now been delivered and reviewed. Several major tests are now scheduled to begin in the second half of 2007 (fans, boosters, turbines etc.) and should be completed before the autumn of 2008. Then, a final integration and assessment of VITAL technologies will be carried out, and a scientific workshop and exhibition will be organised for the dissemination of VITAL results in September/October 2008.